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!
One of the drawbacks to living in Southern California is that there are almost too many places to explore. This means that while I have certain favorite locations, it may be months - or years before I get the chance to hike them again. When I do get back to a favorite spot, I'm always interested to see how the trail and area has changed for the better, or for the worse. This last weekend, I had the opportunity to make it back to Harper's Creek in Cuyamaca State Park. Harper's Creek is off of the East Side Trail in Green Valley, and is a great canyon with a seasonal flow of water.
One of my favorite hikes in San Diego is the in-and-out hike in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park of the East Side Trail to Harper’s Creek. However, I must caution you: how much you enjoy this hike will likely depend on when you go. If you head out too early in the season, as I found one year with my hiking group, you’ll be slogging through muddy meadows under slate covered skies and pelting snow. If you head out too late in the season, as I found out another year, you’ll be trekking through dry vegetation to nothing but baked rocks that do not have the slightest hint of water. You may be wondering, “When is the best time to go?”; and I would say anytime in the late winter to early spring is the best time to go, because the seasonal flow of Harper’s Creek will not have dried up yet; and hopefully, you will get to see some seasonal wildflowers.