Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail

#1 of 30 trails in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Join the largest community of outdoor enthusiasts.

Get Started

Upgrade to Pro

Unlimited access to National Geographic TOPO! & Trails Illustrated Maps

Learn More »

Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail is a 4 mile out and back trail located near Julian, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced outdoorsmen. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing & walking and is accessible from November until June.

Share your experience to help other people learn more about this trail:

Write ReviewUpload PhotosUpload Tracks

Suzanne Wortmann (36)

1 Completed1 Reviews

I actually disagree with the post below. I have a husky who is an avid hiker. She has been on almost every hike with us. She hops rocks and trail blazes better than us at times. We took her on this hike. I did bring along a lot of water for all of us! We each went through a gallon. And we carried her water. Many pet owners were using the dogs to pack things in. We were prepared for this to be strenuous and our husky was a champ! I did however see many small dogs that had to be carried along various parts of the hike.
We had a man get very upset that we brought our dog with us and was yelling about us being irresponsible pet owners. There were also little kids like 4 yr olds doing this hike. So what's the deal?!? I don't know if people just don't normally think about it but it is a difference of opinion. Our dog is meant to be in the wild and knows how to navigate better than humans! She still had energy at the end and wanted to play more! We did make sure she soaked herself in the water at the bottom before we headed back up so she would be cooler. She was still wet at the top! It really depends on the type of dog.
As for the hike, yes it was a crazy one! We chose to go now so it wasn't as hot and thankfully it was only 60 degrees. We took very frequent breaks in the shade on the way back which made it less difficult for us all. The rope climbing was fun and a definite work out! I don't recommend this hike if you are out of shape or Ill prepared. Many people had one liter of water or less! Some were drinking beer and smoking!
Please just keep in mind that some people take their dogs everywhere and they are acclimated to these situations as well as overly prepared. Not everyone is an irresponsible pet owner! We all loved the hike and will do it again!

Lee Chiao (61)

1 Completed1 Reviews

PLEASE don't be ignorant, heed the signs and don't bring your dogs!!!! It is too hot and steep for any dog to enjoy and dogs die every year from the utter stupidity of their owners not bringing enough water and thinking it is an appropriate hike for pets.

Cindy Buxton (46)

1 Completed1 Reviews

Three Sisters is a spectacular waterfall in San Diego 13 miles north on Boulder Creek Road. I chair the Forest Committee for the local Sierra Club.
Some compare the falls to Yosemite. They also reminds me of Linville Falls, NC, the wild and scenic poster child for the Forest Service. This area recently received "recommended wilderness" status from the US Forest Service, the highest protection they can provide. I would argue that this is actually NOT the hardest hike in San Diego but it IS one of the most popular. There are a lot of new people there finding the falls on social media. I've talked to a lot of people for whom it was their first hike ever.

Please help me get the word out, drawing on the rocks in wild remote public lands is totally not, not, not cool. Here is my official annual rant on this,...Please spread the word and many thanks!
I was shocked to see this as I removed it two year ago and we all were doing so good ever since until sometime last summer. The good news is a lot of people are finding the outdoors, the bad news is a lot of people are finding the out doors. There are a few simple things to know to stay healthy and welcome, even by the locals. Here goes: please don't litter, graffiti , trespass on the private inholdings, or drive Boulder Creek Road like the Indy 500. The anti litter rules include doing your best to bury toilet paper (6 in) or triple bag it out. aughhhh...please try!
I think most writing below are doing so because you already support this great place; please help us set a good example for the newcomers! A couple of locals were injured and had expensive repair bills when they were run off the road. You don't want to do this to locals as their input weighs heavily with the Forest Service and decision makers! This could get the falls regulated similarly to Cedar Creek Falls. We have an excellent opportunity to reconnect many people with nature there. By far and large the current crowd may be new, in some cases silly but out of hundreds I've only seen one booger, and hundreds of very willing and awe inspired new hikers. You are the most important people here because you ARE here. If you want to know more great places to go- and even harder, more remote ones- hey, join the Forest Committee of the Sierra Club!
There are some really great reviews below and I'm really impressed how much most people even the new ones do actually care for the back country. The litter is a LOT better than even a year ago. Everything said about water is absolutely true. The US Forest service recommends a gallon of water-please if nothing else listen to this!!! . I would add well before you are "overwhelmed" with heat,-what works well for me -and I hike out there in the heat a LOT, -is to put water in my hair. Try just a little at first and see if it is an improvement. I think most people are pleasantly surprised how well this works.
PLEASE, look out for others having trouble and consider bringing enough water to help someone who is new to hiking. Younger kids and dogs are ill-advised. As you can see by the excellent reviews below, heat exhaustion comes on fast and unexpected, hence you quite literally could SAVE a LIFE by speaking up!. Two people have died at Three Sisters, and its cousin near by, Cedar Creek Falls just from not having enough water and falling to heat stroke. This is tragic. Us city slickers are not used to "getting involved " and asking people we don't know if they are ok. Please take this chance anyway in remote places -especially late spring and summer. I really like the review below by the girls who run out of water, but at least knew to pace themselves and rest and get in the shade.
I have given away 2 gallons before the lower saddle because so many do not have enough water. Additionally many people do not realize that there is such a thing as a water filter you can purchase at the major outfitters , Sports Chalet, REI, and A16. (about 100$) Victims of heat stroke may not be aware they are in trouble. Three Sisters has grown from a dozen people a week to hundreds a week so help should not be far if we reach out .
Thank you for leading a good environmental example for 3 million people. Here's to a safe waterfall season in 2015

