Cedar Creek Falls Hike Overview
This past Sunday, my girlfriend and I decided to get outside and go for a little hike. After a little searching online we stumbled onto a Hike called Cedar Creek falls which also goes by the name of San Diego River Gorge Trail depending on what website you are reading.
Cedar Creek Falls trail is a 6-mile round trip hike in San Diego California, that has you quickly descending 3 miles into a beautiful river valley that leads to a beautiful oasis pool of water that is fed by a waterfall. We were hoping to see the waterfall on this hike due to the recent rain in California but the waterfall was only a trickle when we showed up. The ranger told us to come back in January if we wanted to see the waterfall in action. Despite not seeing the waterfall in its true glory the hike was absolutely stunning, and at the bottom of the valley, the leaves on the trees were all turning yellow!
Cedar Creek Falls Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Permit Required to Hike Cedar Creek Falls?
Yes a permit is required to hike Cedar Creek Falls and can be obtained here.
How many miles is the Cedar Creek Falls Hike?
6.6 miles round trip.
How do I get to Cedar Creek Falls?
Cedar Creek Falls is in the Cleveland National Forest . Driving directions to the trailhead can be found on Google maps here.
Is Cedar Creek Falls Open?
The best place to check if the Cedar Creek Falls hike is currently open is on the Cedar Creek Falls page of the Cleveland National Forest page here.
Cedar Creek Falls Permits
If you are interested in this hike, you must grab permits online at Recreation.org. The original website I found this hike on didn't mention anything permits and we were caught off guard. Luckily we were able to purchase permits online from my phone and show the ranger to be allowed access to the trail. I would recommend buying the $6 permit online and printing it out before showing up, as the cell phone service was a bit spotty at the trailhead and the website technically says you have to have a printout. We were lucky they let us in with just showing the receipt on the phone.
Cedar Creek Falls Trail Map
For driving directions to the trail you can find the trailhead hear on Google Maps.
The trail map below can be downloaded from Caltopo here:
Cedar Creek Falls: Hike to the Valley
Cedar Creek Falls Trail is extremely well marked and maintained, it's not very technical and would be easy to run on if you wanted to take a nice 6 mile run down and back up the canyon. Since we went in December it was a perfect temperature and not very hot, but there were plenty of signs in the parking lot warning of excess heat. If you go during a hot month be sure to bring plenty of water, especially for the climb up and out of the canyon.
The hike is not to steep and has plenty of switchbacks to ease you down the mountain as you take in the views. On our hike down we saw plenty of hikers coming back up with their dogs, and most were carrying them. If you hike with your dog, also bring plenty of water and be prepared for the long 3-mile climb back up!
The best part of the Cedar Creek hike in San Diego is the valley you are looking at below. The valley has plenty of decent sized trees, which you don't normally see out in the California desert. Growing up on the East coast, I often miss the sight of the leaves changing during fall and this hike was absolutely amazing due to the trees all changing colors. It's always hard to try and time the changing of leaves but we got lucky with the timing on this hike, and going into it we didn't even know we would have a chance to see these amazing color son this hike. It was amazing seeing the contrast of the colors with the California desert hills as the backdrop.
As you get down to the valley you get to enter the small oasis of shade provided by the brilliant yellow trees. In the valley under the tree canopy, the smell was amazingly fresh. I could have stayed under those trees all night!
Once at the bottom of the valley its a fairly level hike up to the waterfall and accompanying pool. At this point, the hike gets to be a bit rocky so watch your step! Since the waterfall wasn't streaming and only trickling for us we couldn't hear it as we approached.
Cedar Creek Falls: The Waterfall
At the foot of the pool, you are towered over by beautiful canyon walls that climb sky high up to the source of the waterfall. The pool was calming with one medium sized tree whose leaves were turning orange with one branch sporting what looked like a rope swing into the pool.
It was a bit chilly out so there was no swimming for us on this hike, but we stopped and ate our sandwiches before taking a few pictures and turning around for the hike back up and out.
I didn't think the hike out was too steep but it is a 3 mile uphill climb so be prepared! It was a great workout!