Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail

MODERATE 1361 reviews
#2 of 145 trails in

Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail is a 4.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Descanso, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 4.2 miles Elevation Gain: 997 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

bird watching

forest

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

rocky

scramble

no shade

This is a great hike with a fun seasonal waterfall at the end where you can cool off. Start early or late in the day as it gets hot, being lots of water, and use caution as this trail has some loose rocks, involves some ropes, and has some steep sections. Not a great hike for kids of dogs due to these sections. The trail has been greatly improved and rerouted so ropes are no longer needed.

hiking
5 days ago

Got there early and beat the crowd! The waterfalls were flowing but the water was cold which felt nice on my feet! Only took 2.5 hrs round trip but I felt like I was going fast. I would never bring my dog on this trail it’s just too much. Saw a couple snakes in the beginning but just little gardeners I think. Overall was challenging and fun and would definitely do it again!

5 days ago

ARE THE FALLS FLOWING? if you have gone recently please let me know when you went. thanks!

hiking
no shade
10 days ago

This is an awesome trail with a great view at the end. Some warnings: today was only 82 and it felt like 95. With little to no shade on the trail it makes it very hard to cool down. Bring plenty of water. This is no joke! When you think you’ve brought enough bring more. Also, with the heat, it makes it very hard on dogs. Most dogs on the trail seemed over heated and exhausted. This can kill your pets. Parking is very limited, get there early. An elderly woman had to be rescued this afternoon due to over heating and exhaustion. This hike starts easy as it is all downhill to the falls. That mean it’s all uphill on the way back. Be prepared and know your limits.

hiking
16 days ago

There was water in the falls, so it was worth it. Hike was definitely not for a novice, and was challenging but not impossible. Some parts of trail have fall hazards if you’re not careful. Bring water... lots of water. The hike up was a bit tiring... but again, not impossible. Overall a good challenge hike for a relative newby.

hiking
17 days ago

We did this wonderful hike with our 4 children from 1-5-7 and 9 years old. They loved it! We had a picnic on the edge of the second waterfall and it was beautiful and relaxing to listen to the sound of the falls. The children were amazed to see people sliding into the fall. The return was a challenge for our little man of 5 years, but our big girls have done very well! Note that you have to be careful in places with children because the trails are sometimes quite narrow.

hiking
no shade
rocky
18 days ago

Very nice trail! The waterfalls are worth seeing....and the slide in it too! Nice hike to do in the morning as afternoon are very hot and there is not much place to hide from the sun!

The waterfall was flowing great. There was a lot of people out hiking today. Great with it being cooler. Always remember to pack extra water and that you start by going down the mountain, so save energy for the way back up!!

hiking
21 days ago

Yes, little shade. Yes, can get hot. Remember your in a valley in the dessert. Yes, it does get crowded, especially around the falls as the day goes on. Yes, the falls are fantastic to see and definatley worth it! Cautions: 1. Be very careful in and around the falls as it can be very steep and slippery. Saw a young woman crossing the falls loose her footing and slip, washing her down the waterfall. Thankfully it was on the lower, less dangerous fall where people do waterslide. 2. The road to the trailhead is dirt, loose gravel, and a bit rocky. AWD car recommended but did see some normal cars make it through, albeit slowly.

hiking
23 days ago

Nice quick hike. However, there is some minor erosion which made the narrow trail a little loose on the edges. Rocks down to the waterfalls were slippery. Be sure to wear good shoes.

hiking
24 days ago

Great trail, all down hills to the falls, all up on the way back, falls were raging, wet, raining all day, beautiful day for hiking, explore San Diego’s back country, you will be pleasantly surprised how awesome it is!

hiking
muddy
no shade
25 days ago

Just a heads up, there is an 8 mile dirt road to get to the trail head. Hike is way easier than you would think. Have fun with this one. Bring a towel.

