Top 10 Waterfall Hikes In And Near San Diego California
When planning a trip to San Diego, there are a few things you can expect to do during your visit. In addition to great places to stay, like some of the best boutique hotels, they also have other amazing attractions to visit, like many of the top hiking and trekking spots in San Diego.
Certainly, your list should include visiting the world-famous San Diego Zoo, often considered the best zoo in the country and SeaWorld San Diego.
These attractions are located within Balboa Park, with several museums of interest, theaters, gardens, walking trails, and the Gaslamp Quarter, where you’ll find plenty of nightlife.
If you’re looking to add something extra, consider traveling a short distance from San Diego and taking a walk on the wild side, well, more or less.
There are plenty of great hiking opportunities outside the city, including several breathtaking waterfalls that should be noticed. Read on to learn more about some of the best watersports in and around San Diego.
Cedar Creek Falls
Located within the Cleveland National Forest, Cedar Creek Falls is a popular hiking destination outside San Diego.
When you’ve had your fill of city tours and urban life, check out this stunning walk in the area. The hike from the trailhead to the falls is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) over fairly challenging terrain, making this route best suited for more experienced hikers.
A permit is required for all climbers, and it is recommended that you purchase one well in advance of your planned arrival.
Three Sisters Falls
One of the most popular waterfalls near San Diego, Three Sisters Falls, is best viewed after a heavy rainy season. The falls derive their name from the three main drops that make up their entirety.
You’ll come to the waterfalls after 2 miles (3.2 km), making the total hike about 4 miles (6.4 km). Conditions on the trail can get very hot in the summer, so pack enough water and sustenance to keep you in prime condition during your excursion.
Kitchen Creek Falls
Kitchen Creek Falls is located in the Cleveland National Forest along the Pacific Crest Trail. These falls are perfect for beginner hikers, as the terrain to traverse is easier than other trails.
The hike to the falls is approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 km), for a total of 3.6 miles (5.8 km). It can still get very hot in summer here, so take care if you’re planning on hiking; It is important to bring plenty of water.
Located within Mission Trails Regional Park, Oak Canyon has a seasonal waterfall you’ll love exploring. When you hike the hiking trails of San Diego past the waterfalls, you’ll realize that some are relatively flat.
For example, Oak Canyon only has a total elevation gain of 300 feet (91 m), making this trail good for beginner hikers. Before reaching the falls, you’ll follow the Oak Canyon Trail for approximately 1.6 miles (2.5 km).
Harper’s Creek Falls
Harper’s Creek Falls sits approximately 2.75 miles (4.4 km) down the East Side Trail within Cuyamaca State Park.
This is one of the lesser-known waterfalls in the area, making it a great option for a scenic waterfall hike. The best time of year to visit Harper’s Creek Falls is in late winter or early spring when the water is flowing.
Los Peñasquitos Falls
If you’re looking for an easy hike in San Diego with waterfalls, check out Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Los Peñasquitos Falls plunging over the volcanic rocks of the valley makes for a picturesque sight.
To get to the falls, you’ll hike a loop trail that totals 6.8 miles (10.9 km) round trip and is easy enough for most hiking skill levels. The dog-friendly attraction is open year-round.
Horsethief Canyon is located within the Pine Creek Wilderness Area of the Cleveland National Forest. It derives its name from its former use for thieves to hide stolen horses before heading for the Mexican border.
This route is moderately difficult, with a total hiking distance of 3.3 miles (5.3 km). Like many of these trails, the seasonal waterfalls are best viewed during late winter and early spring.
Green Valley Falls
For travelers looking to experience the beauty of a waterfall near San Diego but not interested in hiking long distances, Green Valley Falls is the waterfall you’ll want to visit.
The hike to the falls is only about a mile (0.4 km) over easy walking terrain, but the walk up to the waterfall and the views over the falls are simply spectacular. Green Valley Falls consists of two waterfalls approximately 0.1 miles (0.16 km) apart.
Located within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California, Maidenhair Falls can be found approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) down one of the park’s trails.
After trekking through the desert area, you’ll find Maidenhair Falls in what can be described as a green oasis within the park.
The falls are about 18 feet high (5.4 m) and take their name from the maidenhair ferns that grow around them.
Enjoy San Diego’s Great Outdoors
While you’ll find plenty of things to do within San Diego city limits, think outside the box (or city limits) when planning your trip to the area.
There are lots of solo activities and group activities in the city. Consider planning a hike in the area, where you can take in the beautiful countryside and stellar waterfalls.
These are some of the best hikes with waterfalls in San Diego that you will encounter, so be sure to check them out!
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