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Cottonwood Creek Trail

MODERATE 61 reviews
#42 of 160 trails in

Cottonwood Creek Trail is a 1.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Pine Valley, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 1.6 miles Elevation Gain: 360 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly


nature trips


bird watching





wild flowers


over grown
2 months ago

Perfect for dogs. Kinda overgrown but nothing to bad. Water is flowing slightly from the falls as of 24NOV19.

7 months ago

Went with my 6 y/o daughter a couple days ago. Saw a baby rattlesnake on the path. A little hard to find the entrance of the trail but just follow the suggestions of the other reviews and it will be right past the far right of the guard rail. Was a good hike to bring a kid or dog but there wasn't much water :( lots of pretty wildflowers though! And it was still a really cool hike.

7 months ago

Me & my 6y.o. (hikey-type) REALLY enjoyed this hike. A bit steep at the top with loose rocks (could definitely slip & get a scrape here if you're not careful.) after that steep part at the trail head, its a nice & easy descent into Cottonwood valley. At the bottom there is little stream to the right & if you follow to the left it heads to the falls. It's really 5 little waterfalls that are all very cool. The mega-levels of rain in SD this year had the waterfalls really flowing nicely. You keep going across the water as you climb up the falls & it just keeps going; We're going to take our Cub-Scout pack here in June & everyone should really enjoy this spot. Only saw a couple other groups on the trail (since its about 35min drive from SD area). The Trailhead could be hard to spot, but its right where the guard rail ends, directly across from a large unpaved parking area (that has a large ridge/rock outcropping in the middle); The trail on the parking lot side of the street has the trailhead for the mountain biking trail. We did not get a "Adventure Pass', because it looks like there is some controversy regarding whether its valid to charge just to park near an unimproved hiking trail. There is a LA Times article about the the passes if you want to know more... Have fun, very cool trail!!

7 months ago

Gunshots in distance . Good exercise trail . Waterfalls all over !!!

11 months ago

I could see this being a 3 or 4 star hike depending on the season and weather conditions you do the hike in. I hiked it on 2/24/19 and found the conditions to be ideal for my enjoyment! Location- it was only about a 30 minute drive for me since I spent the night after attending a party at a family member's house in El Cajon (suburb of San Diego); I jumped on the 8 East and as the elevation reached 3,000 ft I could begin seeing snow on the hills near the fwy and I got even more excited for this hike- took Exit 47 for Sunrise Hwy and the trailhead parking was about 2 miles away from the fwy and there was a large lot on the side of the hwy to park Trail- you access the trail by walking across the road and going to the right of the metal barrier...the snow was the deepest on this portion of the hike for about half a mile and the first part of the hike is where the trail is the narrowest with portions where you have to bend over and get low to continue past low branches; at about 3/4 of a mile you will get down to creek level and make a left to get to the waterfalls...I carefully climbed up to reach about 4 parts of the waterfall and it was flowing really well with all of the recent precipitation of this winter and it was a pleasant surprise to find this so close to the city of San Diego; it is about 2 miles RT and not anything too extreme in the way of incline and I loved having the trail/falls all to myself for the nearly 2 hrs I was there *I used microspikes just to be safe but I could see it being fine with just hiking shoes

Sun Jan 13 2019

Love it very much. It’s everything you love about hiking.

Sun Jan 13 2019

Nice little trail down to a creek and a few small waterfalls. Just to the right of the median you can enter the trail. It looks pretty rocky, but the trail becomes clear pretty quickly.

Sun Dec 23 2018

This turned out to be a pretty cool hike. When you park on the huge landing up top, you will just go to the right of the guard rail and start your journey down. After about 100 yards down you’ll come into some bushes and it will look like a narrow squeeze, once you pass those the for about 50 feet the rest of the trail is pretty well groomed. Overall you go down for the most part, until you end up at the strewn. Once at the stream there’s plenty of room for exploring just make sure to watch your step as it is slippery. Plan for going all uphill on the way back and if a hot day bring lots of water! Also there are not many people on the trail, so let someone know where you are going beforehand.

