Kitchen Creek Falls: Hike to Natural Pools and Waterfall

May 30, 2021

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Distance 

4.8 Miles

Time

~2.5 Hrs

Difficulty

Easy-Moderate

Season

April – June

Elevation Gain

813 Ft

This has to be one of my top favorite hikes in San Diego. Not only are there multiple natural pools, but there’s also a pretty large hidden waterfall at the end! This place is blowing up, so head over before it gets packed with people.

Kitchen Creek Falls is a 4.8-mile hike located in Pine Valley, within San Diego County. The hike takes you along the Pacific Crest Trail and features multiple natural pools and waterfalls. It’s considered an easy trail but getting to the hidden waterfall is difficult. Dogs are allowed on this trail. Not recommended for young children.

Map of Kitchen Creek Falls Trail

Directions & Parking

Click here for directions to the parking lot and trailhead of Kitchen Creek Falls.

The parking and trailhead are located along the historic, Old Highway 80. From the I-8 E, I exited onto Buckman Springs Rd and made a left on the first cross street.

The parking lot is a pretty decent size. I came on a late Thursday morning and only saw a handful of people.

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Hike Begins

The hike begins across the street from the parking lot.

The day I went was pretty darn warm. Most of the trail looks like the image shown below. Hardly any shade at all if you come in the mornings or during mid-day.

The sun was unbearably hot. I had to take multiple breaks because of the boiling heat.

Please don’t forget to bring lots of water and a hat! It’s best to come very early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the harsh sun in the late spring and summer months.

Closer to the end of the trail, you’ll see this sign. Be sure to stick to your left-hand side. This hike requires a bit of scrambling to get to the bottom.

Look out for signs of foot traffic and flat trails. There is more than one way to reach the floor to the pools.

Reaching the bottom, I decided to go explore the right side first.

Exploring the Pools at Kitchen Creek Falls

This was my first stop! There are plenty of pools that cascade up from the opposite view of the one shown below.

Be aware that there are snakes around here. I spotted one in the area.

After checking that side out, I decided to explore the left side.

I was far more impressed by how many pools there were! Each has its own small waterfall.

There were many dragonflies gracefully flying around.

This was one of the biggest (and cleanest) natural pools. Yes, I got inside and didn’t regret it!

Here’s another angle of that same pool.

One of my favorite views. The stream leads down to the next pool.

This one is smaller and a lot more shallow.

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Bonus Waterfall (Difficult)

Continuing on from this last pool, I had to carefully climb up a large slippery section. This area to the larger waterfall is challenging. There are more tricky sections further ahead. I don’t recommend proceeding if you’re not experienced. It can be very dangerous!

About 10-15 minutes later, I made my way further down to the waterfall.

It’s about 50 feet high! This season has been a bit dry for waterfalls, but it was still super nice. I’ll be back here again when the waterfall is flowing with water!

I highly recommend doing this hike. It was so much fun exploring the different pools, getting in for a quick splash, and taking a look at this pretty big waterfall.

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Restaurant Spotlight

Janet’s Montana Cafe

Heading to Kitchen Creek Falls can be quite a drive, especially if you’re coming from the LA area.

I recommend stopping by Janet’s Montana Cafe after the hike for a great meal! It’s located in Alpine, CA, and only 25 minutes away from Kitchen Creek Falls.

It’s a cabin-style cafe that offers delicious American food and pies. Go ahead and treat yourself!

Look Out for This Tree

Manzanita Tree

There are tons of Manzanita trees on the way to the falls. They are characterized by their orange or red bark. Let’s take a look at some of the uses for these trees/chaparrals!

The Native Americans used the leaves of the tree for medicinal purposes. Chewing the leaves and then applying them to the skin could potentially treat open sores. It could also help with stomach aches and cramps, without having to ingest it.

The berries on the Manzanita trees can also be eaten once they’re ripe! They make an excellent food source in the wild. They can also be made into cider and sweeteners.

It’s such an amazing and versatile natural source. Let me know in the reviews (down below) if you’ve ever tried the Manzanita berries!

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Hello, There!

We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!