Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Descanso with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Probably my favorite hike in San Diego county so far. Took us about 1.5 hours round trip from the parking area. We jogged a good portion of it so probably a 2 hour hike for the average person. Some things to know:

-There is poison oak on the trail and the trail is super narrow in the area with the most poison oak so be careful.
-There are places to do some rock climbing and bouldering.
-There are spots to swim and cliff jump although, I would do that second one with caution.
-Mostly downhill on the way in and up hill on the way out.

Will definitely do again.

lots of fun, beautiful end. bring water not for the walk down but for the walk back. difficult when comes to climbing but well worth it. be careful if you bring dogs. again part of the stuff is rocky.

beautiful place and a great workout. you'll need lots of water.

May 13th 2018 Mother's Day. The weather was perfect nice and cool. We left about 8:45 a.m. There seems to be some discrepancy about the length. Some of the other reviewers agree that it's longer than 3.5. It seems closer to 4.5 miles. The first two to three miles are very gentle and well-groomed. However there is lots of poison oak. The last mile gets very narrow very and Rocky with a steep drop off you get to use your hands. the best part was being able to descend down to the creek floor and hike around on the big smooth boulders. There are multiple places to descend. This area is before any of the falls. there are ways to travel up to the falls while being right down at the water's edge. Getting to the second Falls is easily done but we were not on a path we were climbing on rocks and boulders. Clearly many before us have done this. the only section that is very steep is the portion to get from the second falls to the third Falls. This did require crossing over the water and using some ropes that have been kindly placed by previous hikers thank you. coming back we stayed on the trail that is higher up the slope on the east side of the creek. This path is tremendously narrow and only can be used single file. There were many slippery points. You Are Climbing over rocks and you get to use your hands. overall it was a nice hike. I should mention the eight miles on Boulder Creek Road that is dirt in either direction. That was an adventure in itself.

Tough hike in and out. But worth it just for the waterfalls and red salamanders. Bring lots of water the for the trip uphill back out. Choose a cool & cloudy day. Beautiful views of the SD mountains.

Great hike. Start out walking to the far side of the parking lot and the trail begins there. You’ll turn left when you hit a lone post and you’ll be able to see the falls in the distance (seems closer than it actually is!) As you hike along, you’ll notice a drop off about a mile or so toward the falls. You can either go down this way or continue around on the trail that is cut into the side of the mountain. I went down on the way there and it was a lot of fun. A little hairy getting down to the bottom of the valley and a couple of butt slides to get down safely. Once you’re down at the bottom, you can hop along the boulders that the creek from the waterfall runs under (probably my favorite part.) A couple easy rope climbs (the slope is just a little steep and the ropes assist you in keeping your footing,) and you’re at the waterfall! If you don’t jump in your a sissy. I walked along the easier trail that I mentioned earlier that cut into the mountain side on the way out and it was very gradual and much easier to traverse than the original way I went down.

All in all, great hike. Would recommend to anyone staying in the area for a few days.

I almost died on this hike lol. Got there about 8:30 am, got to the falls about 2 hours later (got confused because there is an arrow on a rock pointing a different direction so we thought we took a wrong turn but it was right). Spent time at each fall, climbing the first rope was a little challenging but the second rope was easy. It was very sunny so it got hot, not a lot of shade. Leaving the falls is where we got lost because when you climb over the boulders to get back to the path, it’s not really clear which way to return so we ended up down in unmarked forest while we could see the trail way above our heads. Had to climb through bushes and trees to find our way back. Ran out of water and the heat made us pan a little. Pay attention to the path you take when you leave. But we survived! Definitely the most challenging hike I’ve been on.

My first time hiking this trail. Recommend checking the weather as this week is a great time to go. So glad the ropes were there as I made it to the second falls. I saw a few kids hiking ahead of their parents and I thought they were too young to be doing that. Some of the trail is right at the edge of the drop off so I had the kids climb the rocks and wait for their folks. Way too dangerous as the the kids were between the ages of 5-8yrs old. Not sure when they empty the trash cans but people were just dumping trash on the ground as the cans were overflowing. Take your trash with you.

The trail was easy. I wished I could have done the old trail for a better challenging workout. We started about 8:30 am. Weather was nice and cool. When we hiked back our if was a bit warmer. Heard some rattle snakes so be careful! Overall, great hike for anyone and kids no younger than 9-10 years of age.

I've heard various levels of difficulty about this trail, since apparently there used to be an alternative route to the falls. going down, I followed the blue ribbons placed along the trail to help you stay on it. a few points where it became rocks/ climbing, I had to look and for the trail, but for the most part it was pretty easy to follow. a lot of the trail is right on the edge of a drop-off, so I wouldn't recommend bringing children. I was the only person when I got to the falls. slipped off my Dusty shoes and socks and enjoyed the water, and got to lay down on the rocks by the water, just enjoying the sound of the falls. on the way back up- which is steep in some parts, I passed 3 people. I brought 3L of water, drank 2.

on the way down I had complete shade, trek back was maybe 25% shaded. beautiful change in scenery throughout the hike. A few areas I had to slow down and focus on my steps.

Great hike! The falls were beautiful! I wasn’t sure what to expect with the new trail. My 11 year old son came along and made it. Coming out was a little difficult and made many stops. It was also pretty warm, about 80 degrees and only had an occasional breeze in the canyon.

Heard some rattle snakes right off the trail in the rocks so be on the look out this time of year.

Over all it was a great hike, taking us about an hour to get to the falls and about 1 1/2 - 2 hours coming out.

Pack water and a snack and start early and your sure to have some fun!

Fun hike. Lots of elevation changes and the rope down was fun. Various paths to get down the steep part.

The falls are pretty and a nice place to enjoy lunch or a snack.