Trail was awesome! We went and started at 4! Got down around 5 and headed back up around 5:40. We got poured on coming back up but it made the hike so much more worth it. So fun + really quite an easy trail. If you are in good shape you will have no problem with this hike. I feel like the reviews are slightly misleading. The trail was not difficult at all. Obviously the heat will intensify the hike, but if you went at a good time I think it would totally be bearable and totally enjoyable!!! My phone died when we got there, so I wasn’t able to record going back up, but obviously it’s 2 miles each way. SUPER GREAT!

hiking
muddy
over grown
30 days ago

awesome hike we went may 20th and it was raining so a bit muddy and some of the plants had been growing over the trail aswell as some of the trail had been washed apart from prior rain so be careful heading down. remember the hike too the waterfall is the easy part its the hike back after uve relaxed at the falls is hard.

hiking
1 month ago

Classic SD hike! Thought it would be more difficult and glad to see the rating reduced from difficult to moderate. We thought it was easier than other popular hikes like Cowles Mt. (Maybe the ‘new trail’ makes the difference?) Started at 8:00 @ 55°, out by 11 @ 75°, which included about 45 minutes at the falls. Rains have left the canyons unusually green, a rare and welcome sight, but also have awakened lots of poison oak reaching onto the trail at knee-shin level. Be super careful with dogs - almost unavoidable for them!

Fun hike! The unpaved road, Bolder Creek has had the first section graded, lower section at this time is pretty bumpy. Easy to find the parking and the trailhead. Hike in was pretty easy to the falls however, the hike is really about coming back. Please bring a lot of water and have extra in your vehicle for afterwards. Enjoy!

hiking
no shade
rocky
1 month ago

This trail is beautiful. Flowers everywhere and the waterfall is awesome. Hiking down to the waterfall is super easy and quick but the hike back almost killed me and my husband. One of the harder trails I’ve done in San Diego granted we are not regular hikers. Bring lots of water bc it gets hot and there’s little shade a majority of the hike.

1 month ago

You can swim behind the biggest waterfall! Hiked it on 5/11. Cloudy, so weather was like crisp San Diego weather. Started at 5:20pm and got back to car at 7:40pm. That included a fast pace with adequate time for pictures, scrambling, and swimming. I crossed paths with 20 other people. You can swim and scramble, but be careful!! The waterfalls right now are strong. And the rocks are smooth without many places to grab onto. I scrambled up to the big sister on the left side (East). I would recommend the right side (West), which is what the others used. The east side had a couple very sketchy spots where there's angled smooth rock with no handholds, so you're on all fours praying you don't slide and fall 10-20 ft. Swimming underneath the big sister was awesome!! But again... BE CAREFUL! It was tough fighting the current. Swim around the west side of the waterfall. Once you're under it, you can relax and catch your breath and enjoy the spectacular feeling of being under a raging sister. ... then swim back straight through it! You'll get pounded, but it's exhilarating and not too painful. ...Last note: be prepared for an annoying 40-minute stretch of windy, bumpy roads once you get off I-8. Most of it is poor dirt roads, but easily doable in any sedan. But it still sucks.

hiking
1 month ago

The trail is very fun and doable in half a day trip from SD. Everything is green and wildflowers are everywhere. There are no dangerous parts of the trail, but going in the water is a risky proposition. Strong current and slippery rocks just aren’t inviting. Very close to Ramona and Julian which lets you celebrate your strong finish in style.

Clean trail, not to congested. It takes longer to get to the actual destination than to do the trail. Bumpy car ride.

hiking
1 month ago

Wonderful short hike! Road out includes 8 miles of dirt road so be prepared to bump along and get car dirty! Will get hot so bring lots of water and snacks. Tons of water for swimming now. Be very careful though, I’m an experienced hiker and still slipped and cracked back of head open coming out of water, rocks are very slick! Enjoy and be safe!

