Cedar Creek Falls

Distance 5.3 Miles out and back
Elevation Change 1200′ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy trail in excellent condition
Comments One stream crossing with plenty of rocks to walk on. Some crawling on large rocks at the bottom on the falls on the opposite side of the pool. There have been injuries and death when people climb the side of the walls around the pool and fall, but viewing the falls from the boulders in front of the pool is not difficult and no heights involved.
Address for Navigation Systems 15519 Thornbush Rd, Ramona, CA 92065
Latitude/Longitude 32.995167,-116.75627
Directions Take CA-67 North to Willow Road, turn right on Willow Road and go .9 miles. Turn left on Wildcat Canyon Road and drive for 12 miles. Turn right onto San Vicente Road for 2.6 miles, then take a left onto Ramona Oaks Road. Finally turn right onto Thornbush Road and watch for the parking lot about a third of the mile up the road on the right. The trailhead is on the other side of the road and clearly marked.

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Cedar Creek Falls, the hike described in the book is an older trail from the Julian direction. Jerry Schad did mention that a new trail from the west was under construction but not completed. This post describes that newer trail from the west.

If you are coming from San Diego, the new trail from the Ramona direction is much more convenient. Also the roads leading to the trailhead are better and unlike the trail from the Julian Direction there is no Adventure pass required to park your car. Hiking to Cedar Creek Falls, regardless of which trail you use, requires a permit from Recreation.gov in order to go all the way to the falls. We were approached twice to show our permit while on this hike, including once very near the falls. It is only a $6.00 fee to get the permit online that covers up to 5 people and you can print it at home. Also, regardless of which way you hike from the distance and elevation change is similar and the destination, which is the point of this hike, is identical!

The new trail from the west is terrific. There was plenty of parking, a permanent set of bathrooms, and running water. Although the elevation change is significant, the switchbacks make this a very doable hike for even less experienced hikers. Be sure to bring plenty of water and I recommend bringing a lunch, not just snacks. Cedar Creek Falls is the most beautiful falls that I have been to in San Diego county and you’ll want to spend as much time as you can sitting on the boulders in front of the falls taking it in.

We did this hike in early February and started down the trail around 9:15 in the morning. At the beginning of the hike we could not see into the valley as we were starting above what we thought was a thick layer of fog.

Fog obscures the view near the top of the Cedar Creek Falls Trail

As we continued down the sandy trail we eventually got below the low clouds and could see into the valley below.

Descending below the clouds on the Cedar Creek Falls trail

The skies were nearly clear by the time we were approaching the valley floor.

Skies Clearing near the bottom of the Cedar Creek Fall hike

The new trail joins with an older trail at the bottom of the slope and you’ll come to a dirt road. Just past that road was a sign stating that permits were required beyond this point. With our permit in my pocket we continued down the trail. We could hear the water before got to the stream crossing. There were plenty of larger rocks to cross on although this might be more difficult to cross if the water is higher.

Sean and Jenny crossing a stream

At this point is only a short distance to the falls. You have to scramble up on top of a few boulders to see the falls, but this is not difficult. Once up you will see a patch of large boulders in front of a calm pool. The falls are on the other side of the pool. It is a beautiful place to have a seat and enjoy your lunch.

Great place to sit and eat lunch at Cedar Creek Falls

I also scrambled around the boulders and a small shoreline on the far side of the boulders to get pictures of the falls from different angles. The lighting was terrific.

Mature tree near Cedar Creek Falls

Don’t forget to get a group picture while you are there…

All of us at Cedar Creek Falls-001

And don’t forget that the uphill part of the hike is on the way out!

Hike up after visiting Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls is one of the best hikes I’ve been on in San Diego county. I will definitely be sharing this hike with others in the years to come.


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