Some nice single track bouldering and switchbacks.

Good times.

One of my favorite hikes, can’t wait to come back!

Perfect length and difficulty level! Great for a little challenge and a great spot to hang out and enjoy lunch by the falls! Will 100% be going back.

Super fun hike. I wanna go back there for sure:)!!

I had heard everything from "easy for whole family" to "absolutely treacherous" about this hike so I had no idea what to expect when we did it today.

We hiked the old way down which was definitely a little lose and sketchy but a lot of fun. The ropes were still there at the bottom where there is a rock drop off. We made our way to the falls and it was a fun adventurous hike.

To get to the top of the highest fall the climb has some exposure and I was more uncomfortable than I let on. We did separate routes to and from the top fall. I recommend the "normal" route (closer to the water) it was the less sketchy of the two.

The walk back up the mountain we tried the new trail and it was relatively easy if you do any hiking all all.

It took us about 4 hrs car back to car and we stopped a lot, took photos, and hung out at each of the 3 falls.

Not for the faint of heart. The ropes going down are no longer there and there is a new path they made that you can go around instead of going down or up the steep path. It’s easy to get lost a few times but people put ribbons you can follow. Worth the trek! Fun hike. Challenging at times I highly recommend hiking boots especially if you want to climb to the top of the falls

somewhat challenging trail. the new trail carved out into the hill makes the falls accessible to smaller children and animals. old routes prove challenging with a lot of Boulder climbing and plunging into shallow streams.

Lleven condición

We did this hike for the first time on 3/24/18 on the new route.

Location- it took quite a while to get there even though we spent the night with family who live in El Cajon instead of coming from where we live which is near Long Beach...it still took a bit over an hour to go 40 miles since the last 10 miles or so to the trailhead is on a winding dirt road that will rattle your car even at low speeds so that last 10 miles probably takes about 25-30 mins.

Parking- we arrived early (about 6 am) so the parking lot was empty however when we left the lot was overflowing

Trail there- I never did the old trail, but the first 1.5 miles are still the same and at about the 1.5 mile mark you can see the steep descent of the old trail going down to the creek and you can see the waterfalls in the distance; so the new safer trail takes you to the left and it is a relatively easy trek to the falls; as you get closer the trail becomes less defined and you need to look out for little blue ribbons on the brush indicating the path to stay one; we arrived to the falls in a little over an hour it was a relatively easy 2.2 miles

The falls- the rock areas by the falls are very slippery and there is no easy way to get to the upper falls so be ready for some scrambling and treacherous conditions to explore all 3 falls; it was too early and cold for us to get in the water...bummer

Trail back- the trail there is mostly flat or downhill so the way back is much harder obviously and we found the first half a mile back harder to see and follow the trail back and had to do some backtracking to find the trail since we somehow started going to low and close to the creek; I can see how people have a hard time with this relatively short RT hike of about 4.5 miles during warmer months, or after expending energy playing in the water, or drinking alcohol.

visited: Wed March 21st 2018
The steep incline section where the rope used to be does not exist anymore. The county cut a new trail path which makes it more accessible for children and dogs. The waterfalls were actively flowing that day.
Note to hikers: please clean up your bottles of kombucha, hipsters.

Really good! Not as hard as I was expecting based on the reviews/hype but maybe because the day was rather cool. Very pretty scenic hike and good workout!

ok the dirt road down isn't bad. I was glad i had a truck thou. once at trail head good luck finding parking. we went early and lucked out. we arrived at trail head about 830am there were only three cars. when we left it was full and people were parking illegally. anyhow trail has just been redirected to a safer path down to falls once there enjoy the sounds. lots of water flowing when we went. i suggest saving energy and water. the trek back is all up hill. enjoy this local beauty.

This is a great hike! It had been a couple years since I have been here. They recently added a dirt parking lot for about 50 cars, has portapotties, and a new trail that goes around the edge of the mountain so you do not need to trek down the hill with the rope.

From the parking lot, you will walk along the main trail, when you hit the wooden post you will go left to make your trek to the falls. If in doubt, look out in the distance, you should be able to see the falls pretty easily from this location to assure you are headed in right direction.

The water was flowing really well and the new trail along the way makes the hike a breeze on the way down.

Over all most important thing to remember is that you do downhill all the way to the falls, so save enough energy, food, water for the hike back up.

I also recommend to have some hiking shoes, if you explore around the waterfall it will be nice to have the better traction on the slippery rock surrounding the falls.

Make sure to take your time and enjoy this beautiful piece of nature!

Fun easy hike especially now with the new trail. No more rope needed to hike down.

So beautiful.!!! I was so apprehensive, because of its reputation of being treacherous and difficult, but it must have been made safe lately, because though it’s tiring on the way back, because on the way TO the falls it’s pretty much downhill, there was nothing dangerous about it. Honestly, the biggest pain to me was the driving there. I had my regular slightly low car, and some of the roads are dirt-ish. Then again, if I’d had my husband’s big truck, I would feel insecure that it was too big because some parts of the road are very slim. Back to the hike, the destination is so gorgeous. Though it’s too cold still to go swimming, we put our feet in and walked around. Two couples went, and I saw the guys going down the small waterfall into the lower pool.Thank goodness they hurt!

The trail has been fixed to make it easier to get to the falls since last summer. No more climbing down an embankment on a rope. The water is flowing good as of today, March 20 2018. It was 65 degrees and I still drank down two gatorades and a water bottle going back up the trail from the falls. Be sure to bring plenty of fluids, especially when warm out. You might want to bring mosquito repellant if you climb to the top fall and stick around a bit. Only small portions of the trail provide shade from the sun.

There was a nice waterfall as of mar 18, 2018. Make sure to leave plenty time to return back.

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