East of San Diego, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers respite from the dry Southern California landscape. The park’s 24,700 acres of oak and conifer forests and expansive meadows are broken by running streams. Located in the Peninsular Range of mountains, Cuyamaca Peak, at 6,512 feet, is the second highest point in San Diego County. From the peak, visitors can see Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to the east or the Pacific coastline to the west. Over half of the park's acreage is designated as state wilderness. The two family camps, Paso Picacho and Green Valley, are open and on the reservation system spring through fall. Green Valley sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet and has a creek which runs through the middle of the campground. The day-use area offers sets of cascades and shallow pools, great for water play on hot days. Green Valley has 74 campsites. Paso Picacho, 5 miles north, sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The most popular hikes start from this camp, including the 2 mile hike up Stonewall Peak (elevation 5,700 feet), and the 3.5 mile hike up Cuyamaca Peak (elevation 6,512 feet), both which offer breathtaking views of the deserts to the east, the coast to the west, and Lake Cuyamaca at the bottom. Lake Cuyamaca, operated by the Helix Water District, is two miles north of Paso Picacho and offers boating and fishing. Paso Picacho campground has 85 campsites. Day-use visitors may use the picnic areas provided at the campgrounds for $8 per vehicle. The receipt is good for the entire park for the day. The picnic areas offer tables, restrooms, and barbeques. Visitors may also park in legal turnouts along the highway and hike for free. Fire is not allowed anywhere except in the developed picnic areas and campgrounds. The beautiful park offers camping and hiking in an oak woodland forest, with a sprinkling of pines and lovely meadows with creeks. There are over 100 miles of trails which accommodate hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park. The park is open from dawn until dusk. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Cuyamaca Peak Fire Road. Dogs are allowed in picnic areas and in the campgrounds (except the primitive trail camps), but they are not allowed on trails or in park buildings.
Maria Irma S. on Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail
One of the best hikes in San Diego. Don't used up your energy while you're at the waterfalls, you'll need it getting back up the hill. That's the challenge.
We did it in the mist and fog and even though we got a little wet - this is by far my favorite hike in SD. The water is a plenty right now and the falls are beautiful. Be careful, wear good hiking shoes and bring appropriate gear. The drive up was muddy and dangerous so I recommend a vehicle with 4wheel drive.
Toughest hike I've been on, especially because it was raining and 40 degrees when my friend and I did it. Not for the weak hearted or anyone that is impatient. Make sure to bring lots of water and get an early start. I recommend following the rock formations otherwise finding the waterfall will be a wild goose chase
Great hike, beautiful time of year to do it, but if you want to enjoy it, you should get there early. We started hiking at 7:30 and were just the 3rd car there and we had the trail almost to ourselves (including the falls when we got there). When we hiked out at 11:30, probably 80 cars. Trail gets clogged as there are several bottlenecks--I can't imagine how long it took those folks to hike out. Having at least one hiking pole really helped in the muddy and/or slippery parts of the falls and up the steep hills.
I had no idea what I was in for with this hike. It includes repelling, crossing a fast moving stream when the flow is high, boulder hopping and scaling the side of a cliff on what looks like goat trail. Well worth the effort but do not attempt alone and bring plenty of water!