With miles of pristine beaches, rolling chaparral covered hills, and a constant semi-arid desert climate, San Diego will never be identified as one of the hot spots for waterfalls or hikes to waterfalls. However, unbeknownst to many people, from December through Memorial Day, San Diego does have a number of great seasonal waterfall hikes that highlight some of the best features of the county’s backcountry. As all of these waterfalls are seasonal, timing is everything, and also somewhat dependent on the weather pattern for the year. During wet winters and springs, these waterfalls will have high flows, and creek crossings; and during drought years, there may only be a trickle and dry stream beds. Similarly, with respect to timing, at the right times, these waterfalls can and will appear spectacular – but at the wrong times, may be a letdown after a hot, dusty trek. Keeping all that in mind, these hikes can also be great gateways to explore other regions of San Diego County, and again, at the right times, great spots to view spring wildflowers. I’ve listed the below hikes in order of difficulty, and let me know your thoughts about them, or any additions you have to the list below!
Outside of the big three hikes in San Diego – “Potato Chip Rock”, Cowles Mountain, and Iron Mountain - the Cedar Creek Falls hike is one of the top five most popular hikes in the entirety of San Diego County. And, unlike many claims made about hiking in San Diego, this is not blogger hyperbole, this is a verified fact. The Forest Service website for the area even states that this trail is “...possibly the most traveled trail in the Palomar District”. As Cedar Creek Falls is so popular, no description of the hike would be complete without getting into why the trail and the waterfall is and has been so popular.
Today I’d like to talk about the myth and legend of the “Devils Punchbowl” in San Diego County. If you’ve like me, and you’ve lived in San Diego, or spent enough time in San Diego, and you’re interested in the backcountry, chances are you’ve heard of “The Devils Punchbowl” after you heard about Cowles Mountain, Iron Mountain, and Woodson Mountain (a/k/a “Potato Chip Rock”). Here’s the interesting thing though: unlike the above peaks, “The Devils Punchbowl” is a more nebulous concept. There’s no doubt that it exists – it’s definitely a location that exists. But, it exists in about ten or eleven different locations, depending on who you are talking to, and who is giving you directions to the “actual” site.