12 Breathtaking Waterfalls That Are Worth Hiking To

Ana Sofia de la Cámara Ana Sofia de la Cámara

12 Breathtaking Waterfalls That Are Worth Hiking To

Like in all of California, San Diegans love to explore the great outdoors.

And why wouldn’t we? With so much natural splendor, it’s no wonder we do. The waterfalls in and around San Diego are great spots to visit during beautiful San Diego sunny days. This is why we decided to make a list of impressive waterfalls to see on your next adventurous outing. Since San Diego is gifted with sunshine regularly, visiting your nearest waterfalls is a wonderful and refreshing idea.

You’ll hear the sounds of nature, like the water cascading through the rocks, the natural wildlife like the Downy Woodpecker singing a tune, and so much more!  Since San Diego has a semi-arid climate, the waterfalls’ state is often dependent on rainfall. The heaviest rainfall season in the city is generally December through March. This is an optimal time to plan an excursion since the vegetation is coming back in bloom. 

1.Los Penasquitos Falls

Los Penasquitos Falls is just 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego and one of the city’s most known waterfalls. It is found on a volcanic outcrop in the center of Penasquitos Canyon. The hike is about 6.7 miles long. 

2. Cedar Creek 

Cedar Creek is located within Cleveland National Forest. It is a trendy hiking spot outside of San Diego. The hike is approximately 3 miles long and is considered fairly challenging. Hikers are required to have a permit, so be sure to plan ahead!

3. Oak Canyon

This beautiful waterfall only comes to life after heavy rainfall. But once it does, it is a sight to behold! The colorful metamorphic rocks that the water cascades down are quite a sight! The hike is about 3 miles long. 

4. Three Sisters Falls

This has got to be one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the area. Like other waterfalls on this list, Three Sisters Falls is at its best after heavy rain. The hike before reaching the falls is about 2 miles, and the hike in total is 4 miles long.

5. Horsethief Canyon

Horsethief Canyon stands out from this list because it’s not exactly a waterfall per se. It is made up of many cascades that empty into a pull at the confluence of Pine Valley Creek and Horsethief Canyon. This here is a true oasis; you can come here and completely disconnect from the outside world and listen to the relaxing and gentle sounds all around you. 

6. Cottonwood Creek Falls 

Cottonwood Creek Falls is a beautiful seasonal waterfall found in a hidden grotto south of the Laguna Mountains. This trail is somewhat obscure and leads to a tranquil series of cascades.

7. Green Valley Falls


Green Valley Falls is a 0.6-kilometer loop trail near Descanso, California, perfect for all levels of hikers. Its waterfall is beautiful and after the easy trail and is perfect for nature trips.

8. Maidenhair Falls

Maidenhair Falls via Hellhole Canyon Trail is a 9.0 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail near Borrego Springs, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from October until May.

9. The Kitchen Creek Falls

The Kitchen Creek falls are located in the Cleveland National Forest along the Pacific Crest Trail, about 50 miles east of San Diego. They are perfect for those who are beginner hikes, as the terrain that must be crossed isn’t as tough as other trails. It can still get sweltering here in the summer, so use precaution if that is when you plan on hiking; bringing plenty of water is a must. The hike to the falls is around 1.8 miles for a total of 3.6 total miles.

10. Borrego Palm Canyon

This 3-mile roundtrip down to Borrego Palm Canyon is a fascinating hike for amateur botanists and geologists! Desert hikers will be rewarded with a surprising amount of cascades throughout the trail. There’s a free pamphlet at the trailhead that will help identify biological and historical note items along the way. 

11. Harper’s Creek Falls

Harper’s Creek Falls is a lesser-known waterfall but definitely worth visiting. You’ll find this trail and waterfall approximately 2.75 miles down the East Side Trail within Cuyamaca State Park. Like most of the entrees here, it is best to visit from late December to March.

12. Weir Trail

Even though Weir Trail doesn’t lead to a waterfall per se, but rather a cascade this is still a great trail, so we had to include it.  You’ll access the trail from Palomar Mountain State Park. If you don’t have a state park pass you’ll need to pay $10 to access the park.



See also: 10 Best Beaches To Catch Your Next Wave In San Diego

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