Top Rivers and Waterfalls in San Diego

San Diego has long been a top vacation destination in southern California, mainly due to its beautiful beachside location. However, what many people don’t know is that San Diego also boasts some amazing fresh water destinations! On your next visit to San Diego, be sure to head out and experience these top waterfalls and swimming spots for a unique and unforgettable adventure! Below are some of our top picks for waterfall destinations in San Diego.

Oak Canyon

Oak Canyon is a popular hiking trail location in Mission Trails State Park, and once you visit, it is easy to see why this is a local favorite! This hike is best experienced in the spring or winter months, when the area is lush with grass and wildflowers. This time of year is also when the creek is full of naturally flowing water. If you are lucky enough to hike here after a heavy rainfall, waterfalls come to life, creating a pleasant babble as you pass. This hike is 1.5 miles one way, 3 miles roundtrip, and is an easy to moderate hike for the whole family to come along. The most difficult part might be trying to find parking here during the busy season!

Horsethief Canyon

As the name implies, Horsethief Canyon got its name from horse thieves who used to store their stolen horses here until they were able to move them. Now, you will likely only run into other friendly hikers along your way. Located among the beautiful oak woodlands, Horsethief Canyon is one of the best places to experience freshwater views in San Diego. Although not quite a full-blown waterfall, a series of gentle cascades flow along the trail. As with most destinations involving fresh water, be sure to visit here in the winter or spring to ensure that the water is actually flowing. However, the views here are some of the best in San Diego!

Maidenhair Falls

This is perhaps the most breathtaking waterfall destination you will find! This seasonal 20-foot waterfall is tucked away in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Take the Hellhole Canyon Trail to find this secluded wonder, but don’t let the name of the hike deter you! Although Maidenhair Fall is about 2.75 miles from the trailhead, it is well worth the hike, and the refreshing waters are your reward. No permits are required to hike here, so get out and enjoy the natural beauty of Maidenhair Falls!

Enjoy the inland wonder of San Diego by journeying to one of these breathtaking waterfall locations!

Photo By Jean-Pierre leClair – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21657755