Three Sisters Falls Trail: Best Waterfall in San Diego

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Distance 

4.1 Miles

Time

~3.5-4 Hrs

Difficulty

Moderate – Hard

Season

Late March – Early June

Elevation Gain

980 Ft

If you live in the San Diego area or are planning a trip here, you don’t want to miss out on the best waterfall in all of SD County! This hike is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains within Cleveland National Forest, near a small ranch-style town. The three-tiered waterfall and pools make it the perfect getaway on a warm, spring day. 

Three Sisters Falls is a 4.1-mile roundtrip hike located near Julian, California within San Diego County. It features a three-tier waterfall and four pools. The best time to visit the falls is in the spring months. This trail is rated moderate to difficult and is not dog-friendly or kid-friendly. 

 

Map of Three Sisters Falls

 Download PDF Map

 

Directions & Parking

You can click here for directions to the Three Sisters Falls trailhead and parking lot.

The last 5 miles on Boulder Creek Rd was all dirt and pretty rocky. I recommend bringing an SUV or truck to make life a little easier.

The parking lot wasn’t too full on a Thursday afternoon. It seems to fit about 50 cars, give or take.

 

On the Trail

The trailhead begins straight ahead from the parking lot.

I want to point out that this trail is mostly done under the hot sun. People and pets have died from heatstroke on this trail.

Come prepared with plenty of water and a hat! I don’t recommend this trail in the hot, summer months. Plus, there won’t be as much water anyway.

After walking up and down some steep hills, I made a left once I saw this steel post.

The right side leads to Eagle Peak, but that’s for another adventure!

Most of the trail looks like the picture below. There are also tons of beautiful wildflowers and bees along the way!

Weirdly, I felt random hot spots and heatwaves along this section.

Mind you, it was only 75 degrees that day.

About halfway through the trail, I could spot the Three Sisters Falls. You can see all three tiers from this far.

It looked so insane!

As I  got closer to the falls, I walked through the beautiful, ethereal-looking canyon floor.

There are tons of these lilac-colored chaparral throughout the mountain.

Walking under these shady trees was a delight. It felt much cooler in this section.

Not to mention, it looked like an enchanted forest.

The final part of the hike requires you to walk up these steep steps.

I quickly made my way up.

And…

I had made it!

The Falls

It almost looks like one long waterslide! (I don’t recommend sliding down at all).

I carefully walked across this section. I wanted to check out the top waterfall first.

Luckily, I have some experience now and brought shoes with a grippy bottom.

Getting to the top waterfall can be tough. It can be very slippery and dangerous! Please be very careful and don’t attempt if you don’t feel it’s safe enough.

After the slippery section, I safely made it to the first “sister” falls and pool.

It was very beautiful at about 25-30 feet tall.

three sisters falls

The second “sister” (middle tier) was the most impressive.

This one is around 50 feet tall and has a very large pool.

The last waterfall is definitely the smallest, at around 20 feet tall. The cool thing is that you can access two more pools!

The most bottom pool has a section that extends to the right. I thought it was super neat!

Overall, this waterfall is about 170 feet tall/long!

Wow. Talk about ah-mazing, right?! Three Sisters Falls is a definite must during the Spring months and after heavy rainfall!

To be honest, it’s so worth the  2.5+ drive here! You won’t be disappointed.

Can you Swim at Three Sisters Falls?

Yes, you can swim at the lower tier of the falls. I recommend bringing a swimsuit or swim trunks along with a bag to store your wet clothes.

After all, taking a dip in these pools is a treat on a hot hike to the falls!

 

Can You Take Dogs to Three Sisters Falls?

Yes, you can bring your dog to Three Sisters Falls. Be sure to bring plenty of water for your pet since the heatwaves can be deadly for both humans and animals.

 

Is it a Child-Friendly Hike?

I don’t recommend bringing small children on this hike. The heat can be unbearable in the warm spring and summer months. It’s a moderate to hard-level hike and is recommended for older teens

 

Restaurant Spotlight

Descanso Junction Restaurant

On the way to the falls, you’ll spot what seems to be a town that dates back to the wild west.

Descanso Junction Restaurant is the perfect place to sit down and have a meal with friends and family.

The saloon-style restaurant has some delicious tex-mex meals, like BBQ ribs, burgers, and tacos!

You’ll love dining like a cowboy or cowgirl.

 

Nearby Attractions

California Wolf Center

Want to spend the day here and make the awesome trip even more worthwhile?

Check out the California Wolf Center, which is only 40 minutes away from the falls (it’s on your way back).

You can take a tour of these cute, yet fierce wild animals!

The best part is that they safely release these animals back into the wild.

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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