Cedar Creek Falls Permit Area

Cedar Creek Falls is a spectacular waterfall plunging 80 feet into a large pool of water. The trails to Cedar Creek Falls lead hikers through the beautiful backcountry hills of eastern San Diego. Black oak, cedar, and cottonwood trees provide habitat for bird watching. Water levels at the falls vary substantially throughout the year. The falls typically do not run during the summer months when the pool at the base of the falls is stagnant and filled with algae.

Visitor Permit

Visitors are required to have a permit at this time.  It may be purchased ahead of time at  http://www.recreation.gov/  

Access to Cedar Creek Falls

Entrance to the Cedar Creek Falls Permit Area may be accessed by the east access located near Julian, CA off of the Eagle Peak Road or by the west access located in Ramona, CA off of the Thornbush Road.

  • Parking is limited, and vehicles blocking road access will be towed at owner’s expense.
  • Alcohol possession and use in the area is prohibited.
  • The cliffs surrounding the falls are closed to jumping and diving.  Swimming is allowed.

Cedar Creek Falls – What to Know Before you Go!

*A group of prepared hikers descending the Cedar Creek Falls trail.

*A group of prepared hikers descending the Cedar Creek Falls trail.


As the popularity of Cedar Creek Falls rises, more and more amateur hikers are flocking to this landmark location, which offers beautiful scenery, a cascading waterfall, and a challenging trail. This 6-mile roundtrip journey can last up to 6 hours and prove extremely difficult for those without the proper experience, knowledge and supplies required to complete it. As injury and casualty numbers mount, it is vital to take every precaution before starting, particularly if you are new to hiking or if you have never done this trail before. Following these recommended tips can ensure your preparedness and safety as you enjoy this beautiful nature trail in the Cleveland National Forest.

Permits:In order to maintain the grounds and keep hiking numbers regulated, a permit is required to hike this trail. They are limited in quantity and sell out often, so it is recommended to buy them online beforehand. This can be done at www.recreation.gov and costs only $6.

The Falls:Water levels at the falls can fluctuate depending on the season, but during a California drought the water levels are at their lowest. Drier conditions have all but eliminated any water at the falls, should California get a heavy rain season levels may return to normal.

Supplies: Besides water, every hiker should be prepared with the proper provisions.The best snacks for the trail are ones that will provide you with high energy, such as fruit, granola, peanut butter, bagels, power bars, fruit bars, (trail mix), or beef jerky. Again, take extra food with you in case your hike takes longer than expected for whatever reason. Throw a couple of energy bars in your pack. They're light weight, and will pack a nice punch if needed. It is also smart to have supplies with you in case someone gets lost or injured. This can include extra clothing (in case you get wet), a first aid kit, flashlight, and Motrin.    

Water:This cannot be stressed enough. Bringing and consuming at least a gallon of water during this trip will help you to avoid heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or worse. During the summer month’s temperatures can be 50 degrees hotter on this trail, so hydration is crucial. During the summer season, as many as 2 people a day require medical assistance for heat related injuries, which can be both deadly and costly. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, so remember to pack extra water.

Pets: Dogs are great hiking buddies, but they need supplies as well. The falls do not provide suitable water for them and as a result several dogs have died of heat stroke or heat exhaustion and dehydration. They have also been known to suffer severe burns to their paws as the ground can get very hot. We recommend leaving your pups at home on hot days. If you do decide to bring them, always make sure to bring plenty of drinking water for them.

Difficulty: Though only 6-miles roundtrip, this trail can prove extremely difficult for the novice hiker, often taking as long as 6 hours to complete. During the summer months, or on particularly hot days, this trail can prove increasingly challenging. It is not recommended for children under the age of 2 or pregnant women

Heat Stroke and Hazards: One of the most common injuries among hikers is heat stroke and heat exhaustion brought on by dehydration. There have also been accidents related to snake bites, trips and falls caused by loose rocks, ankle sprains, and burns caused by sun exposure.  

Snakes:Rattlesnakes are very prominent in the forest areas and particularly on this trail. Keep an eye open for these reptiles as they seldom rattle before attacking. Remember not to approach, touch, agitate, or injure these creatures. They provide a delicate balance to the ecosystem and killing them could have prolonged consequences.

Not Allowed:Cliff jumping is a safety hazard and no longer permitted. Do not attempt to climb the rocks or jump into the water, as with low water levels this could cause additional injuries. Alcohol is also not allowed on the trail as it increases dehydration, decreases good decision making, and improves the chances for heat related injuries.

We would like to see each hiker finish the trail just as they started it – all in one piece. Keep these tips in mind as you travel, they could very well work to save your life, or the life of a fellow hiker.

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Released: June 24, 2015


The Forest Service is continuing to work with partner agencies and interested public groups to develop measures that provide for the safety of visitors and quality of resource base. The original closure was put into place on July 9, 2011, and ran through November 8, 2011. A new closure order was implemented that extended the closure through April 1, 2012.  On March 30, 2012, new Forest Orders were issued that allowed for the east access to be opened, while the west access remains closed; provided for the banning alcohol use at the falls; and banning jumping and diving from the cliffs that surround the falls.


Forest Orders and Maps 


Public Safety Videos

Questions and Answers PDF (53 kb)