Devil’s Punch Bowl San Diego – Cedar Creek Falls Travel Tips

Devil's Punch Bowl - Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls, also known as Devil’s Punch Bowl, has been called San Diego’s most spectacular waterfall. Here’s everything you need to know for planning your trip!

Devil’s Punch Bowl San Diego – Cedar Creek Falls

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 water’s 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.

Devil's Punch Bowl - Cedar Creek Falls San Diego, California

Best Time To Visit Devil’s Punch Bowl

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.

Hiking & Trails

The trail for the Devil’s Punch Bowl hike begins at the trailhead parking area and winds its way through a picturesque landscape of chaparral and oak woodlands. As you embark on this journey, be prepared to be captivated by the panoramic vistas that unfold before your eyes. Keep your camera handy because you won’t want to miss the breathtaking viewpoints along the way.

One of the notable landmarks you’ll encounter is the awe-inspiring Devil’s Punch Bowl itself. This natural amphitheater, sculpted by the forces of nature, is a sight to behold. Picture cascading water plunging into a pool surrounded by towering granite cliffs—it’s a true spectacle of nature’s power and beauty. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the serenity and marvel at the wonders that nature has crafted over millennia.

The trail to Devil’s Punch Bowl and Cedar Creek Falls is a moderately challenging hike, spanning approximately 3 miles each way. The path includes some steep sections and uneven terrain, so sturdy footwear and a good level of fitness are recommended. 

Be cautious as you navigate the trail and watch your step, especially near the waterfall area, as the rocks can be slippery.

How To Get To Devil’s Punch Bowl

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.

Parking & Permits

Before you hit the road, it’s important to be aware of the parking and permit requirements. Due to the popularity of Devil’s Punch Bowl and Cedar Creek Falls, a permit is mandatory for visiting. The permit costs only $6 but I do recommend booking in advance.

You can obtain the permit online through the website. Additionally, note that there is limited parking available (75 per day), so arriving early in the morning is your best bet to snag a spot.

Devil's Punch Bowl - Cedar Creek Falls San Diego, California
Devil's Punch Bowl - Cedar Creek Falls San Diego, California

What to Bring on Your Hike

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. Do you have a favorite day trip close to you? If so, we would love for you to share it with us in the comments!

FAQs: Devil’s Punchbowl San Diego

How hard is the hike to Devil’s Punchbowl?

The hike to Devil’s Punchbowl is moderately challenging, spanning 3 miles each way.

It includes sections of steep terrain and uneven footing, so sturdy footwear and a moderate level of fitness are recommended. Be mindful of the weather conditions and pace yourself accordingly, especially during the hot summer months. Stay hydrated, take breaks as needed, and prioritize safety. With proper preparation and a reasonable level of fitness, this hike is a rewarding adventure!

Is Devil’s Punchbowl free?

Yes, visiting Devil’s Punchbowl itself is free of charge. The only thing you’ll need to pay for is a $6 parking permit, which you can order online on the website.

Plan Your Trip

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Let us book your trip! Looking for a Travel Advisor to help you plan your trip? Contact us here for more information!

If you are looking for more things to do in San Diego, click here for a list of the Best Places to Photograph in San Diego and our Insider’s Travel Guide to San Diego.

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  1. Where are the best places to camp that is close to Cedar Creek Falls?

  2. Irish_Gainer says:

    Is the water safe to cliff dive right now (july-aug)?

  3. Is the trail from ramona open?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      The trail from Julian is open. Not sure about Ramona.

      1. Is there a parks and rec number to contact regarding the Ramona trailhead? Or has anyone been able to verify open or closed?

        1. Ordinary Traveler says:

          I don’t know of any number you can call. Someone did comment here 3 days ago stating the Ramona trail is closed indefinitely.

          1. oops, must have missed that, but I looked up the contact for Cleveland National Park. The Ramona trailhead is closed for the time being, but there seems to be rumor of a permit system for the re-opening of the Ramona side.

          2. Ordinary Traveler says:

            @disqus_hSbtXvKQKv:disqus Wow. Thanks for the update! Permit system, huh? I wonder why they are doing that.

          3. I’d like to emphasize, it’s just a rumor at this point.. but “safety” will most likely be the justification for said permits. Would limit the number of people per day for the hike. Hopefully it wont turn into a lottery system like Yosemite. I was also informed the water in the pool is currently stagnant.

          4. Ordinary Traveler says:

            If they do the lottery, it will be interesting to see if they do the same for the Julian trail. Good to know that we can call Cleveland National Park for updates. Thanks again for the info!

          5. I can only imagine it would eventually become park-wide policy. Let’s hope not, anyone/everyone should be able to enjoy the splendor of nature without bureaucracy. Anywho, happy hiking, cheers!

    2. It is closed “indefinitely.” Kind of sucks seeing as Julian is a LOT farther out of the way and there is a long dirt road with plenty of rocks that can easily pop a tire…

    3. it says no trespassing everywhere but i still went, and i’m sure countless others ignored the “suggestion”

  4. Is devils punchbowl re opened?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      The train from Julian is open.

  5. Has Devil’s punch bowl reopened?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Yes, the trail from Julian is open! 🙂

  6. I lost my virginity at Cedar Creek Falls, it was awesome!  (…I mean the Falls)
    Voyeurism was at an all time HIGH

  7. anyone know if the falls are open yet?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      We have not heard anything about them re-opening. Maybe we will try to make a trip up there in the near future and let everyone know.

  8. Foxxgrl4260 says:

    Is everything closed or just the falls?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I believe the hiking trails are closed as well.