Three Sisters Waterfalls Trail

#1 of 30 trails in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

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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.

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Zack Granger (184)

4 Completed5 Reviews

Best trail I've ever been on in my life! Very challenging...included climbing up and down ropes and even did a bit of rock climbing. Went early morning and beat the heat...waterfall wasn't much to look at since it was mostly dried up but the water felt great! And loved that it was in the middle of nowhere. Really made you feel like you were Luis and Clark :)

Danica Scales (101)

5 Completed1 Reviews

This hike was absolutely fun! If you're the type of person who is "outdoorsy" and adventurous, this hike is for you. You get your simple hiking, to strenuous climbing, rope climbing, boulder hiking, etc. Getting there is an adventure in sure that the car you bring you don't mind getting dusty/dirty, hit with tiny rocks and gravel, and somewhat off-roading in...because you have 13 miles of an unpaved, single lane (at parts), and windy road.
Most important advice for this hike....BRING PLENTY OF WATER. My boyfriend and I brought about 3.5 Liters in our camelbak, and we were conserving it at the last 1.5 mile stretch. We saw way too many people who brought simple bottles of water, or NOTHING. Please don't be stupid.
This hike is for those who are in some form of physical shape. The elevation, heat, and intensity of the hike is no joke. My boyfriend and I are both very active individuals, who workout about 4 times a week, and this hike still got to us at times. Just be prepared for heat if you go out on a day when the sun shines. Also be prepared to somewhat rock climb. There are portions of the hike where you have to hop rocks and boulders; for one part there is a rope used to go up and down because there is simply no real way to get down (unless you are a pro rock climber). Also, there is one spot that EVERYONE needs to be cautious's a very steep section of the mountain. If you are going down, be prepared to essentially slide in the sand/dirt. If you're going prepared to get your hands dirty, because you literally have to climb using your whole body.
When the sun is out there isn't much shade towards the middle of the day. So if you hike this on a day when the sun is going to be out, go out in the morning and start heading back around 11/12. Also, DRESS APPROPRIATELY. We saw way too many idiots wearing normal clothes/shoes. People get airlifted out (some have died) of here all the time due to being unprepared...don't let that be you.

Overall, this hike was MY FAVORITE, and we are definitely going to do it again! The scenery and waterfalls were awesome!

M. Stopani (354)

12 Completed8 Reviews

The dirt road leading to the trailhead is a bit rough but if you don't have a truck or SUV, you can still make it without any problems. Just go slow and you will be fine. We arrived at 8:30am. The hike down was well marked(go left at the wooden post) and you will have no problem finding the falls. Once we arrived at the bottom fall, we crossed the stream, rock hopped our way to the second fall. As we stood at the base of the second fall looking up to the very top fall. We saw people making their way up the left side. This looked very dangerous and some people as we watched even turned back. We went to the right side, much, much easier and especially safer. Once at the very top, it was well worth it. Water was flowing and just a beautiful place to hike. The way back was definitely much harder especially if you are not in tip top shape. Please make sure you take enough water. Take as many rest breaks as needed, and you will be ok.

Marjorie Gross (177)

19 Completed8 Reviews

My family & I hiked this incredibly challenging & breathtaking trail for the first time today for Valentine's Day!! The falls were so beautiful & refreshing!! It's definitely my MOST favorite trail in all of San Diego County now!! The drive there is deep in the mountains, on some gravel roads, so bring a high rise vehicle. The trail seems pretty easy at first! Make sure to turn left at the large wooden post you come to in the middle of the trail. The trail declines into a wooded area, then through the most treacherous part, the sandy & slippery area(esp on the way back so stay low), use the ropes to descend at the base, then you journey through some shrubs, & last over boulders towards the waterfalls. Enjoy the refreshing feeling of the water at the base of the falls. We took off our socks & shoes off & waded through the ice cold waters & then enjoyed some snacks & drinks!! Tips: This trail is VERY difficult & should only be climbed by those who are more experienced climbers!! Bring a LITER of fluid per person(we brought Powerade & H2O). Follow arrows on boulders on the way back. Enjoy this truly spectacular hike!!

Juan Olivas (742)

24 Completed7 Reviews

went hiking with my friend and with a group of others. had a scary experience with them but made it through. it's a good hike, somewhat challenging. DO BRING LOTS OF WATER. I depleted my water by giving it to some of the people from that group. rangers do go down to give water to people. the hike is great the falls when there's water is great.but if you are going to hike this trail you have to build up your endurance and be able to tolerate heat. also bring good and comfortable shoes . my shoes fell apart due to the heat. I hiked up with the extra pair of water shoes i had on my pack. FYI choose overcast days.

Phil Swain (346)

10 Completed9 Reviews

Did this twice and was not disappointed either time. Depending on the season the water flows more than other times so pick and choose wisely. It is downhill for most of the trail and so returning back to the trailhead is all the way uphill. This is not for beginners but the boulder hopping is very fun. Watch out for snakes.

Michelle Berenschot (294)

14 Completed2 Reviews

Out of all the hikes in SoCal, Three Sisters is my ultimate favorite. I've been three times so far (ironically) and I'm going again next week. It really is the perfect hike, just make sure you have a lot of water, especially on a hot day. People say to not bring your dogs, but really only you know your dog's limitations. My 10 year old dog comes with me every time, but then again she's a tiny rat of a dog (bichon/poodle mix and full of energy). Just know once you get to the falls area, it will be easy for them to slip. And the path right before the falls might be a bit tricky for a bigger breed, but I have seen a German Shepard fair pretty well through it. It's a fun hike, do it.

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