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Devil’s Punch Bowl – Cedar Creek Falls TRAVEL TIPS – San Diego


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Olga Frazer



Located in the rugged backcountry of San Diego County, Devil’s Punch Bowl is a hidden gem that offers breathtaking natural beauty and a thrilling adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. This mesmerizing destination, also known as Cedar Creek Falls, is a popular hiking and swimming spot that attracts visitors from all over California.


As its name suggests, Devil’s Punch Bowl is a dramatic geological formation, characterized by a deep, circular pool surrounded by towering cliffs. The pool is fed by the cascading waters of Cedar Creek, creating a scenic oasis that is both captivating and refreshing.


Whether you’re a nature lover, a thrill-seeker, or simply someone looking for a peaceful escape from the city, Devil’s Punch Bowl offers a unique and unforgettable experience. From hiking through rugged trails to taking a refreshing dip in the pool, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


In this article, we’ll delve into the best time to visit Devil’s Punch Bowl, how to get there, the hiking trail and difficulty level, safety precautions and regulations, what to bring, and other important details that will help you make the most of your trip. So grab your sunscreen and hiking boots, and get ready to explore this hidden treasure in the heart of San Diego County.


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Devil’s Punch Bowl is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild and pleasant. The months of April to June and September to November are ideal for exploring this natural wonder.


During spring, the surrounding landscape comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, creating a picturesque backdrop for your hike or swim. The temperatures are usually comfortable, ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit (15-24 degrees Celsius), making it enjoyable for outdoor activities.


In the fall, the foliage in the area takes on beautiful hues of orange, red, and yellow, adding to the allure of the landscape. The weather is usually mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit (15-24 degrees Celsius), providing excellent conditions for hiking.


It’s important to note that Devil’s Punch Bowl can get extremely crowded during the summer months, especially on weekends and holidays. If you prefer a less crowded experience, it’s advised to visit on weekdays or during the off-peak hours.


During the winter months, Devil’s Punch Bowl can experience heavy rains, and the hiking trail may be closed due to unsafe conditions. It’s recommended to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before planning a visit during this season.


Overall, the best time to visit Devil’s Punch Bowl is when the weather is pleasant, the crowds are smaller, and the natural beauty of the area is at its peak. Whether you choose the vibrant colors of spring or the serene ambiance of fall, you’re sure to have a memorable experience at this captivating destination.


Getting to Devil’s Punch Bowl

Getting to Devil’s Punch Bowl involves a scenic drive and a moderate hike. Here’s how you can reach this natural treasure:

  1. By Car: Devil’s Punch Bowl is located in the Cleveland National Forest, approximately 50 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. From San Diego, take the CA-67 N and then merge onto the CA-78 E. Continue on the CA-78 E until you reach the junction with Pine Hills Road. Turn left onto Pine Hills Road and follow the signs for the Three Sisters Falls Trailhead.
  2. By Public Transportation: While there is no direct public transportation to Devil’s Punch Bowl, you can take the Coaster train or the San Diego Trolley to the El Cajon Transit Center. From there, you can either hire a taxi or use a ridesharing service to reach the trailhead. It’s recommended to check the local transportation schedules and plan accordingly.

Once you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll need to hike approximately 3 miles to reach Devil’s Punch Bowl. The trail can be challenging at times, with steep sections and uneven terrain. It’s important to wear proper hiking shoes and be prepared with enough water and snacks for the journey.


It’s worth noting that the trail to Devil’s Punch Bowl is only accessible during daylight hours, and overnight camping is not permitted. It’s advisable to start your hike early in the morning to ensure you have enough time to explore and make it back before sunset.


Always be respectful of the designated trails and follow any posted signs or regulations. It’s important to stay on the designated paths to preserve the natural beauty of the area and ensure your own safety.


Now that you know how to get to Devil’s Punch Bowl, you’re ready to embark on an adventure to this stunning destination. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to explore the wonders of San Diego’s backcountry!


