Waterfall Obsessions – Hiking Cedar Creek Falls “Devil’s Punchbowl”

Outside is Where I Feel the Most Alive

Nothing calms me more than being outside in nature.

The vast open land, rolling hills, and ability to hear yourself think! Too often are we wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of every day life that we forget to stop and reflect on ourselves.

We have but one life to enjoy!

You may scoff and think, well duh. But it’s true! Treat your body and mind with the upmost care, and life will unfold in the most magnificent of ways – in ways that bring you joy, peace, happiness, meaning, love, fulfillment… the list is endless!

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Aly Admiring the Hills of East San Diego County Along the Cedar Creek Falls Hiking Trail.

For this reason, I try to escape to the great outdoors as much as possible, and I try to encourage my loved ones to do the same.

Cedar Creek Falls “Devil’s Punchbowl”

Acquiring Permits

The area surrounding the waterfall requires a permit to enter.

Only 75 permits are sold daily for $10.00 each, and 1 permit accommodates up to 5 people. You may only buy 1 permit on the day of your choice – so if your group is larger than 5 people, you will have to ask someone else to purchase the permit.

Permits have been known to sell-out two weeks in advance during the peak season so unfortunately this is a hike you have to plan for.

I don’t recommend going on a whim to see if you can purchase a permit at the trailhead. I’ve never been successful with this approach.

As long as you can commit to a weekend date far enough in the future, or are available to go during the week, obtaining a permit is an easy process. Simply head to Recreation.Gov, put in your desired date, and they’ll let you know if permits are available.

This permit purchasing process is nothing like trying to get a Havasupai campsite I promise.

What You Should Pack with you

Required Hiking Items:

  1. Permit (see above for how to acquire permits)
  2. Valid Government Issued ID – dependent minors do not require ID when accompanied by an adult
  3. Lots of water! LOTS!
  4. Hat

You cannot enter the falls restricted area unless your name is on a permit for the day you’re hiking. This is not a joking matter. Last summer I watched 4 high school kids get cited by an officer for trying to enter the restricted area without a permit. It’s not worth a ticket.

You must have a valid government issued ID that matches your name on the permit. The Ranger or Officer will have you check in and out at the trailhead.

You should never attempt a hike without water. Water is vital to your survival – especially when you’re hiking in an area that has highs of 80°F (27°C) in the dead of winter. Don’t tempt fate – pack water. You can fill up your water bottles / bladders at the trailhead before and after the hike.

You shouldn’t hike to Cedar Creek Falls without applying sunscreen and donning a hat. The trail is scarcely shaded – protect yourself from the hot sun.

Optional Hiking Items:

All of these items will make the hike more enjoyable – I’m assuming you took the time to apply sunscreen before you started the hike, right? Good:)

I’ll do a blog post where I talk about my must-haves for day hikes! Stay tuned.

Trailhead and Parking

The Cedar Creek Falls trailhead is extremely easy to find:

  1. Type “Cedar Creek Falls” into Google Maps, or
  2. Type the address into your GPS: 15519 Thornbush Road, Ramona, CA 92065

The parking lot fills up really fast, and there are a very limited number of stalls – maybe spots for 15 cars at best.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t get lucky with a parking space in the lot! Parking along the street is free, and abundant even if you have to walk a bit further – you’re going for a hike so you shouldn’t be worried about a little extra walking.

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Ranger Booth Setup at the Cedar Creek Falls Trailhead.
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Cedar Creek Falls Designated Parking Lot.

Hiking Difficulty: HARD

It’s recommended that you hike this trail from late October through early April because the trail is scarcely shaded, and it can get extremely hot (+100°F / 38°C). This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the trail wasn’t entirely uphill on the way out.

Because of the extreme heat and uphill hike out, the trail has received a rating of Hard on All Trails: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/cedar-creek-falls-trail

I complete agree with this difficulty level. However, I believe that anyone, as long as he or she is able to walk a block without feeling completely out of breath, can manage this hike. Just make sure you take your time, don’t push harder than your body can go, and conserve water for the hike out.

My furry buddy, Peyton, who is a 12 year old German Shepherd / Siberian Husky mix, and he did just fine. And no, my dog is not in shape – he’s old enough that he gets spoiled however he wants, which generally takes the form of bones, treats, and sometimes extra portions of food.

Dog Friendly – With Caution

This trail is dog friendly! Yay! I feel like dog friendly trails are somewhat few and far between these days.

Peyton made the hike from the trailhead to the falls without skipping a beat! But, as I’ve already cautioned you, the first half of the hike is all downhill.

The hike back out took us a considerable amount of time to ensure Peyton didn’t overheat. We stopped at almost every shaded spot to break and let him drink water.

And just because I did this hike with my old, out of shape dog doesn’t mean that you should perform this hike with your dog.

DON’T HIKE WITH YOUR DOG WHEN TEMPERATURES ARE SKY HIGH! Your poor, four-legged creature will not fare well when the temperatures are at their peak in the summertime. Your dog may burn the pads of his or her paws causing him or her immense pain when walking, or worse he or she might die of heatstroke.

Know your dog’s limits. They trust you!

Now Let’s Hike!

Now that I’ve talked preparation to death – sorry guys and gals, but it’s important I give you the blunt details – let’s get on to the trail!

The trail is absolutely gorgeous throughout the entirety of the hike!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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View of the Trail Shortly After Starting the Hike to the Falls.
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View of the Trail that Leads to the Falls from Julian, California.
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Imagine How Much More Beautiful This View Would Be if We Had Received Fresh Rain!
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A Grand Waterfall is Quite Near!

Every time you round a corner you get a more beautiful view of the rolling hills until you finally reach a majestic waterfall.

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Cedar Creek Falls “Devil’s Punchbowl” in Late January.

And because my Pentax K-70 has an amazing HDR Landscape mode… sorry not sorry in advance… I have to share with you two of the photos from our shoot!

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Aly and Alisa Soaking in the Beautiful View.
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Aly and her Boyfriend, Ryan, Taking a Moment to Themselves at the Falls.

Hiking Cedar Creek Falls is always a true nature treat.

If you’re looking for a waterfall with more spunk than the one in my photos, I recommend hiking closer to springtime when it’s “rained” – we all know San Diego doesn’t truly experience rain.

I’ll be sure to make another hiking excursion come springtime so you can see what I mean!

Reminder to Just Say Yes!

And, more importantly as always, say yes to experiences that present themselves to you! Life is full of fun and wonder – don’t be stuck at home wondering what life could be like, should be like, would be like… drop that nonsense! Get out there, say yes, and never look back!

Aly’s Camera Choice

All of the pictures were shot with my Pentax K-70, 18-135mm Lens and edited by me using Adobe Creative Cloud.

I’m in the market for the Prime 15-30mm Pentax Lens so be on the lookout for when I post photos using that bad boy! Landscape and portrait photography are my passion.

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As a disclaimer, I was not paid by any of the above linked sites. This review is solely mine without any monetary compensation.

However, I will receive a small kickback from Amazon if you decide you want to become a Pentaxian like me! I can’t recommend the Pentax K-70 and Adobe Creative Cloud more – look at all my pictures if you don’t believe me.

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