Hike Three Sisters Falls & Eagle Peak
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||4.4 miles (7.1 km)|
|Other Options||7.7 w/Eagle Peak Extension|
|Hike Time||2-3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||950 feet (290m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,930 feet (893m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Cleveland National Forest|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
Tucked away in a hidden canyon within Cleveland National Forest, the hike to Three Sisters Falls is remote, spectacular, and fun. Boulder Creek cascades down three smooth granite levels, the “three sisters,” and leaves fresh pools where you can swim, dip your feet in, or just enjoy the vibe. I’ve also included an optional hike extension to Eagle Peak, a stunning summit that dominates the landscape around the area, including the San Diego River valley.
The best time to visit is in the winter or after it rains. Three Sisters Falls can be dry.
Where is Three Sisters Falls?
Getting to the trailhead is half of the fun as you travel down Boulder Creek Road, which is gravel. It’s doable by low-clearance 2WD vehicles, but does have many washboarded sections. Use this trailhead address:
Three Sisters Falls Trailhead, Boulder Creek Rd, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
This is an extremely popular hike. If you arrive later in the morning, the parking lot may be full already. I’ve arrived shortly after sunrise and had it to myself. The best times are very early or later in the afternoon.
Gear For the Hike
The best time to hike here is in the cooler months or early in the morning before it gets hot. Bring at least 1L of water, 2L if it’s very hot. If you like to use trekking poles, they’ll be helpful on the way back up from the falls. There’s no scrambling, but some sections are rocky. If there’s water in the falls, you can also take a dip, so plan accordingly.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Three Sisters Falls & Eagle Peak Maps
Note that this hike is a “downhill first, climb back out” experience, just like hikes into the Grand Canyon. It’s much easier to hike downhill to the falls than it is to hike back out. You need to plan on doing the bulk of the work when you hike back out.
In years past this hike was considered very challenging, with some boulder scrambles and sketchy rope sections. Today the trail is rebuilt and rerouted, and you are able to just hike the whole way. There are no sketchy sections on this hike.
And if you fitness allows, I highly recommend adding on the side trip to Eagle Peak, which you can combine with a trip to the falls. I’ve included directions in the video and photos below. The Eagle Peak extension adds about 3.3 miles and 750 feet of climbing, making it about 7.7 miles with 1700 feet of climbing total.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Three Sisters Falls Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Engelmann oak trees are one of the few native trees found in San Diego county. Native peoples harvested the acorns from these oaks. Today they’re an increasingly rare sight as suburban development encroaches on wilderness.
From 1870 to 1900 sheep herding was one of the industries in this area.
There’s not an easy way to get to the upper fall and it’s discouraged by the Forest Service. Be smart and stay safe.
Optional Eagle Peak Hike
Eagle Peak can sometimes be closed to protect peregrine falcons breeding areas. I’ve noticed that the closures sometimes don’t include the trail, but sometimes may. Check the website and closure map before you go.
This guide last updated on February 3, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.