Green Valley Falls
- Location: Cuyamaca Mountains, eastern San Diego County. From I-8, 40 miles east of San Diego, take Highway 79 north for 7 miles to the Green Valley Campground. (Note the sharp left turn after 2 miles on Highway 79; follow the signs for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park). From Julian, take Highway 79 south for 15 miles and turn right into the parking area. Day parking is $8 per vehicle. Once you’re in the park, follow the signs to the picnic area, staying left at both intersections. Park in the dirt area, a total of 2.7 miles from the park entrance, and begin hiking on the trail.
- Agency: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
- Distance: 0.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 30 minutes
- Best season: Year round (best in the spring, or after rains)
- USGS topo map: Cuyamaca Peak
- Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
- More information: Trip report here; maps here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Stonewall Peak may be the big draw for hikers in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, but if you’ve come this far, make sure you check out Green Valley Falls. It can be reached from the end of the Green Valley Falls campground with a short, quarter mile walk, but for hikers who want to explore more, there’s a lot to see in this corner of the park.
From the small parking lot at the picnic area, look for the signed Green Valley Falls trail heading downhill into a forest of oaks, pines and manzanitas. (The fire road at the other end of the lot also leads to the falls, but the trail is more scenic.) After a tenth of a mile, head right at a T-junction, where you soon arrive at the upper level of the waterfall. If you are careful, you can cross rocks and sit at the top of the waterfall, or you can scramble down the rocks to get a closer view.
The trail continues along the stream and descends through the woods, soon reaching the lower waterfall. The rocks can be deceptively slippery, but you can carefully traverse them to get a nice look at the two-tiered waterfall, about 15 feet tall, which spills into a wide pool. After enjoying the pleasant sound and sights of the grotto, you can either retrace your steps, or continue to the trail, which soon reaches the fire road, where you’ll head right to return to the parking area.
Interestingly, the pleasant creek is actually a tributary of the Sweetwater River, which flows underneath I-8 a few miles west of Highway 79. On your return, while heading toward San Diego on I-8, keep an eye out for a sign indicating the river; it may seem hard to believe that the same water flowing through the dry landscape has trickled down the waterfall you just saw.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.