Sun Dec 09 2018

Great little hike. The initial drop into the canyon is on some loose rock but nothing crazy. I went after a rain and there was a good amount of water in the canyon. The hike back out gets the lungs going a bit, but it's short.

Sat Jul 07 2018

Cool lil trail but as of July 7 it is bone dry.

Tue Jun 05 2018

nice trail kinda hard to find had to use a website to find the beginning and got lost several times the service trail for the power pole mix in with the trail REMEMBER GO LEFT AT THE T but the stream was nice and cool and dogs loved it ALSO A RATTLESNAKE LIVES UP IN THE SMALL CAVE ABOVE THE STREAM/WATERFALL be careful with children or dogs or anyone but it was a nice view on a positive note

Thu Apr 12 2018

A fairly well maintained path for how narrow it is. Saw some sdg&e employees on our way back up. plenty of exploring around the falls area, we went in early April to find a considerably verdant creek bed and clean stream.

Sat Feb 17 2018

Short hike down to the “falls”... more like stream, but I’ll take it! Very slippery along the water, even on the dry rocks. Check yourself for ticks after. Found tons on us and the dog. Very nice surroundings and shaded.

Sat Jan 27 2018

It was a little confusing to get to at first because the entrance is hidden and unmarked, but I followed the trail map on this app and found it fine. Beautiful and serene views near the creek/waterfall

Wed Apr 12 2017

Not popular at all. We had the falls to ourselves!

Tue Mar 07 2017

A short but nice hike. Great views and beautiful small falls after all the rain.

Sun Mar 05 2017

We did this hike with the kids (ages 6 & 8) and had a great time. It was just the right length for a relatively easy hike and the waterfall was a beautiful highlight. We will definitely be back.

Sun Jan 01 2017

This is a great short trail to do during the fall. If you do it after it has been raining you may even see a few waterfalls at the bottom of the valley. It may not be the best hike to do during a dry hot summer though.

Thu Sep 01 2016

Not good no waterfall vary disappointed

Sat Aug 06 2016

It's a very easy hike. Not worth doing in the summer so I suggest to go after a rain. Always fun to check out tho!

Sat Jun 25 2016

A nice little trail easy to find off the the side of the road. My daughter and I decended down through the shrub and quickly we encountered a rattle snake sitting right on the trail, so we backed out slowly and called it a day.

Thu Jun 26 2014

Nice, rewarding hike. Beware the trail is not maintained ,so do not be surprised if you run into some ticks. Be sure to check yourself (and dogs) afterwards, and bring some tweezers.

Mon Apr 23 2012

Just read that last review...funny! I think I saw you down there today, Wade. I was just about to write a similar note about the trail head. Getting there. Just after mile marker 15 on Sunrise Hwy, there are two GI-NORMOUS parking areas on either side of the highway. Park in the lot to the East (right, if heading from the 8). Next, walk to the guard rail at the North end of the lot, and maybe 5 more feet past the lot. There is a more gradual trail here to get down. Alternatively, walk to the telephone pole at the end of the guardrail. There is another trail leading down here. (the one Jerry Schad mentions). (Don't do what the local had Wade do...descend sharply through shrubs. LOL!) Trail is single track, slightly rocky in the beginning. The trail will meet with a dirt road. Take a sharp left onto that road and follow it around.

Sun Apr 22 2012

Don't miss the trail head... it is at the very north of the parking area by the guard rail on the east side of sunrise highway across from graffiti rock... a local directed us down the hill through the bush and that was no fun!

Sun Dec 26 2010

nice, fun hike for all to enjoy. the waterfall is very beautiful and the rock formations are nice also. It can get a little slippery so be careful out there.

recorded Recording - Jan 06, 1:52 PM

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