Jake Hueras (155)

3 Completed3 Reviews

This is my kind of Hike! I got to use some climbing skills which made it very fun. The descent into the valley gradually gets steeper, there are a couple spots where you need to use some rope people left behind. DO NOT BRING DOGS, these sections are too steep for even the most graceful quadrupeds (not to mention i hear the heat in the summer makes it unbearable for them). Once you get down to the creek there are trails on either side which have a few rough spots. I opted to just jump from rock to rock over the water. Keep an eye out for the cool chimneys that lead back up to the trail on the right. Start early if you want some sun while your at the falls, as it eventually dips behind the mountains. The hike back is definitely the real work out. I recommend stopping at Alpine Brewing Company (a few minutes west on I8) afterwards a victory meal and brew

Rafael Rodriguez (165)

7 Completed3 Reviews

I did this hike January 2015, great hike. Definitely not a beginners hike. I haven't been hiking for too long and consider myself a beginner but this hike just graduated me to moderate hiker! Thera quite a lot of rock climbing and jumping. The trail is good, there are some arrows that point you out so that when you are done you can find your way out, we used them to guide us to the falls. The falls are very worth the hard hike. I don't have a dog but do think it would be irresponsible to bring one in this hike. Water is a most! I would definitely do it again!

Michael Ortiz (418)

6 Completed6 Reviews

Did this hike in December 2014 with two buddies of mine, one who is not in the greatest shape, but he still made it.
We arrived around 9 am and the temperature was a cool 45 degrees. The first leg is very simple, but then the trail narrows and turns very steep. This was not a problem for any of us and only added to the fun factor of the trail. There was some light bouldering required before getting to the falls. At the falls, we made our way to the top of 3rd falls, which also requires some light climbing and hiking on a few steep and narrow paths along the right side of the falls. There a many slick areas near the falls, so be sure to be wise with path planning when walking around the falls area as one slip could be your last. The way back is the bulk of the workout as you retrace the steep path going up it this time.
I only went through a little more than a liter of water, but we did this hike in the cool of winter. If it were summer, I can easily say I would need 3 or more liters. Fun hike and will do again in the spring time when the falls come to life.

david fern (263)

8 Completed3 Reviews

Just did this hike today for the first time, and it was really enjoyable! The Devil's Punch Bowl is truly a secret oasis --- the location offers a refreshing change from many of the San Diego area hikes that one can do on any given day or weekend. There were a number of things that I did find disappointing about this hike -----
1. If you pack it in, PACK IT OUT!!!! The trail is littered with water bottles and gum wrappers.
2. Graffiti on boulders ---- Come on people, grow up! If you feel the need to be artistic, get a pad of drawing paper. Or better yet ---- stay home.
3. Respect the wilderness by passing through quietly ---- I am not interested in listening to a cluster of people trying to have a conversation with their friends all the way on the other side of the canyon. Get yourselves a set of radios if you feel the need to chat.

Josh Ver Hoeve (98)

3 Completed3 Reviews

Great hike if you want to stop and take in a lot of scenery. As several others have noted, in San Diego/Southern CA it is difficult to find a hike that has this type of ambiance but this one certainly does it. There was a nice waterfall today in December after several days of rain this week (odd no matter the time of year here). However, getting to that waterfall can be a bit tricky. You must travel across several large rocky areas and when I went through - hint use the right side as you approach of the fall.. Also, hiking shoes are almost a must on this hike as this there is not really a designated "trail" and you will be traveling over wet areas and wet rock with a wet shoe most of the time. This hike will not challenge you as much as something like El Capitan Preserve/El Cajon Mountain. San Miguel, or even Mt. Woodson. There is not a lot of elevation gain/decent but it is a really fun/pretty enjoyable hike that is different than most of what San Diego offers. It does not take four hours to complete unless you are going really slow. It may take 2.5 hours at just a normal pace. If you are doing this hike simply to get the best workout I would suggest you go elsewhere.These suggestions of bringing a ton of water I suppose is never a bad one and how much water you need is very dependent on the temperature and how much you sweat, but you do not need more water than you would need for any other 2-3 hour hike. Finally, it is quite a drive to get to the trail-head and you do drive about 5-6 miles on a dirt road that many people seem to still get lost on. Also note that the drive even before the dirt road is quite a long one.

joshua stone (44)

9 Completed1 Reviews

My legs are sooo SORE!

Andrew Hunt (120)

5 Completed5 Reviews

For Southern California this is an adventurous hike. BRING ALOT of WATER. Both times I have explored this trail I have borrowed someone my water. Lots of fun if you go prepared.