Cedar Creek Falls


This is not an appropriate hike for hot weather!!

Temperatures in the San Diego River Gorge frequently reach well over 100 degrees. While hiking out to the local swimming hole for a refreshing dip may seem like a good idea on a hot summer day, each year dozens of hikers regularly succumb to heat exhaustion while trying to hike back out to the trailhead. Several heat-related fatalities have occurred on this trail. In the summer, the waterfall does not flow, and the little water that is in the pool is usually stagnant and green with algae, so it’s really not worth risking your life for.

Don’t judge me, but in all my years hiking in San Diego, I had never hiked out to see Cedar Creek Falls. I was close when I summitted Peak 1546, but never continued on to the falls themselves. Since I wanted to continue to test out my recovery by wearing my daypack, I thought the trek out to the falls would fit the bill nicely. I paid the $6 to obtain my permit and headed out to the trailhead in Ramona. A marine layer would keep the temperatures down on what is typically a very warm hike. I pulled into the parking area and one car sat alone in the lot. I had picked up breakfast on the way out but wasn’t hungry yet, so I tossed the biscuit sandwich into my pack and set off. The kiosk was filled with warnings about the difficulty and the dangers of the heat. The lure of a waterfall and swimming hole is incredibly strong, which is why a permit is needed to help defray the impact on this destination. The trail began working its way down towards the San Diego River Gorge. As I cruised along, mileage markers dotted the side of the trail indicating the distance to the waterfall and back to the trailhead. Given this is mostly an inverted hike, the real effort is in the return to the trailhead. Wildflowers lined the side of the trail and bird songs filled the air. Every so often, shade shelters would be found. Each had rescue information attached for those who might need it.

Soon I reached the end of my descent and would start the next part of the adventure–the water crossings. To reach the falls, I would need to first traverse the San Diego River, then Cedar Creek twice. This was a perfect time to test out the new waterproof hiking boots I bought for my upcoming trip to Alaska. The first crossing took a little care, as the creek was still flowing nicely, and not all the rocks were above the waterline. My foot did get a tad wet on one rock but otherwise had no issues, and mainly because these were low-rise shoes and not high-topped. The second and third crossings were handled without incident.

he flowing falls came into view, and they were a sight to see. I scrambled over the smooth rocks to take a few photos. Three young women were enjoying their morning snacks nearby. I broke out my biscuit and ate some of it while enjoying the falls. Since I still needed to work today, I said farewell to the others and began my trek back.

Safely staying mostly dry across the crossings, I started my ascent. I now started to encounter more folks making their way out. The only unexpected sight along the way was a wild turkey running down the trail, but otherwise, the climb back to the trailhead was a nice steady one. Back at the car, I changed into a dry shirt and drove home. Since Kit Fox Outfitters was not open, I would have to stop by another time to get my sticker for the Ramona Trails Challenge.

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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