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Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,035.00 ft (315.47 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Three Sisters is one of the few places in San Diego County where swimming hole enthusiasts can go to cool off. Carved out of the Cuyamaca Foothills by Boulder Creek, the series of falls is reached by a quick 2-mile descent into the canyon. This means, of course, that the return can be a very hot 2-mile climb, so be sure to bring and save plenty of water. 

The trail begins with a gradual descent and offers panoramic views of Cuyamaca Peak to the east and the rolling hills of eastern San Diego to the west. As you approach Boulder Creek, the slope becomes steep and much more challenging. Just before the valley floor there is a section that requires some light climbing to get down; there is also a rope in place which makes the descent fairly easy.

Once you reach the falls and have checked the water depth, feel free to take a slide from the middle pool to the bottom. For those who are looking for more seclusion, a moderate rock-hop and quick scramble gains access above the falls, where several more pools await farther up the creek. For those who wish to camp overnight, several primitive sites not far off of the trail are visible throughout the hike.

Caution! Be Safe

Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable outdoor activities that pose significant risks regarding personal safety. Changing water levels, unseen rocks, and river bottoms that have shifted with currents and seasonal weather can turn a well-known jumping area into a serious hazard. Prior to engaging in these activities, extensively scout the current conditions, and understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.

Leave No Trace

The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind.  They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues.  If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths.  Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.

   

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Natural waterslide. Deep pools. Great pack-in campsites.

Cons

Very steep trail with loose rock. Crowded on weekends. Flashflood potential in the summer.

Trailhead Elevation

2,960.00 ft (902.21 m)

Highest point

2,900.00 ft (883.92 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Bird watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

06/03/2017
The trail and the Falls were beautiful this weekend. As always, there were TOO MANY people that were unprepared on the trail with little, or no, water and inadequate footwear. During the warmer months, 4 liters of H2O is the best route per person and wear shoes that will grip and protect your toes. We hiked down yesterday and camped near the falls. Then we packed it out this morning. We had a blast! The falls were flowing really full and the trail was full of great people to share our adventure with. Some of the ropes look like they need to be replaced, but the trail is passable without them. Get an early start to hike in the shade!
03/20/2017
This hike is actually pretty intense, Even the really fit hikers were struggling. My friend and i did it on Sunday 03/19/2017, although the waterfall slide was awesome, its a hike you should come prepared for. we spent about 4.5 hours here in total, that was hike and just enjoying ourselves at the waterfall. Because of the recent rain the waterfall is flowing amazingly and the pools are filled. we brought 4 regular sized water bottles and that was perfect DO NOT BRING LESS WATER. All of the dogs i saw on this trail were really struggling, i would never bring my pup or a little kid here. There's about 8 miles of dirt road to drive through to get to this hike, definitely wont take my jetta next time.
09/17/2016
The road to the trailhead is not paved which may be hard for some cars. Bring lots of water at least 3L. Gloves might help for descending with ropes. Near the waterfall have a lot of garbage. Please just put empty bottles in your bag. It would be nice if we collectively pickup the trashes, which i will do on my next visit.
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