Hiking Trail and Difficulty Level

The hiking trail to Devil’s Punch Bowl offers a moderate level of difficulty and rewards hikers with stunning natural vistas along the way. Here’s what you can expect:


The trail begins at the Three Sisters Falls trailhead and spans approximately 3 miles each way. It meanders through the picturesque Cleveland National Forest, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


As you make your way along the trail, you’ll encounter various terrains, including rocky sections, steep inclines, and narrow paths. It’s important to wear sturdy hiking shoes and use caution, especially during wet weather when the trail can become slippery.


The hike to Devil’s Punch Bowl is categorized as moderate due to its length and elevation gain. You should be prepared for an uphill climb on the way to the punch bowl, which can be physically demanding, especially for beginners or those not accustomed to hiking.


It’s recommended to take breaks and pace yourself during the hike, especially during hotter months when temperatures can rise. Bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat is essential to stay hydrated and protected from the sun’s rays.


Although the trail can be challenging in some sections, the reward at the end is well worth the effort. Once you arrive at Devil’s Punch Bowl, you’ll be treated to a stunning natural oasis where you can take a refreshing dip in the pool or simply soak in the majestic surroundings.


Remember to be mindful of your surroundings and respect the environment. Stick to the designated trails and avoid disturbing any wildlife or plants you may encounter along the way.


By being prepared and taking necessary precautions, you can have an enjoyable and memorable hiking experience at Devil’s Punch Bowl.


Safety Precautions and Regulations

While exploring Devil’s Punch Bowl, it’s important to prioritize safety and adhere to the regulations set in place. Here are some key safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Stay Hydrated: The hike to Devil’s Punch Bowl can be physically demanding, so it’s crucial to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated throughout the journey. Drinking enough water will help prevent dehydration and ensure your overall well-being.
  • Wear Appropriate Footwear: The trail can be rugged and uneven, so wearing sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good traction is essential to ensure stability and minimize the risk of slips or falls.
  • Be Mindful of the Weather: Check the weather forecast before embarking on your hike. Avoid hiking during extreme heatwaves or heavy rain as it can make the trail more challenging and potentially dangerous.
  • Follow Signs and Stay on the Trail: Stick to the designated paths to minimize the impact on the environment and reduce the risk of getting lost. Follow any posted signs or closures for your own safety.
  • Be Aware of Wildlife: Devil’s Punch Bowl is home to various wildlife species. While encountering wildlife can be exciting, it’s important to observe them from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them.
  • Leave No Trace: Preserve the natural beauty of Devil’s Punch Bowl by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Carry out any trash you bring in and avoid leaving any trace of your visit behind.

In addition to these safety precautions, there are also regulations that must be followed:

  • Swimming in the Devil’s Punch Bowl is allowed, but jumping from the cliffs is strictly prohibited due to safety concerns.
  • Pets are not allowed on the trail or in the Devil’s Punch Bowl area in order to protect the local wildlife and preserve the peaceful atmosphere.
  • Remember that camping is not permitted at Devil’s Punch Bowl, so plan your visit accordingly.

By following these safety precautions and regulations, you can fully enjoy your time at Devil’s Punch Bowl while ensuring the safety and preservation of this natural marvel.


What to Bring

To make the most of your trip to Devil’s Punch Bowl, it’s essential to come prepared with the necessary items. Here’s a checklist of what to bring:

  • Hiking Essentials: Wear comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good traction to navigate the trail. Additionally, bring a backpack to carry your essentials.
  • Water and Snacks: Stay hydrated by bringing an ample supply of water. It’s recommended to bring at least 2 liters of water per person for the hike. Pack lightweight, energy-boosting snacks to keep you fueled during the journey.
  • Sun Protection: Bring sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Don’t forget to pack a hat, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF as well.
  • Weather Appropriate Clothing: Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions. Carry a lightweight, breathable jacket or sweater in case of cooler temperatures or unexpected rain showers.
  • Swimwear and Towel: If you intend to take a dip in Devil’s Punch Bowl, don’t forget to bring your swimwear and a towel.
  • First Aid Kit: It’s always wise to have a basic first aid kit on hand for any minor injuries or medical needs that may arise during your hike.
  • Camera or Phone: Capture the beauty of Devil’s Punch Bowl with a camera or your smartphone. Ensure your devices are fully charged or bring a portable charger.
  • Trash Bags: Help keep Devil’s Punch Bowl clean by bringing garbage bags to collect and properly dispose of any trash you generate during your visit.

