Kitchen Creek Falls

Cleveland National Forest / Boulder Oaks / San Diego County, California, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 3
Kitchen Creek Falls
Kitchen Creek Falls sits within the typically hot and dry Cleveland National Forest about 50 miles east of San Diego.

From what we were able to tell, seeing the falls flowing required quite a bit of timing as we could envision its flow easily become nothing by late Spring or early Summer. Ultimately, it depends on how much Winter rain has fallen in Southern California). Nonetheless, when it does flow (as it did for us), the falls are pretty impressive since it tumbles with a cumulative drop of a reported 150ft in desert-like terrain (thereby making this falls a bit of an oasis).

Now despite the fact that the falls sat quite close to the Interstate 8, we definitely had to work to get a view of the falls as it wasn't easy. First, we had to hike for about 2 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail before leaving the trail at an easy-to-miss spur. On the initial two-mile stretch, we passed underneath the loud I-8 before the trail climbed alongside fences (some of which had holes cut into them). It seemed like those fences were meant to be deterrents for people illegally crossing the border (as further evidenced by Border Patrol vehicles routinely surveying the road where we parked the car). Anyways, as we went further on the trail, the sound of the freeway slowly faded (thankfully) and we could start to hear sounds a little more indicative of Nature (e.g. foliage rustling with the winds or the faint hissing of a stream).

Once we took that easy-to-miss spur trail (leaving the PCT), it didn't take long before this trail degenerated into a cross-country scramble. It was here where we had doubts as to whether we'd find the waterfall since scrambling without an obvious trail can be pretty dodgy, especially considering we were out in the desert like this with the possibility of rattlesnake encounters. Plus, frequently brushing against hard, prickly desert vegetation wasn't fun either.

Anyways, we started to hear the sound of the waterfall, which was clearly flowing well enough to be heard, and used that sound to lead us closer to its stream. However, we then eventually found ourselves at the top of the falls (which wasn't quite visible from where we were at) and looking for a way down for a better look.

That was when we found a very steep scramble down a dry gully. It seemed a bit dicey as there were plenty of loose rocks that we managed to pry loose on the descent. The whole time we were cognizant of how steep it would be going back up as well! Once we got to the bottom of this descent, we had to cross the stream and do some additional rough scrambling until we finally got a satisfying view of Kitchen Creek Falls.

When we had our fill of this waterfall, we still had the non-trivial task of climbing back up the gully and then do some route-finding to regain the Pacific Crest Trail. So as you can see from the photos on the page, there was a bit of drama on our excursion as we were caught in a freak snowstorm (further adding to an already difficult scramble)!

Directions: Drive east on Interstate 8 from San Diego for roughly 50 miles to the Buckman Springs Road exit. Taking this exit, there's an intersection with a road paralleling the I-8 as you go east. Ann Marie Brown calls this the "Frontage Road," but from what we could tell, there was no sign indicating this road being named as such (though I think maps label this road as the Old Hwy 80).

In any case, you want to stay on this "Frontage Road" (avoid staying on Buckman Springs Road), taking it east for over two miles towards a huge pullout at what was once the Boulder Oaks store (no longer there as of our last visit in 2007). Park at this pullout to start the hike (it's signposted for the Pacific Crest Trail), which leads under an overpass of the I-8. If you manage see a signed campground and turnoff beyond this pullout, you went too far.

Since you're somewhat close to the Mexican border, we encountered marauding Border Patrol vehicles on that frontage road going back and forth. They were probably scrutinizing us to see if we crossed illegally, I'm sure.




[Back to top]
PHOTO JOURNAL
Surveying the landscape from the start of our steep descent to the base of Kitchen Creek Falls
Another look at Kitchen Creek Falls just before the snow storm really hit us
Julie starting off on the trail towards the I-8Julie starting off on the trail towards the I-8

Julie passing through a gate near the start of the trailJulie passing through a gate near the start of the trail

Julie about to pass beneath the noisy I-8Julie about to pass beneath the noisy I-8

Looking towards the I-8 from the Pacific Crest TrailLooking towards the I-8 from the Pacific Crest Trail

Julie now hiking on the Pacific Crest TrailJulie now hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail

On the Pacific Crest TrailFurther along the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking upstream at Kitchen CreekLooking upstream at Kitchen Creek after a bit of a cross-country scramble leaving the Pacific Crest Trail. We had actually gone a bit too far upstream in search of Kitchen Creek Falls at this point.

