- Location: East County
- Best For: Hikers, trekkers, walkers, hecklers
The Three Sisters Falls trail is a moderate to difficult hike located north-west of Descanso in east San Diego County. Although today is a rare day of heavy rain in San Diego and not advised for strenous hiking in the backcountry keep this hike in mind for sunnier days ahead, especially during the early spring when the falls are likely to be heavier due to more rain and melting snow-pack.
To reach the Three Sisters Trailhead from downtown San Diego (total trip about 65 miles):
Head East on Interstate 8
- Take Exit 40 for CA-79 N/Japatul Valley Rd and head north toward Julian
- After 1.3 miles, turn left onto Riverside Drive
- After 1 mile, Turn left onto Viejas Blvd/Viejas Grade Road
- Take the 1st right onto Oak Grove Drive
- After 1.6 miles, Turn right onto Boulder Creek Road
Follow Boulder Creek Road for 12.9 miles to trailhead
- Note that Boulder Creek Road is unpaved and has a number of sharp turns. The trailhead is located on the left side of the road, at a hairpin turn to the south-east. Park on the side of the road to access the trail.
The trail is approximately 4 miles round-trip, but is a difficult hike despite the medium distance. The trail begins at a high altitude with an old ranch road going west along a ridge to a saddle and then the trail turning left, to the south, and descending down a long hill. The trail meanders through low scrub until reaching the bottom and then begins to ascend along a boulder dotted stream that carries the water away from the falls.
The hike up the stream can be done via small trails on either side of the stream, or by hopping from stone to stone in the stream, which is my preferred route. After hiking for about 3/4 of a mile up the stream you’ll come to the first of the falls and have a view of all three (the middle one is about 50 feet high and falls into a sizable pool) rising up in front of you. There are a number of good spots to sit and rest and a great opportunity to nap in the sun or enjoy a picnic lunch while resting for the return journey.
If you’re heading to Julian for a weekend, or a long trip for a slice of pie, it’s not a far detour to check out this hike. If you’re interested in other hikes in San Diego County check out the excellent Canyoneer Hikes – free, guided, group hikes every weekend.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the cool change in the weather. Take care!
John P. Anderson
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