It’s important to pack light while ensuring you have all the necessary items for a safe and enjoyable hike. Remember to check the weather forecast before your trip and adjust your packing list accordingly.


By coming well-prepared, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Devil’s Punch Bowl and make lasting memories of your visit.


Exploring Cedar Creek Falls

One of the highlights of a visit to Devil’s Punch Bowl is the opportunity to explore Cedar Creek Falls, a captivating natural feature that adds to the allure of this stunning destination. Here’s what you can expect when you encounter Cedar Creek Falls:


Upon reaching Devil’s Punch Bowl, you’ll be greeted by the mesmerizing sight of a circular pool fed by the cascading waters of Cedar Creek. The crystal-clear water and the surrounding cliffs create a picturesque setting that is perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.


Many visitors choose to take a refreshing dip in the cool waters of Cedar Creek Falls. The natural pool is an ideal spot to cool off after a challenging hike and provides a welcome respite from the heat during the summer months.


It’s important to exercise caution when swimming in Cedar Creek Falls, as there can be strong currents and submerged rocks beneath the water’s surface. Always assess the current conditions and your swimming abilities before entering the water.


Aside from swimming, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the beauty of Cedar Creek Falls. You can spend time lounging by the poolside, sunbathing on the rocks, or simply basking in the peaceful ambiance of the area.


While exploring Cedar Creek Falls, take a moment to appreciate the surrounding natural landscape. The lush greenery, rugged cliffs, and the soothing sound of cascading water create a tranquil atmosphere that is perfect for unwinding and reconnecting with nature.


Remember to pack out any trash you bring in and leave the area as you found it. It’s essential to respect the beauty of Cedar Creek Falls and preserve it for future visitors.


Whether you choose to swim, sunbathe, or simply admire the scenic beauty, exploring Cedar Creek Falls is a memorable experience that is sure to leave you refreshed and rejuvenated.


Wildlife and Nature

Devil’s Punch Bowl is not only known for its stunning geological formations but also for its rich biodiversity, making it a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Here are some of the highlights of the wildlife and nature you may encounter during your visit:


The area surrounding Devil’s Punch Bowl is home to a variety of wildlife species, including birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects. Keep an eye out for native bird species such as hawks, owls, and woodpeckers, as well as the occasional deer or coyote that may roam the area.


As you hike through the trails, you’ll also be treated to the sights and sounds of the diverse plant life that thrives in this region. From towering oak and pine trees to vibrant wildflowers and native shrubs, there is no shortage of natural beauty to admire.


It’s important to remember that Devil’s Punch Bowl is a protected area, and it’s crucial to respect the wildlife and their natural habitat. Keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter and avoid feeding or disturbing them.


Additionally, make sure to stay on the designated trails to minimize your impact on the delicate ecosystem. By observing the principles of Leave No Trace, you can help preserve the natural beauty of Devil’s Punch Bowl for future generations to enjoy.


Take the time to immerse yourself in the serene and tranquil environment surrounding Devil’s Punch Bowl. Listen to the soothing sounds of the flowing creek, breathe in the fresh scent of the nearby foliage, and marvel at the incredible wonders of the natural world.


Remember to bring a camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of the wildlife and nature you encounter during your hike. However, make sure to do so without disturbing the animals or their natural habitat.


With its diverse array of wildlife and stunning natural scenery, Devil’s Punch Bowl truly offers a captivating experience for those seeking a closer connection with nature.


Camping and Picnic Areas

Although camping is not permitted at Devil’s Punch Bowl, there are nearby areas where you can enjoy picnicking and camping options. Here’s what you need to know:


If you’re looking for a place to have a picnic or set up a day camp, there are several designated picnic areas available near Devil’s Punch Bowl. These areas usually offer picnic tables, BBQ grills, and restroom facilities, providing a convenient space for outdoor dining and relaxation.


