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!
San Diego County is an amazing spot with a number of well-known hikes, such as Cowles Mountain (the tallest point within the city confines), El Cajon Mountain (San Diego’s toughest hike), Potato Chip Rock (San Diego’s biggest social media-post-hike), Cedar Creek Falls (the other of San Diego’s most popular waterfall hikes), Broken Hill (San Diego’s best coastal view hike), and last but not least, the hike to Three Sisters Falls. Like all of the hikes on this least, the trek to Three Sisters Falls is, and has been popular for an extended period of time, even during the summer of drought years, when the waterfalls become a trickle, and can be nonexistent. Like Cedar Creek Falls, the hike to Three Sisters Falls has also had its share of bad publicity, with hikers leaving trash, hikers needing to be rescued, and hikers on occasion, dying. While these items led to a permitting system at Cedar Creek, at the moment, the hike to the Three Sisters remains, by and large, unregulated, although as of 2016, plans are potentially in the works to make the “trail” safer for all skill levels of hikers. Despite the past and present risks, the hike to Three Sisters is a unique San Diego backcountry experience that despite the crowds, lives up to the hype surrounding it.