Hike Cedar Creek Falls

by | Hiking


Distance: 5.6 miles roundtrip

Dogs allowed: Yes

Permit required: Yes 

Best season to hike: Winter, Spring

Two Dogs stood on rocks at the side of Cedar Creek Falls
Cosmo and his friend Trooper posing in front of the falls February 2017

Cedar Creek Falls (AKA Devil’s Punchbowl) is a beautiful hike located in Ramona, CA featuring a large 80 ft waterfall with a pool beneath. The best time to visit is during late winter and early spring (or after it has rained a substantial amount) to enjoy the full effect of a gushing waterfall. Adam and I first hiked here with our previous dog, Cosmo, in February 2017 and finally returned to hike it again January 28, 2023. 


It has become very popular in recent years due to social media, so much so that a permit is now required to do the hike. It is recommended that you purchase your permit beforehand as there is only availability for 75 per day. One permit can have up to 4 hikers listed on it. You can purchase your permit here (https://www.recreation.gov/permits/234735) for $6.00. You will be asked to show your permit as well as a photo ID at the beginning of the hike, so make sure you have both handy at the trailhead. 

Adam and Barley hiking down into the canyon

This hike is different from most others because in order to get to the falls, you hike down into the canyon (~1,000’ elevation loss). This means that you will be doing all the uphill hiking on the way back. The trail is exposed for most of the hike, so I would not recommend attempting this during the summertime (especially with your pup) as the chance of heat stroke is quite high. Even on a cool day in January, it still got warm as we hiked back to the car. 

Dogs are allowed on this hike, but according to recreation.gov must remain on a leash. Most dogs we saw were off-leash, so beware of this if you go.

The hike down into the canyon is pretty easy, with lots of windy switchbacks and beautiful views. We hiked this trail after it rained, so the surrounding hills were green and wildflowers were starting to pop up! Since it had rained, this also meant there were 3 river crossings we had to go through. I would recommend bringing a pair of water shoes to change into for this part as it’s difficult (although possibly doable) to keep your feet completely dry. I changed into my Chaco’s and wore these until we got to the falls. When we hiked, the water went up to mid-calf for me at its highest and the water was COLD. 

Then before we knew it, we had reached the falls! Adam and Barley decided to venture upwards, while I decided to enjoy the falls from down below. Adam decided to do a cold plunge into the water before we headed out. He entered from the rocks below. This area used to be a popular spot for people to jump off the boulders and into the water, but this is now banned, as multiple people died or had to be air-lifted out due to accidents from this. Please be safe when you go! 

There is limited space to hang around, so many groups of people came and went as we were there. I’d recommend refueling with some water and snacks, and make sure to pack out all of your trash!

The hike back is definitely more challenging due to the 2 miles of uphill switchbacks, so make sure to save plenty of water for this and take breaks as needed to enjoy the view. 

We had a wonderful hike with a client turned friend and highly recommend it to anyone who loves waterfalls and is up for a mildly challenging hike! Bonus points if you jump in the freezing cold water. 

Happy trails!

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