Take the Plunge!

Who knew that sleepy Ramona is home to an 80-foot waterfall complete with a deep, frigid pool in…

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Who knew that sleepy Ramona is home to an 80-foot waterfall complete with a deep, frigid pool in the midst of a lush oasis? Reach Cedar Creek Falls in Cleveland National Forest by way of a beautiful 6-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike that is brilliant with wildflower color right now thanks to California’s wet winter.

A well-marked trail leads down through the hilly chaparral landscape into the valley of Cedar Creek. Keep your eyes open for Mediterranean geckos bathing in the sun, and your ears open for the possibility of rattlesnakes hiding in the bushes. As you continue your descent  into the valley (you’ll drop 1,102 feet), enjoy views of the peaks above, including Eagle Peak, which towers more than 3,200 feet above sea level.

Once you hit the valley floor, you’ll make three easy stream crossings to arrive at the falls. Peak visitation hours are during the heat of the day (when the frigid water is most welcome), so if you want a more private experience, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Hikers can slide into the water at the pool’s edge, while braver souls are known to leap from an overhanging cliff—four ascending heights progressively test their mettle. After you’ve dried off, simply turn back and hike up out of the canyon. By the time you get back on a warm day, you’ll wish the waterfall were at the top of the trail, not the bottom. Well, you can always go back down!

Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County
Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County
Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County
Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County
Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County
Cedar Creek Falls San Diego County

From the north: Take CA-78 south, which becomes 10th St. in the town of Ramona. At the intersection with Main St., continue south on 10th St., which in turn becomes San Vicente Rd. Continue 6.5 miles and turn left on Ramona Oaks Rd. After 3 miles, turn right on Thornbush Rd., which dead-ends at the parking lot after 0.4 mile. You’ll need to purchase a permit ($6) in advance, which you can do here. You will not be allowed to hike without a permit, which you must show to the ranger at the ranger tent. Dog-friendly! But bring a lot of water for both of you to combat the inland heat.

From the south: Take CA-67 north to 10th St. and turn right (10th St. soon becomes San Vicente Rd.). Continue 6.5 miles to Ramona Oaks Rd. and turn left. After 3 miles, turn right on Thornbush Rd., which dead-ends at the parking lot after 0.4 mile. You’ll need to purchase a permit ($6) in advance, which you can do here. You will not be allowed to hike without a permit, which you must show to the ranger at the ranger tent. Dog-friendly! But bring a lot of water for both of you to combat the inland heat.

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