A serious question: who doesn’t love a waterfall? No one. That’s who. Hiking to a waterfall, though? Even better. We love a solid, sweat-filled adventure to these falls around San Diego, especially after a few rainy weeks when the water is really flowing.
A less serious question: did you even go hike to a waterfall if you didn’t caption your Insta with a TLC lyric? Here’s the list of the best waterfall hikes near San Diego.
Three Sisters Falls
Three Sisters Falls ranks as one of SoCal’s most famous set of waterfalls — with three tiers of heavy cascades. But, let’s be frank: the hike makes you work for the view, so we recommend it for more experienced hikers. This nearly four-mile trail in Descanso features nearly 45-degree inclines and declines, and offers secured ropes throughout the trail to minimize slipping. Drive time from San Diego: 1 hour
Cedar Creek Falls
This five-mile round-trip hike in neighboring Ramona not only features an epic waterfall surrounded by cliffs as high as 80 feet, but also offers a huge swimming hole to cool down in — it’s known as Devil’s Punchbowl. This hike is inverted (downhill there, uphill back), so don’t be deceived on your way down! The hike ends with some challenging uphill switchbacks that will make you wish you were jumping into the swimming hole all over again. Fitt Tip: make sure you snag a permit because they are heavily enforced here! Drive time from San Diego: 1 hour
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve proves you don’t have to trek far to get a taste of waterfalls in San Diego. This local preserve features a variety of trailheads of various lengths that reward hikers with a small, year-round waterfall that cascades over volcanic rock formations. Fitt Tip: this trail system is dog-friendly, so bring Fido along for a splash in some fresh water. Drive time from San Diego: 20 minutes
Cottonwood Creek Falls
We’re letting you in on one of our favorite hidden gems in San Diego. Cottonwood Creek Falls is an unmarked and unofficial trail in the neighboring Laguna Mountains that brings waterfalls close to home. The overgrown and quiet trail is just a short hike to a few sets of cascading water – And, might we add, the perfect rock climbing set-up. Win-win. Drive time from San Diego: 1 hour
Kitchen Creek Falls
Channel your inner Cheryl Strayed and take your own Wild adventure on the iconic Pacific Crest Trail. This nearly five-mile trail is one of the only trails in San Diego where hikers trek uphill to reach the falls. The work is rewarded with flowing falls that reach up to 150 feet. We suggest going after a heavy rain in San Diego to maximize your waterfall experience. Drive time from San Diego: 1 hour
While you may have to trek the farthest to reach this waterfall, the road trip is worth it. Maidenhair Falls is housed in Hellhole Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The five-mile trail is dotted with palm trees and cottonwoods as it twists and turns throughout the desert, ending at the 18-foot Maidenhair Falls, which are lush with moss and vines. Drive time from San Diego: 2 hours
Copper Creek Falls Trail
Strike it rich with stellar views of falls in San Marcos on this historic copper mining trail. This 2.5-mile trail loops through the wildflower-filled San Elijo Hills and ends at the Copper Creek stream under a set of two waterfalls. Hikers looking for an extra challenge can continue on the Whiptail Loop Trail or follow the Copper Creek Trail until it reaches a dead end. Drive time from San Diego: 40 minutes
Feature image via @ash_tree_albertson | Instagram