Hiking in San Diego With Waterfalls: Top 9 Hikes for Everyone

If you are planning on exploring a city with great waterfalls and hiking, then San Diego is the perfect place to do it! From hiking in Cedar Creek Falls or Green Valley Falls – there are many great hikes that fit into any time of year. I know how popular they are for weekend outings with family and friends. So whether traveling from one big park or another, here are a few ideas for hiking in San Diego with Waterfalls!

Three Sisters Falls and the Plunge Pool in San Diego
Three Sisters Falls and the Plunge Pool. Source: Flickr

Top 9 San Diego Waterfall Hikes

Hiking in San Diego with waterfalls for your outdoor adventure is one of the best choices you can make. You can visit these waterfalls easily with a trail and have fun while exploring an awesome landscape! The most accessible falls are the Three Sisters Falls and the Green Valley Falls.

Related Read: Best Things to Do in North Park, San Diego

Oak Canyon 

This trail is almost 6km long, it’s a moderate trail that usually lasts 1 h and 40 min to complete. Since it’s a really popular hiking area, you sure will find other people. Oak Cayon is open all year round, so you can visit it any time you want. And it will be really beautiful!

You can start this hike from the parking lot of this park. the Oak Canyon trail is furrowed with magnificent vegetation and animals, a great place for many outdoor activities.

Related Read: Top 5 Natural Canyons in United States You Need To Visit

Cedar Creek Falls

One of the most famous hikes with waterfalls in San Diego, or infamous… since the post was used for some crazy parties until 2014 when a permit system was instituted and the number of parties was cut by a lot. This is a 5 miles round trip with a 1000 elevation again. The trailhead is located in Ramona, you will find a ton of parking lot spaces but since it’s a popular high it can get busy sometimes.

You need a permit to do the hike, it’s relatively easy to get it. In the link is all the info you need!

Horsethief Canyon

This amazing hike is almost 4 miles and it takes around 2h to complete, has an elevation gain of 500ft, and is usually recommended that you go in Spring, Fall, or Winter. It’s a beautiful hike to do with the family, it’s located between two canyons: Horsethief Canyon and Pine Valley Creek Canyon. Making an amazing and spacious valley-like adorned by oaks and a small water hole surrounded by sycamores and cottonwoods. Definitely one of the best hikes in the US.

Three Sisters Falls

A quite huge trail with almost 7 kilometers to explore! Is considered a challenging route to do, so take your precautions, usually takes around 2 h and 19 min to complete. A good point of this trail is that dogs are allowed but you need to keep them on a leash. Is a pretty popular hike, so you will likely find other people hiding or doing some other outdoor activity.

Three Sisters Waterfall is about 30 minutes to the south of Julian, it’s a set of three falls flowing over the rocks that makes three sisters. I recommend you go after a season of rainy days, that way you will have a good amount of water flowing! One of the most stunning waterfalls near San Diego.

Green Valley Falls

Green Valley Falls is a small trail near Descanso, California. It’s a 0.70 kilometer, loop trail that is considered easy to do in almost 15min, and unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on this trail, so make sure to leave your puppy at home.

The falls are located in the lush green forests that surround the waterfall, which makes them even more beautiful to look at, one of the best places you can visit with your family or alone!

Some Other San Diego Waterfall Hikes Worth Mention

  • Kitchen Creek Falls.
  • Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.
  • Cottonwood Creek Falls. (Great waterfall near San Diego)
  • Maidenhair Falls.


Waterfall hikes in San Diego, California are super popular hikes to do with the whole family and some of them even allow you to come with your dog, as you can see they are found in various levels of difficulty, but you sure can enjoy them a lot. Do some outdoor activities like hiking, running, and even camping! San Diego is home to Mission Bay, one of the best RV parks in the United States, make sure to check it out.

Also, you can go for a drink at some of the best rooftop bars in San Diego after a good day of hiking!

Last Updated on October 13, 2023

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