Cedar Creek Falls, March 2015

The weather forecast looked really good for Wednesday, so Joe and I set out to hike Cedar Creek Falls in the morning. We were at the trailhead at 8am, it was mostly overcast, and the whole area was incredibly lush and green already – nature seems to be much further this year than in previous years. The mild winter certainly had an effect.

As we hiked downhill one other hiker passed us and other than that, there were no people on the trail yet. Down in the gorge a first surprise: the San Diego River is not running at all this year. The crossing was entirely dry. A dramatic difference from my first visits (2010, 2011).

When we reached the falls, the hiker that had passed us on the way down just left, and we couldn’t believe our luck – we had this whole beautiful spot to ourselves for almost two hours! No comparison to previous years, when the area was so busy, prone to partying, boozing, vandalism, littering, and also the site of unfortunate accidents. The Forest Service has since established tight regulations and a permit system. On a weekday in the morning, it seemed to work.

The flow of Cedar Creek was very low compared to previous years. I guess we were lucky that it was flowing at all. The rocky little bowl with the falls, trees and pool was heavenly, peaceful, serene – Joe said it was like a piece of Zion National Park had been transferred to San Diego County.

We photographed, then had our snacks, swapped lenses, photographed more. Just as we were about to leave, more hikers appeared. Perfect timing. The hike back up was sweat-inducing because the temperature had risen and it was surprisingly muggy. We had enough water and took our time so it wasn’t really a problem – still, it’s surprising how challenging this easy-looking trail can be as it gets warmer.

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The hike winds downhill from San Diego Country Estate’s Thornbush Road. The trail is very well maintained but it’s a chaparral hike so there’s no shade. The difficulty lies in going back uphill in the open chaparral. Don’t underestimate this, coming from the shady and cool pond by the falls. It can get very hot in the area, especially later in Spring and in Summer. I wouldn’t recommend this hike then. If you’re interested in doing this hike please read my notes and have a look at the tracklog that I recorded, it is available on the GaiaGPS site – and do your own research, of course.

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