Three Sisters Waterfall: One of Southern California’s Favorite Hiking Destinations

The name Three Sisters carries a special allure to those familiar with its symbolism – it represents the three fates in mythology, three seeds that work harmoniously together to yield a good harvest within the Native American community, and to me, sisterhood, luck and harmony. And the waterfalls at Three Sisters Waterfall in San Diego, CA do flow quite harmoniously, like that of a strong bond between three beloved sisters.

Three Sisters Waterfall is for anyone looking for an easy to moderate hike (easier if you’re pretty active and hike regularly) with a treat mid-way. You actually get to hike to the waterfall, hang there for a while, and then trek back up! Read along as I take you through the “how to” guide to one of Southern California’s favorite hiking destinations.

How to Get There

Take the 8 East from San Diego out to the 79 North and head to Boulder Creek road out to Descanso. The trailhead is at the end of a dirt road and ends with a parking lot area. There’s additional parking along the dirt road but this is limited and there are some areas close by where parking is not allowed. Read the signs.

Hike Difficulty

The hike is 4.2 miles round-trip with the first leg of the trek down to the waterfall leading you downhill most of the way. There are some areas that require a little rock scrambling, and the rocks near the waterfall are slippery so do be careful. The hike back up does have a little bit of an incline, with the hardest part coming in at the end of the hike.

Due to the heat it’s recommended that you hike this trail either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Secret Tips

There are not only waterfalls in this area but also various pools to swim in and explore as well. You can splash around in the lower pools where the water is a bit warmer, try your luck at sliding down the second waterfall’s natural waterslide or venture to the highest point where the largest waterfall sits above a giant natural-made pool deep enough to dive into.

1. Cliff jump off the top waterfall.

There are plenty of rocks to climb in order to get in an ideal position to jump off of. Please do be careful and don’t jump off the very top of the waterfall as that’s rather dangerous. Use your best judgment and swim around in the water beforehand to get a sense of the pool’s depth. The best spot I noticed was off to the right on a little ledge that juts out like a diving board.

2. Use the natural-made water slide.

Yes, you heard me right there is a natural-made waterslide you can use. This slide is located on the second waterfall on the right-hand side (if you’re looking down over the second waterfall). Also exercise caution here as you don’t want to hurt your butt by bouncing too much. Minimize the bounce by taking the slide that veers you off to the right (this view is again the right view if you’re above the second waterfall looking down).

3. Explore the area behind the top waterfall.

Southern California’s favorite hiking trail delivers in areas not chartered and this includes the area above the top waterfall. There’s actually a pool up here you can access and wildlife in abundance, including dragonflies, butterflies, hummingbirds and even salamanders!

Please be respectful of this area as it holds a very special place in my heart and do be careful navigating to the top. I recommend that you have some experience bouldering and/or rock climbing if you’re going to come up to this spot as there are some areas that require some bouldering techniques.

Remember to dress appropriately and don’t you dare forget your bathing suit and hiking shoes! This hike is well worth the occasional inclines it throws at you and the Three Sisters really do deliver. You’re in for a fun treat with this hike! And remember to find creative ways to cool off afterwards. We recommend showering off your friends with a hose, but if that’s not an option don’t worry, Julian and Descanso are about 15-20 minutes away so you can always cool down with a beer or two!

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