Devil’s Punch Bowl – Cedar Creek Falls – San Diego
We arrived with red faces and our lungs gasping for air. I felt relieved to find a spot covered in shade with views of the waterfall and swimming hole which looked to be at max capacity with sun seekers. The cool breeze felt soothing after our three-mile hike under the blazing, midday sun.
Dogs ran around on top of strangers while shaking the smells of wet mutt into the crisp air. Kids and adults jumped from the rocks ten feet above our heads while others took their chances at the rope swing with shallow waters below. Screams filled the air as a snake was spotted swimming across the water towards the bulk of the crowd, only to slither away beneath the bushes.
Two blonde young ladies arrived who appeared out of place with their city girl attitudes. It was amusing to hear them complain about the heat and the plants they assumed to be poison oak. One of them spoke loudly of her fake boobs preventing her from jumping off the rocks. I let the peaceful sounds of laughter and the smells of warm sunblock relax my heartbeat to a normal pace again as I walked to the waters edge for a well deserved, refreshing swim.
Cedar Creek Falls, also known as Devil’s Punch Bowl, has been called San Diego’s most spectacular waterfall. You may be thinking, San Diego has spectacular waterfalls? I personally had to see it for myself to believe it. After our three-mile hike, we were rewarded with an 80-foot waterfall cascading into a fresh water pool, complete with a small rope swing.
Best Time To Visit:
The best time to visit is in the spring, when the weather is warm enough to swim, and the pool depth is at it’s highest. It is suggested to start your hike to the falls in the early morning to avoid the midday heat between 12-4. I cannot stress this enough if you intend to bring a dog. There are countless cases of dogs overheating on this trail. We personally ran into two people whos dogs were at the brink of dying on the trail, and had to be rescued.
How To Get There:
There are two trail options that lead to the falls. One is from the town of Ramona and the other is from Julian.
Ealge Peak Rd
Julian, CA 92036
The trailhead is at the end of the road with a sign that says “Saddleback Trail”.
15531 Thornbush Road
Ramona, CA 92065
Once you get to the end of Thornbush Road, the trail head will be on your left.
What to bring:
It’s imperative to take ample water on this hike and to allow enough time for breaks. Walking sticks are suggested and those with knee issues should bring a knee brace. It is helpful to bring flip-flops or water shoes for the stream crossings along the hike and for walking on rocks at the punch bowl. If you are hiking in the warmer months, you should definitely bring a hat and plenty of sunblock.
This is one of my favorite day trips in San Diego since it reminds me of my days growing up in Northern California, hanging out at the river and jumping off rocks. Even though the best time for swimming is in the spring, it’s still a great hike in the winter. This is the best time for taking photos since the falls are usually gushing with water from the rains, and the crowds are very minimal.
This short video is some footage we recorded of people rope swinging and jumping off rocks at Devil’s Punch Bowl in July of 2010.
Update: Cedar Creek Falls is closed until further notice after a teen died in an 80-foot fall on July 6, 2011. We will update this post again once we hear more.
Update June 2012: The trail from Julian is open.
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