Julie approaching me as we were about to embark on the steep scramble to the base of Kitchen Creek FallsJulie approaching me as we were about to embark on the steep scramble to the base of the falls

Julie about to do the steep scramble as we try to find a way to the base of Kitchen Creek FallsJulie about to do the steep scramble as we try to find a way to the base of Kitchen Creek Falls

Partial and unsatisfying view of Kitchen Creek Falls from the bottom of the descentPartial and unsatisfying view of Kitchen Creek Falls from the bottom of the descent

About to cross Kitchen Creek as more of the falls became revealedAbout to cross Kitchen Creek as more of the falls became revealed

Finally a decent look at Kitchen Creek FallsFinally a decent look at Kitchen Creek Falls

Looking way in the distance at Julie waving to me from the other side of the creekLooking way in the distance at Julie waving to me from the other side of the creek

Making the steep scramble back up to the top of the fallsMaking the steep scramble back up to the top of the falls. By now, the snow was starting to come down harder!

Now scrambling to regain the Pacific Crest TrailNow scrambling to regain the Pacific Crest Trail

Back on the PCTBack on the PCT. By now, it was becoming painfully apparent that we were about to be hit by a snow storm

On the PCT in the midst of a freak snowstormOn the PCT in the midst of a freak snowstorm

Heavy snowfall conspired to conceal the Pacific Crest TrailHeavy snowfall conspired to conceal the Pacific Crest Trail

Passing beneath the I-8 again, but now with snow flurries everywherePassing beneath the I-8 again, but now with snow flurries everywhere


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS



[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS

View World of Waterfalls in a larger map




[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS
For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES



[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS


Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

Enter Your Title

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Finding Kitchen Creek Falls 
Unless you just want to hike for the sake of hiking, don't plan on finding the "Easy to miss spur in the trail" which is to lead you to the falls.. …

Click here to write your own.



[Back to top]

[Go to the Southern California Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the California Page]

[Return from Kitchen Creek Falls to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]





FOLLOW US ON:   Facebook   Twitter

Quick Navigation:


If you like this page,
you might also like...

Southern California Waterfalls
Southern California
Waterfalls

Southern California Top 10
Southern California's
Top 10

Featured Visitor Stories
or Comments


A Wet Day
First, thanks for this cool website its nice to know about hidden gems in our backyard. We went on May 24th, 2008 and had the pleasure of seeing a running stream all the way...[more]


Moon Walking & Rock Slides
We would climb up the falls along the crevice to the left of the falls all the way up then over to the chute to the left of the falls and run down the gravel chute...[more]


CMarie (Upper Escondido Falls)
This hike is AMAZING! I was happy going through this trail with a few friends as it was quite pretty. The road up is a long one and there were...[more]


Burney Falls - Burney, California
Glad to know there are waterfall lovers like myself. I am enjoying the website. I thought I would post to you a picture of a waterfall in California that is...[more]


Three Sisters Waterfall - San Diego, CA
I was so surprised not to see the Three Sisters Waterfall in Descanso, CA (San Diego County) on your list & then remembered it's a fairly well kept secret...[more]


Heart Rock Falls
I absolutely loved the scenery of this whole hike and destination. It was very confusing to get there and we had to make a few U-Turns, but it was definitely worth...[more]


Blackstar Canyon - Hidden Falls of Orange County
About a year ago, I was given a newspaper article describing these hidden falls in Orange County. The article itself did not specify the exact location, so I did some hunting online...[more]


Emerald Falls (near Fillmore, CA)
Here is what I can only assume is called "Emerald Falls" just north of Filmore in Southern California. (In Los Padres National Forest) I think it is hands down...[more]