After a long hike, when you're all hot and sweaty, what's the best way to cool off? Jump into a nice, cool natural pool at the bottom of a rushing waterfall. San Diego is home to many beautiful hiking trails leading up to flowing waterfalls. We have compiled a list of our five favorite destinations in San Diego. Keep reading to learn about some gorgeous waterfall hikes!


cedar creek

Cedar Creek Falls

The hike to Cedar Creek Falls, also known as "Devil's Punchbowl", is one of the most difficult hikes in San Diego. The name suggests how extreme this hike is, it is not for the faint of heart. The most interesting part about this hike is the fact that instead of hiking up to your destination, you're actually hiking down. At the bottom of the hike, you'll meet a giant natural pool surrounded by 75-foot cliffs and a waterfall. Make sure you pack more water than you need because the hike back up is not easy. One thing to know is you must purchase a $6 pass and sign a waiver before you enter the trail online beforehand.

Three Sisters Falls

This hike is one of the more difficult hikes in San Diego, however, if you make it to the top, it is definitely worth it. Located in Descanso (East County San Diego), the 4.2-mile trek to Three Sisters Falls leads to three waterfalls all flowing into one another. It is very popular to swim in the small natural pools at the bottom of each of the waterfalls. You can even strap up your hammocks and take a rest before making the trip back. Make sure you are wearing the right shoes to help overcome the steep terrain.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Falls

This 7-mile round trip hike is for intermediate hikers. Los Penasquitos Canyon isn't very steep or treacherous, but it's a fairly long adventure and the destination is worth it. While you're passing flowing streams along your way to beautiful ravishing waterfalls, make sure you're staying hydrated. It is also very popular to mountain bike along these trails so be on the look out for riders.

Kitchen Creek Falls

On your way down part of the 200,000-mile Pacific Crest Trail, you will pass many spectacular waterfalls. However, the first one you encounter is the gorgeous Kitchen Creek Falls. It is best to check out this waterfall after a big rainfall as it flows freely. The 4.6-mile round-trip hike is not too extreme, but it is not recommended for beginners due to its steep descent towards the falls. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting wildlife as you make your way to the gorgeous waterfall.

Oak Canyon

Oak Canyon is by far the easiest of the of the hikes listed, however, it still made it into our top 5 best in San Diego. As a part of Mission Trails Regional Park, the Oak Canyon Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes of the entire 7,220-acre park. The 5.4-mile round-trip hike will take you past the Old Mission Dam and up to a spectacular flowing waterfall. Make sure to go during the raining season.