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Los Penasquitos falls - Most Popular Waterfall Hikes

7 Most Popular Waterfall Hikes In and Near San Diego (2023)

Along with the water in the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is also known for its rush of water speeding against the polish rock in the form of beautiful waterfalls. The city of San Diego is blessed with quite a few waterfalls in and around, of which all of them are visit-worthy. Regardless that they aren’t as huge as some magnificent Californian waterfalls, but their small size and intimate setting make them beautiful in their own good way. Also, unlike waterfalls are generally a summer sport, but due to a semi-arid climate belt, the San Diegan waterfalls flourish their best from December until March (heavy rainfall months)

Something that the beach water even cannot cut down is the adrenaline rush of hiking on a beautiful day and finally leading to the waterfall wonders. Before you reach up to the final waterfall beauty, you can live your hiking enthusiasm quite well here in San Diego. Slightly tedious to reach, the waterfalls in San Diego call you to cross miles of the hike, enjoy natural landscapes, relieve your adventure zeal and then reach the final destination all worked up ultimately to enjoy at the falls.

7 Most Popular Waterfall Hikes In and Near San Diego

Here’s a list of “Most popular waterfall hikes in and near San Diego.” Have a look:

1. Cedar Creek Falls

Sold alone with its name, the Cedar Creek Falls is undoubtedly one of the top-rated waterfalls near San Diego. Not the regular uphill trail, the hike towards Cedar Creek Falls is downhill and then uphill on the route back. The fall is actually located within the Cleveland National Forest and can be reached after crossing a nearly 3.5- to 4.5-mile-long hike. Despite going downhill, the trail is challenging and could be slightly difficult for novice hikers. However, going towards Cedar requires a permit along with government issues IDs; thus, it is recommended to consider buying one beforehand from Recreation.gov official website. The hike all along the way is barely shaded; thus, consider taking along plenty of water. Reaching up the destination takes you near a 75 feet waterfall, dropping into a tempting shallow pool underneath. Cedar is in its best form during December and January; however, it is advisable to ignore visiting here during summers as the temperature rises discourage high.

Most Popular Waterfall Hike In San Diego-Cedar Creek Falls

Image Source Photo Courtesy Byron Hetrick From Flickr

2. Kitchen Creek Falls

Another famous waterfall hike near San Diego, located within the Cleveland National Forest, is towards the Kitchen Creek Falls. It has a kid and pets’ friendly hike, relatively moderate, ideal for moderate to seasoned hikers. The hike covers around 4 miles with several water pools all along the way. Unlike falls nested within lushed jungles, the Kitchen Creek is sitting in a deserted location but indeed a beautiful one. The trail begins somewhere near the town of Boulder in Pine Valley, going along the part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Despite the moderately difficult trail, getting up to the waterfall requires some extreme experience right near the waterfall, and it is advisable not to try out ways unless your know-how. The rocks here are slippery and can make you fall on your face. Reaching up to the Kitchen Creek Falls, you will find not a huge waterfall but a relatively small one flowing hallway like a small river and then finally falling into a big pound from a little height. The fall is at its best during the rainy season and might disappear at other times of the year.

3. Three Sisters Falls

The most impressive waterfall in San Diego that offers beautiful views of nature is the Three Sisters Falls. Three Sisters Falls is a multi-tiered fall with a huge swimming-appropriate waterfall underneath. The hike towards this fall is quite difficult, and unless one isn’t familiar with the tough trails, it is advisable not to take many such risks. The trail is full of steep inclines and declines, rocky terrains, and going towards the path gets narrow at most of the spots, along with a bit of scrambling involved. There are quite a few ropes secured throughout the trail to help the hikers and prevent them from slipping. This hike isn’t a good choice for kids and pets; thus, it is advisable not to bring them along. Reaching the final destination takes you close to a three-tiered fall of which the uppermost tier has a single plunge of about 20 to 30 feet, the middle section has an impressive 50 feet drop, whereas the third last section is more like a 30 feet waterslide finally getting collected into a huge pool underneath.

4. Harper’s Creek Falls

The Harper’s Creek Falls is one of the popular San Diegan falls amongst the locals, but not all the outsiders know about it. It is one small waterfall that flows magnificently during winters and specifically during the spring season with a good speed. It has two pools underneath, which are even larger than Olympic size pools ideal for diving, swimming, or simply floating your way. The Harper’s Creek Falls lies within the Cuyamaca State Park and can be reached after covering a moderate hike going all through the wilderness. All along the pathway, one can encounter long-distance panoramic views, an intimate Creekside scene, excellent scenery, and a major free-flowing stream that can be encountered most of the time during the hike. One can begin the hike at the visitor center of the state park, moving towards the western edge gradually moving downhill to the East Side Trail, covering almost a 2.75 miles trail. There’s also one campsite at the end of the trail with possibly fewer people.

5. Green Valley Falls

Located at an hour of a distance from San Diego city, the Green Valley Falls is a magnificence that you cannot miss. The Green Valley Falls is situated within the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, to the northeast of San Diego county, somewhere in the middle of Julian and Descanso. The hike towards the fall is around a 3 to 4 miles round trip; usually, when the campground is functional, however, the trail would extend another 2 miles if the campground is closed. The trail also features one huge picnic ground well equipped with shade and stone benches all around in case the hikers want to sit and relax for a while. Reaching up to the final destination takes in at the front of one beautiful waterfall, dropping into a hidden and well-covered pond. The fall is divided into the Upper and Lower tier, where the upper one has a drop of 10 feet, and the lower one flows via a wide stretch of rocky layers, similarly like a waterslide. It all together makes a stunning view to behold for a lifetime.

6. Maidenhair Falls

A great hiking option for winter, the Maidenhair Falls is sitting in a secluded region of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California. It can be reached via one adventure hike scrambling through rocks, Ocotillo bushes, Palm clusters, lavenders, and deserted vegetation. You might find a few reptiles on your way; thus, be cautious with every step of yours. Also, you might find several small waterfalls down on your way, of which a few must be found dried or with a very little flow throughout the year. The hike covers a total distance of nearly 5 to 6 miles downhill on one of the trails of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. To begin with, get onto the Montezuma Valley Road Route S22 up till the Christmas Circle in the Borrego Springs and head following the hiking trails sing on the west side. The hike is more deserted; thus, consider carrying plenty of water along. After covering all the challenging adventures, the path will finally lead you towards the green oasis within the park, which is famous for being home to the Maidenhair Falls.

7. Los Penasquitos falls

Another lovely waterfall hike in San Diego leads you towards the Los Penasquitos falls. It is a popular spot for locals of San Diego, but if you don’t belong to the city, it is one of the hidden gems you must consider exploring. It can be reached covering a moderate hike covering about a 7 miles long trail built well both hiking and biking. It is a family-friendly trail with dog’s appropriate way but considers keeping an eye on your little pet as the pathway is filled with some poison’s ticks, poison oaks, and snakes. The trail is straight and flat, with several signs and marks on the way; thus, there are lesser chances that you might miss your route. The upper layer of the waterfall is quiet and calm and can be reached easily by the staircase along. You can sit around, relax, and can enjoy a mini picnic. Further making down your way, you can reach the actual waterfall that is at its best flow during the end of winters and spring. The hiking trail goes further more than the fall leading your way towards the Carols crossing bridge that runs over an array of the creek and sycamore trees beneath. The creek is home to tiny frogs and fishes. Whereas all the way, you can spot deer, bobcats, aquatic birds, and quite a few more beautiful wildlife. 

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