Three Sisters Waterfall - San Diego, CA

by Pam
(SD, 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.

The falls are in the middle of the Cleveland National Forest down 12 miles of dirt road. (Exact directions are easy enough to find online.) But the road does cross through 2 potential rivers that are impassable in the winter & rains. The hike to the falls is only about 3 miles round trip but the climb is very steep requiring either some minor bouldering or use of a rope left by other hikers. Still if you bring enough water and take your time, it's not too difficult. It is called Three Sisters because there are 3 tiers to the falls before it becomes a river that snakes through the valley. The sound of the falls can be heard from over a mile away so it's easy to know when you're on the right trail. I'm not positive of the exact height but I'd guess it's probably about 200' high counting all 3 tiers.

Go in the spring and you'll also see an amazing display of California Poppy on the hill sides. The photograph I took is about 15 or so minutes walk from the base of the falls. There are also pools of water at the base so if you arrive on a hot day, feel free to take a dip. While these falls do shrink through warm weather, they exist year round.

Comments for Three Sisters Waterfall - San Diego, CA

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Jan 25, 2017

We did this hike after a good rain it was on 1/16/17. We did it right after doing Potato Chip Rock in Poway. It takes a little drive from there but "WOW" great spot! Highly recommend this hike. Its a Ballbuster! The waterfalls were flowing and it was a beautiful area. There is an area during the hike where you have to pretty much crawl, because it is so steep. take it slow and watch out for the poisen oak. I got a couple hit on my leg. Dont wear shorts! I wouldnt bring my dog its very scetchey near the upper falls. Dont do Potato Chip Rock on the same day!
(Unless you like PAIN)

Apr 03, 2015
My hike
by: Jen

Beautiful treasure indeed! Very steep and slippery big slope as you go down to reach the base of the falls. Be very careful!!! We were told on our way out that there was a rope to help on the pup see dirt steep slope but it wasn't there today. There is a rope to help you down a rocky drop.

I must say I am disappointed with those who litter. I found empty gallon jug which would have been a breeze to carry out. Crumple it and stick it you bag. Lots of bottles and cans. And unfortunately TP. I personally was prepared for an emergency potty break but I packed trash bags to carry my trash out. People really need to be more respectful to nature. You hike to see its natural beauty. Well, it gets ruined by your trash. I don't want to see it. Please be courteous and pack out what you pack in. Think ahead and be prepared. ;)

Aug 04, 2013
pointers for a treasure
by: Cindy, Chair Forest Committee SD Sierra Club

8/4/2013 Cindy Buxton, Chair Forest Committee , San Diego Sierra Club; Adoptive parent of the proposed Eagle Peak Wilderness
We've gone from 3 people on a Saturday here to as much as 300 on a Saturday. You are the most important people here because you ARE here. Many people at three Sisters have never hiked before and I've heard some amazing assumptions. Please learn a couple of simple and we can keep this treasure like it is. 1) BRING A GALLON of WATER PER PERSON MINIMUM! When we get over heated we also put water in our hair and shirt. People have DIED from dehydration!!! 2) NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING should be left behind. Not your drinking bottles, not cigarette butts, not your sleeping bag (which also requires a permit and easy to do) not your beer cans, your clothes , grills, kids, buried treasure, fruit peels, and especially toilet paper; nothing! There is NO "staff" here, no regular patrol, no official trail. If you put it on the ground that is where it will stay unless some one picks up after you. This is NOT A PARK, it is a proposed WILDERNESS. IT is a WILD unspoiled place, no trash cans, no bathrooms, you are way off the matrix here and what you bring in MUST Go out with you. Otherwise I have to HAUL IT OUT FOR YOU AND I"M OLD AND TIRED! and I'm just a volunteer. I"M thrilled we are getting more support! but NO litter is ok. NO toilet paper on the ground--for real PLEASE, this is not a latrine! Bury 6 in deep if at all possible. Bury, use real toilet paper not towels or baby wipes and bury or pack out in triple bagged zip locks. Toilet paper has become one of the biggest litter problems out there thanks to many new WOMEN hiking. Pak everything out. Spread the word.3) Do not graffiti. This is not a slum it is the most beautiful place in town and owned by everyone. Leave the need to sign everything back in the city. Do not graffiti please, it has no place here; If you see it happening, please get the tag number of the people doing it and report it.Graffiti on natural places is very very not cool, you look really out of place and ignorant if you do this. There is an expectation that you will respect the land. 4) watch for others in trouble. I have given water to people every weekend. Help us promote a culture of looking out for each other. 5) Those tiny signs by the USFS PLEASE DO read them. They may not always be eye catching but they are very important. 6) Rocks that are wet are also slippery. No more life flights no more tragedies. Please watch your step and check your footing carefully. 7) Did you have fun? Send a photo or two to the USFS and tell them about it. Three Sisters is drying up for the season. Water returns about Thanksgiving. See ya then! See also Eaglepeak on Face Book-many pictures of the area!
8) NO FIRES, The fines for doing so are very high because the danger is very high, there is no escape from this canyon, a wild fire could easily be fatal.

Jul 04, 2013
Three sisters
by: Jeff

I haven benn there a few times 5 ish but the falls are not year round. Spring is the best. I was just there in late June with no falls but water in the basins of the higher 2 falls.

As with the last comment go slow, bring lots of water and you're good. Also watch out for your pets if you take them. I have heard of dogs and people both having to be rescued and in extreme cases some pets have died due to dehydration and heat exhaustion.

My last trip took 5 bottles of water (recommend 7) had to ration and always good to have extra in case someone else needs help. My friend and I ran into a rattle snake and a very large beehive. both great to see just be careful hive appeared to have atleast 4 one foot long honey comb 400 ish bees just a guess lol.

Great hike though be safe.

Oct 26, 2010
Three Sisters Waterfalls - San Diego, CA
by: World of Waterfalls

Very nice waterfall! Thanks for sharing Pam. We'll definitely have to visit one of these days.

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