One popular picnic area is the Cedar Creek Falls picnic spot, located near the trailhead. This area provides a shaded space for families and groups to enjoy a meal together amidst the scenic beauty of the surrounding Cleveland National Forest.


However, it’s important to note that the picnic spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it’s advisable to arrive early to secure a spot, especially during weekends and holidays when the area tends to be more crowded.


If you’re interested in camping near Devil’s Punch Bowl, there are several campgrounds in the Cleveland National Forest that offer a range of camping options. Some of the popular campgrounds include the Paso Picacho Campground and the Oakzanita Springs RV & Campground. These campgrounds typically offer tent and RV camping facilities with amenities such as fire rings, picnic tables, and restroom facilities.


Keep in mind that reservations are often required for camping, especially during peak seasons. It’s recommended to check the availability and reservation policies of the campgrounds in advance to secure your spot.


Whether you choose to have a picnic at one of the designated spots or camp at a nearby campground, be sure to follow all rules and regulations set by the managing authorities. This includes properly disposing of trash, observing quiet hours, and respecting the natural surroundings.


By taking advantage of the picnic areas and nearby campgrounds, you can extend your visit to Devil’s Punch Bowl and make the most of your time in this beautiful outdoor setting.


Nearby Attractions

Devil’s Punch Bowl is located in the picturesque Cleveland National Forest, an area that offers a plethora of outdoor attractions and scenic spots to explore. Here are some nearby attractions that you may consider adding to your itinerary:

  • Laguna Mountain Recreation Area: Located in the eastern part of the Cleveland National Forest, the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area is a nature lover’s paradise. With its pristine lakes, expansive meadows, and breathtaking views, this area is perfect for hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting.
  • Mount Laguna: Sitting at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Mount Laguna is a charming mountain town known for its tranquil atmosphere and stunning vistas. It offers opportunities for hiking, biking, stargazing, and even winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the colder months.
  • Potato Chip Rock: Located in the nearby Mount Woodson Trail, Potato Chip Rock is a unique geological formation that resembles a thin, jagged slice of potato chip. This iconic rock formation provides an Instagram-worthy photo opportunity and rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  • Julian: Just a short drive away from Devil’s Punch Bowl, the historic town of Julian is famous for its apple orchards and delicious homemade apple pies. Take a stroll through the charming downtown area, explore local shops, and savor a slice of pie while enjoying the small-town ambiance.

These are just a few examples of the many attractions that await you in the vicinity of Devil’s Punch Bowl. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, scenic beauty, or a taste of local charm, there’s something for everyone in this captivating region.


Remember to plan your itinerary and allocate enough time to explore these attractions, as each offers a unique experience and a chance to further immerse yourself in the wonders of California’s natural beauty.



Devil’s Punch Bowl, also known as Cedar Creek Falls, is a hidden gem nestled in the Cleveland National Forest of San Diego County. This natural wonder offers a combination of stunning geological formations, refreshing waterfalls, and a tranquil environment that is sure to captivate outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


In this article, we’ve explored the best time to visit Devil’s Punch Bowl, how to get there, the hiking trail and difficulty level, safety precautions and regulations, what to bring, and nearby attractions. By following the provided tips and guidelines, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at this mesmerizing destination.


Whether you’re looking for an adventurous hike through rugged terrain, a refreshing swim in the cool waters of Cedar Creek Falls, or simply a peaceful picnic amidst nature, Devil’s Punch Bowl has it all. The picturesque surroundings, diverse wildlife, and serene ambiance offer a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.


Remember to be mindful of the regulations, leave no trace of your visit, and always respect the natural environment and wildlife. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation of Devil’s Punch Bowl, ensuring that future generations can also enjoy its splendor.


So, pack your bags, don your hiking boots, and embark on an unforgettable adventure to Devil’s Punch Bowl. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this hidden treasure, and let the sights and sounds of nature rejuvenate your senses. Whether you’re seeking solitude, physical challenge, or simply a picturesque setting to unwind, Devil’s Punch Bowl is the perfect destination to satisfy your cravings for outdoor exploration and natural beauty.