hiking
bugs
no shade
rocky
1 month ago

This trail was done late April, 2019. The waterfall was amazing due to all the rain we've had this season in California. We had a late start on this trail. Road disclosure: once you hit the dirt road, it becomes a really bumpy ride. Watch out for dips (unless you have an offroading vehicle) and bumps on the road. It felt like forever passing throught the dirt road. Anyways, we started the hike at around 4. Another disclosure: we hike often so we're used to inclines on trails and wear appropriate hiking shoes. Most of the trail was manageable, there were a few parts where hiking boots provided an advantage in walking through the trail quick. We started the hike at about 4pm and it took us a little over an hour to reach Three Sister's Falls. The reason it took us a little over an hour was because we couldn't help to stop and take in the views and of course take pictures. Absolutely no shade on this hike. Lucky for us, it had already cooled down a little when we started. There were a lot of people coming back up the trail when we were going down. That ended up being a good thing bc by the time we got to the waterfalls, it wasn't as packed with people. We stayed there a little over an hour, enjoyed the waterfalls, relaxed, ate, and left after 6. The timing was perfect bc on the way back up the sun was already starting to set and we were able to get plenty of shade on the way back. It took us about an hour to get back to the parking lot. We caught up to a few people who had left before us. Again, if you don't hike or are notn active on a regular basis, going back up the trail might be a little struggle. Just make sure you bring lots of hydration with you. Overall, great hike, we would definitely do it again. OH YEAH....we didn't have to rock climb or use ropes to go down. I believe that was the old trail. The new trail is pretty obvious and it leads you the falls just fine. You may need to climb over a few rocka but no ropes were needed.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Amazing hike!!!!! No ropes anymore. The water was freezing but it was good. Theresa lot of poison oak and poison ivy. Anything with 3 leaves AVOID!!! Also bring lots of water and electrolytes. There’s no shade.

1 month ago

7.5 miles of unpaved, bad road: drive slow. Hike was rather simple, of course more difficult on the return. probably 40 min hike from parking lot to the falls. the trail is straight ahead once you turn off the road into parking lot. there's one 4x4 post in the ground 5-10 min into the hike. bear left there. trail is well marked. falls are flowing strong. you can safely slide down the middle waterfall on the natural water slide, at least while the falls are flowing. enjoy!

I would recommend this to someone that wants a challenge not impossible but good workout and fun.

1 month ago

We did 3 Sisters again a couple days ago. The new parking area is great, but messy. Pickup your garbage please. The old trail was difficult and somewhat dangerous in spots. The new trail made the hike a lot easier and faster. I'd be ok taking the kids on this trail now, but not the old trail.

hiking
1 month ago

This trail was so amazing. I would recommend going early so it doesn’t get too hot. Also make sure to go when the waterfall is running because it is a great place to stop, have snacks, and go down the natural water slide!

Great Three Sisters awesome, beautiful. I will do again. swimming permit there

hiking
1 month ago

It’s a nice area with nice views. Lots of wild flowers, greenery and critters roaming around this time of year (early May). Waterfalls are running full and awesome. The way down is quick and easy, but the way back up can feel a little challenging at times, especially in the heat. But just pace yourself and you’ll be fine. Just to note that I saw some reviews mentioning ropes on the trail and suggesting the use of gloves. At no point on the trail do you need to use your hands. I don’t know where that came from. Overall, it’s a fun, nice hike.

hiking
no shade
rocky
1 month ago

Super recommendable to go with friends or family the way is easy going as everything is going down, back is more tiring. almost to get there you have to pass some rocks, but it is worth a visit, the views to the edge of the mountain are spectacular and more spectacular to see the waterfall emerging from the mountains, I will definitely come back. You can take your swimsuit, good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, 2 hours round trip.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Awesome trail with some great views and a rewarding destination. Don’t underestimate the hike down as the way back up can be very challenging. Shaded areas are scarce on the way back so rest often and be sure to pack lots of water!!! The drive up to the trail is all gravel and pretty bumpy. Regular cars can make it but trucks, jeeps, and SUVs would be recommended. Overall, super fun and worth it!!

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