Popular Forest Trails Require Higher Level of Skill and Preparedness on Warm Days

SAN DIEGO, Calif. —   Cedar Creek Falls and Three Sisters Falls trails, near Ramona and Julian, located in San Diego County, are known for their beauty, but they are also extremely dangerous on warm days. Among the most popular destinations on the Cleveland National Forest, these trails require extra precautions during summer months. 

Every summer, often multiple times a week, hikers find themselves overwhelmed by the heat, dehydrated, and in need of help. Since June 27, 2020, emergency responders have performed 11 rescues in these areas, including one which tragically resulted in a fatality. 

“As more and more people come to the National Forest for fresh air and exercise, they may not be aware that hiking these trails can be extremely dangerous, even deadly,” says Amy L. Reid, the Palomar district ranger. “We encourage visitors to be responsible for their safety by being prepared, considering the conditions, and possibly choosing another location on warm days.”

The waterfalls, generally shown flowing beautifully at full capacity in pictures on social media and the internet, dry up during the warm months and the pools turn stagnant. In general, the USDA Forest Service does not recommend hiking either the Cedar Creek Falls Trail or Three Sisters Falls trail between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on warm days, and does not recommend hiking the trails at all if the temperatures are over 90 degrees at the trailheads. 

When hiking in the Three Sisters or Cedar Creek Falls areas during the summer months, the Cleveland National Forest asks visitors to plan for an arduous hike in desert conditions with little to no shade, expect temperatures to be significantly hotter along the trail than at the trailhead, carry a minimum of one liter of water per person, per hour of planned hike (both trails take 4-5 hours on average to complete), and wear light-colored clothes, sturdy shoes, and a hat.

On days that the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or excessive heat watch, local officials will implement an emergency closure. With today's heat advisory announcement, temporary closures will be in place Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12. However, even days without a heat advisory or excessive heat watch can still be dangerous. 

Hikers visiting Cedar Creek Falls need a visitor use permit, which can be acquired at www.recreation.gov.

Cleveland National Forest officials encourage visitors to be aware of their surroundings and responsibilities when visiting the Forest. For more information, please visit the website at www.fs.usda.gov/cleveland or call the nearest office.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.