Special Places


You'll find many special places on the Cleveland National Forest: Wilderness areas, recreation areas, peaks and popular travel corridors.  This page features places that offer an extraordinary experience.

Highlighted Areas

Pacific Crest Trail - Kitchen Creek Falls

Pacific Crest Trail - Kitchen Creek PCT South to Kitchen Creek Falls

Trail Views

Elevation Gain



3.6 miles roundtrip

Pets Allowed




Hike/Ride Time

2 to 3 hours


Easy to Moderate

Best Seasons

Fall, Spring, Winter - Not recommended for Summer



Ranger District

Descanso Ranger District - (619) 445-6235

This short and easy trail is a great start for beginners or those new to the PCT. With 3.6 miles and total elevation gain of 750, this trail is relatively flat with only moderate incline. Hiking south from the Kitchen Creek parking area, the trail takes travelers to the top of the falls for great views of the valley before descending down a social trail to the bottom. This trail is well-groomed and well marked, taking place almost entirely on maintained grounds unless heading down to the falls. If hikers are looking for a good camping spot, many prefer to setup camp at the bottom. Though this 3 mile round trip is marked as fairly easy, hiking during the summer months is not recommended as this are can get extremely hot. It is recommended that hikers bring enough water (roughly 2 to 3 liters per person) as heat-related rescues are common in this area and deaths have occurred.

For a list of other PCT hikes, please see our designated Pacific Crest Trail page. For a list of other hikes in your area, please see our Recreation Trail Guide.

Link to Map: https://goo.gl/maps/H7sQheioK7n

Burnt Rancheria Campground

Burnt Rancheria Campground is located 50 miles east of San Diego at the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area in Southern California, right off the Sunrise Scenic Byway. Campers can enjoy hiking, viewing unique birds and wildlife and enjoying cooler temperatures at this mountain facility in Cleveland National Forest, open from mid-April through October.

Burnt Rancheria is a large campground with several loops of campsites. Each site has a table and campfire ring. There are no hookups or dump station for RVs. The campground is equipped with restrooms and coin-operated showers (showers open only during reservation season). Firewood is available for purchase from the campground host.

Pines and oaks abound throughout the campground, which sits at an elevation of 6,000 ft. The site is heavily wooded and surrounded by an open oak grove with spectacular desert views.

Day hiking and picnicking are most popular at Burnt Rancheria. The facility provides easy access to a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. Hiking and horseback riding are allowed on the trail. Biking is not allowed on any portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. A short hike to the nearby Desert View Picnic Site provides visitors with a bird's-eye view of the desert 6,000 feet below. On most days, the Salton Sea is clearly visible to the southeast. Restrooms and potable water are available. Families with children will enjoy activities, campfire programs and guided hikes available during summer. In addition to the guided hikes, a visitor might take the self-guided interpretive trail hike; brochures are available from the camp host. Campers can also get a glimpse of the amazing night sky at "star parties" organized by the San Diego State University Observatory. These gatherings are conducted on most Saturday evenings during the summer months (schedule can be obtained at the Visitor Information Center on Laguna Mountain or by calling 619-473-8547).

Recreation Areas