Explore the most popular forest 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.

I highly recommend this hike but read the cautions below.
My fiancé and I went in April and had an amazing time. We are a young and fairly active couple and this trail was not extremely difficult but I can see how it’s difficult for others. I recommend to head out first thing in the morning as the afternoon sun is VERY hot and with the dry heat, it becomes unbearable. There’s barely no shade on the trail so when that sun is blazing, you’re completely exposed to the sun and heat. Come prepared with plenty of water and high energy food. We brought eight bottles of water each and went through 6 easily. The trail is a 1 person wide dirt trail with no barriers and minimal markers. I’m scared of heights and the trail made me uncomfortable at times when it was steep and if I fell I felt like it would be to my death of tumbling down the rocky side with minimal to no shrubs to stop my fall. Other areas of the trail were fine. As we got closer to the waterfalls, there was more shade and trees but larger rocks we had to climb over. We got to a point that we weren’t sure if we were on the right track as there wasn’t a distinct trail to follow nor markers, but then we would randomly find a ribbon on a branch.
At the end of the trail are the waterfalls, they are awesome. I would recommend to bring a swimsuit and a towel, freezing water but a great way to cool off. To get to the top waterfall you have to climb the rocks which are smooth and steep and only have a rope to help you up. Bring good gripping shoes and gloves (if you’re hands are on the sensitive side).
CAUTION!!!
So this trail is completely do able, but be SAFE. On our way we ran into a group in which one of the guys broke his leg and since there’s no signal, they had to carry him back to the car (in which there is still no signal in the parking lot and only signal after an hour drive back towards the highway). If you have a radio, I would recommend to bring a radio with you so you can call for help incase. The man broke his leg going down the old trail in which the rope was removed to prevent people from going down, sever accidents will entail if you try this. Do not rush down the ropes at the waterfall, I saw someone loose balance and almost flew into the tree and stones and would’ve broken his back or head if it wasn’t for his friend saving him from falling to his death. Like I said, be safe, go prepared, don’t be stupid, and you’ll survive without any issues.

Hiking boots, 3 liters of water, hat, and snacks are a good idea. You should be prepared doing this hike. It's very hot, lack of shade, loose trail, unstable ground. This is not a place for kids or dogs. The ground is 110 degrees so this could kill your pup. We had to carry a dog off the mountain before. Lots of dogs die hiking in the heat.
This is one of my favorite hikes. The new trail is as a lot easier, but I prefer the original route with the ropes. There is a total of 5 ropes to help you up and down the steep ledges. I bring gloves because it is rough on my hands.

I am just starting to hike and agree it is a moderate hike. Only downside was the heat, can get really hot so make sure you take lots of water and are hydrated before. On our way down to waterfall sun was out so I was pretty drained getting there, but on our way back up sun wasn't as strong and I was able to make it up easily. Took us a little under 2 hours both ways. Good hike overall.

March 26th 2018 the waterfalls were flowing and gorgeous everything green and birds are chirping

Beautiful trail, recommend following the guidance here up Azalea to the right then down the paved road on the way back (not fun for the feet though).

Note: the entrance to Conejos is very difficult to spot, the trail sign is hidden if you’re travelling from Azalea. Also, bring lots of water and sunscreen. Park patches, cool gifts, and wildlife display at Cuyamaca Rancho visitor’s center before you get to the campground- worth a stop Sat and Sun 1000 to 1600. Recommended soundtrack for the drive: Tin Hat Trio: The Rodeo Eroded.

I'm a newbie when it comes to hiking but this is my favorite trail so far. We took the old way to the waterfalls because we thought there would be ropes going down the hill but I guess they took most of the ropes off. We were still able to navigate it though. I really navigating through the rocks and streams but you could tell that few people had gone through the old trail. on the way back we took the newer trail which seemed safer but not as fun. Bring lots of water just in case. it can get hot really fast.

Great hike, do not do this hike on a hot day.

