San Diego River Trail

Julian, California 92036

San Diego River Trail

San Diego River Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"A trip down the upper San Diego River canyon during the rainy season is a true adventure. Runoff from winter storms fills the rocky riverbed with a silvery band of water. Green grass, new leaves, and wildflowers (appearing by February or March) brighten the banks as well as the slopes. In several places along the way the stream cascades over rock precipices, including one with a drop of 100 feet. Sturdy boots and a patient, cautious attitude are essential for this trip. By April or May, when hungry and irritable rattlesnakes emerge from their wintertime burrows, you’ll have to be extra vigilant. Long pants are recommended, as are small clippers to prune back the branches of poison oak in a few tight spots. If you’re traveling with a heavy or awkward pack, bring a 30-foot length of cord to assist in lowering it over rock faces as you detour around the waterfalls. Avoid the canyon after intense storms, when high water levels may make stream crossings difficult or dangerous. Get an early start if you are planning to thoroughly explore the canyon."

San Diego River Trail Trip Reports

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My friends and I did this hike as it was described in an earlier edition of Afoot & Afield, that is as a one way hike from the Inaja Picnic Area to the Cedar Creek Falls trail head in Ramona.

We started at 9AM on the 12th and finished at 2PM the next day. The total distance was about 10 miles, total hiking time was 15 hours.

There was no running water which helped navigating the canyon, but the thick, dried up vegetation and rocky riverbed is extremely challenging. The upper half of the canyon is very rough and choked with dried vegetation. We managed only half a mile per hour. The second and third falls require climbing up and over the slopes. The further south you go (past the third fall) the easier it gets. We did not run into cougars or boars, but encountered two rattlesnakes. Much more a problem were the ticks we picked up pushing through the shrubs, and frequent checks were needed to get rid of these hitch hikers. Poison oak is everywhere! Wearing a jumpsuit or coverall isn't a bad idea. You should also pack some poison oak scrub to wash up as needed.

This was an extremely challenging an exhausting hike, which requires the necessary gear and research. Don't forget to call the Palomar Ranger Station to get last updates on the area before you go. If you do this one way, you need someone to drop you off at the Inaja Picnic Area as overnight parking is not permitted there.

San Diego River Trail Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
1,300 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Up to 8 hours
November through May
Palomar Ranger District
Local Contacts
USGS Santa Ysabel
Local Maps

Trail Log