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Cedar Creek Falls Hike

This is an archive post, written in 2015 and dated back to the original date of the hike and the photos. The photos have been re-evaluated and re-processed for this post.

My first hike in Southern California, on the last day of October. Cedar Creek Falls is one of the few waterfalls in San Diego County. Cedar Creek jumps down over granitic rock about 80 feet, into a little pool surrounded by granite cliffs. It can be reached from either the Saddleback trailhead (closer to Julian) or the San Diego County Estates trailhead (south of Ramona).

Since this is an archive post, I might as well add this right away: after the Forest Service improved the trail from the San Diego County Estates area, this hike and the waterfall have become insanely popular. Unprepared people had to be rescued, young folks hurt themselves jumping from the cliffs into the small pool below the falls, pets died of dehydration. It all came to a halt when a person died. The Forest Service closed the trailhead and trail, and only after a long wait finally established a permit system, complete ban of alcohol, made the cliffs surrounding the pool off limits, and cleaned the rocks from graffiti. It’s a shame that it had to come to this because people lack common sense when hiking in the back country, are simply reckless, and place their own individual desire to amuse themselves over the greater good of keeping the area accessible and enjoyable to all, sharing a treasured piece of public, open land.

Anyway, here are some photos from our hike in October 2010. Looking at them now, especially the waterfall, it’s remarkable that there was a good flow of water at the end of Southern California’s dry season. In later years between 2012 and 2016, you’d see the same amount of flow in spring, after the winter rains, and in summer the falls would stop to run almost entirely, turning the pool of water into a brackish, large puddle with murky water.

I last attempted to hike the area in 2013, but even on a weekday in the afternoon, there were six cars at the Saddleback trailhead (and people wearing flip-flops were coming back up on the trail as I hiked down). In October 2010 there were others on the trail of course, and some young folks were jumping off the cliffs, but it wasn’t the crazy zoo it would become in later years.

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