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Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail

MODERATE 1311 reviews
#2 of 146 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.

hiking
3 minutes 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
1 day 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
6 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
12 days 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
13 days 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.

14 days 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
17 days 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
19 days 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
21 days 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
22 days 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.

22 days 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.

22 days 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
24 days 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
25 days 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
27 days 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
27 days 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!!

hiking
27 days ago

Such a good hike! Definitely felt harder coming back but then again I was trying to run as much as I could. Waterfalls were beautiful and very full. Might go back next month with another group

hiking
no shade
rocky
28 days ago

Good fun hike. Doable with kids if they’re used to hiking. It’s far off the main roads. Expect to be on a dirt road for quite awhile to get to the trailhead.

hiking
no shade
rocky
29 days ago

Very fun hike, but be careful with dogs as the soil gets hot and irritates their paws. The swimming/sliding area was a nice reward!

The waterfall is beautiful! Perfect time to go!

hiking
no shade
29 days ago

Getting to the Falls was easy, but it’s all uphill heading back to your car. Bring LOTS of water because there is no shade and it gets really hot. Totally worth it once you get to the falls! Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. We came across one on the trail. We are definitely coming back to this trail again!

hiking
29 days ago

absolutely gorgeous! would recommend going in the morning before it gets warm & definitely take lots and lots of water !!

hiking
no shade
rocky
scramble
29 days ago

Went Sat. April 27th and had such an amazing time. The trail is much safer now, no ropes needed. Be careful on the rocks near the water though, when wet they are extremely slippery. 7 miles of dirt roads getting there from either direction. If you're coming from the 5 through Descanso, might want to have a truck or 4 wheel drive. We didn't and it was not fun navigating. Dirt road 7 miles in and out both ways though. Always remember this is a reverse hike, so while it may be simple getting down, it's a hike back up on the way out! Make sure you have plenty of water with you. And PLEASE, if it's warm out or you aren't getting there till afternoon, leave your dogs home. I am an avid hiker with my pup, but he stayed home for this one. The trail is very exposed and when it's hot out, it is not a good situation for them. I saw so many people showing up after 12pm when the ground is baking with old dogs, small dogs, etc. and they were already panting just getting out of the parking lot. Be kind and either bring them super early, or leave them at home. Also, be courteous to all the hikers wanting to enjoy the beauty of the trail and leave your boomboxes at home, or bring ear buds if you must have tunes with you. Enjoy your hike!

This is a great hike! and the falls are great deceptive though cause you have to go down to get there however you then have to climb up to get out! Getting to trailhead is easy, though I would say that if you have a low vehicle b3 care or get a jeep, but it is doable! Take it slow. will be back!

rock climbing
1 month ago

When I got close to the waterfall the rocks overtook me and I had to climb them but once at the top I could not find a trail back so it took some time. So just an FYI. But hike is fun and waterfalls were flowing really well. I got bad poison oak. Lasted 3 weeks so stay on the trail

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