Heat warning for popular and dangerous East County trails

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 21:21:16-04

DESCANSO, Calif. (KGTV)--The San Diego County Sheriff's Department released a community alert Friday about heat danger for hikers on two popular trails in East County.

Cal Fire said firefighters made two separate rescues at Three Sisters Falls Friday afternoon.

Since January of this year, the Sheriff's ASTREA helicopter and Sheriff's Search and Rescue team have responded to 24 incidents of distressed hikers at Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls, according to the Sheriff's Department.

In 2011, the death of a teenager prompted the U.S. Forest Service to close Cedar Creek Falls to deal with dangerous conditions and overcrowding.

A Sheriff's spokesperson said the hiking trails are not for beginners.  There is no shade from the sun and the return trip is mostly uphill.

The Sheriff's Department issued specific warnings about both trails.

Three Sisters Falls:  With extremely steep slopes, a rugged and eroding trail, this hike is listed as strenuous to extreme and is suggested for those in good physical condition.  The trail down to Boulder Creek is rated as one of the hardest short hikes in San Diego with approximately a half mile of trail going almost completely vertical.  Couple this with extreme summer heat, no shade, and rocky, unstable terrain, and many hikers quickly find themselves overwhelmed and under prepared.  Expect little to no cell reception in the area.



Cedar Creek Falls: This 6.6 mile round trip trail is considered moderate to strenuous, and is recommended for intermediate to advanced hikers.  Since the canyon locks in heat, temperatures at the bottom can exceed 110 degrees while ground temperatures have commonly reached 135 during the summer.  This trail provides no shade or drinkable water sources, and the trek out is almost completely uphill.  Inexperienced hikers, or those looking to hike the trail for the first time, should not attempt it in the summer or on hot days.  Permits are required to visit Cedar Creek Falls in Ramona.



There are specific recommendations from the Sheriff's Department for hiking in the summer.

  • Buddy up - Walk or exercise with a partner.
  • Phone home - Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, and take your phone.
  • Drink up - Stay hydrated!  You'll need at least a gallon of water per person during a hike.
  • Dress for the heat - Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing and bring a hat.
  • Take regular breaks - Find some shade where you can stop.
  • Leave your dog at home - Trails are not easy on the paws because they're littered with rocks.
  • Head inside - if the heat seems overwhelming, don't sweat it.