Lovely trail. Wear long pants, lots of poison oak out there. Bring lots of water especially if it’s hot, most parts no shade.

Great hike! Make sure to bring lots of water. Definitely use the ropes to climb up to the next waterfall. You will be glad you did!

Breath taking trail. The trail has a very sad slow rate of forest regeneration, which prompted a reforestation project to replant using donations. It breaks my heart when I saw such magnificent pines burnt to the core. Quick history: The fire took place in 2003, when a lost hunter lit a signal fire hoping to be found. That signal burned out of control and became the biggest wildfire in California's history, burning more than 300,000 acres, killed 15 people and burned 2400 homes.

Great trail I love it

Warning: several hikers have died of heatstroke here. There's almost no shade. it gets hot.

Not many bugs. That's about as far as it goes for good points. This unremitting slog down to an unremarkable falls, followed by an even less remarkable slog back up the exact same trail you just walked down, is free of agreeable views, shade, or, really, any reason to set foot on it. I don't know who built it, and I really don't know why, but I'd like my afternoon back please. Negative 1.21 Gigastars.

Skip It.

Long drive, very nice hike. The forest service has cut a new trail that delivers you to middle sister. Please use this and not the old "trail". I.e. don't cross the pink line across the edge of trail. Those random routes straight down the slope have caused a scar that will take a decade or more to recover IF it remains unused and people don't cause more erosion. When on the new trail, as you get near the falls/stream bed the trail becomes difficult to follow. Look for pink ribbons tied on shrubs that indicate trail. I climbed to middle fall (rope is there but not necessary). Good swimming in that one. Stream is still moving but just barely above a dribble really.

Please at least pack out everything you bring in. If you can pick up something and leave it cleaner than you found it! I found a pile of trash hidden behind a tree. Packed them out too:)

Loved this hike. Seems easier than Cedar Creek. The water level was low and we didn’t climb to the top falls, but it was beautiful!

This is our fav hike in San Diego county. We’ve done it a few times. We brought our mini-husky to this hike last time, and she didn’t have any trouble with it. We always climb to the top of the third sister because the view from there is spectacular. There were ropes in parts of the trail, but the ropes were missing last time we were there. The trail is doable without the ropes, but it does make it easier. Overall, this hike is great for any level of experience in hiking.

Excellent trail, love the view

Parking fee is $10

The directions from here mapped me to the adjacent road into a small residential area. Multiple attempts to map takes me all different places. Look for the school on Viejas rd. On the map its labeled on Merigan Fire Rd. That's where the parking lot and trail head is.

The fire road has some nice inclines and practically no shade, might be bad to come here in the dead heat of summer. Sweetwater trail is narrow and not extremely well maintained, it is itchy to hike in shorts for this portion. Took a right on falls fire road towards green valley falls for the awesome swim spot. Road only adds 2 miles to the loop
Totally worth it!

Nice memorial day hike!

Did the hike in on 5/26/18. 63 degrees. Took us 2.5 hours and that included a 30 minute rest at the pools. Takes 40 minutes down and about an hour and twenty minutes back up. Only 3.18 miles round trip. Had my wife, 11 year old son and 14 year old daughter with me. Although it pushed us, We all finished it no problem. 8 miles of dirt road, FYI. But definitely don’t need a 4WD. Super cool hike.

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.

Great forest hike. Nice weather with a cool breeze! Park at the campground and pay the $10 parking fee. The azalea glen trail is south of the parking lot. Flat and gradual incline at the beginning. Steep as you reach the peak.

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.

Love it!! Perfect for a birthday hike with friends!!

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 daughter and I hiked this trail this evening which is just down the road from where we live. The temperatures have been starting to climb so we thought it’d be nice to get some fresh air in the cool of the evening. The climb up the fire road is a good steady climb before dropping down to the river. Check for ticks when you get to the car. It’s a great 2 1/2 mile hike.

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