The Devil’s Punch Bowl, more officially known as Cedar Creek Falls Trail, is a six mile out-and-back hike near Ramona, CA. It has an elevation change of 1,200 feet and starts in a decline, ends at a beautiful “waterfall” opening and returns the same way back with a hike up and out. It is dog friendly, although I would recommend starting early or in the cooler months and definitely bringing plenty of water for yourself and your pooch.
From Mission Valley the drive to the Cedar Creek Falls trailhead is about 45 minutes up the 15. The last few miles are on narrow, windy mountain roads, but if I can drive it anyone can. Trust me! There is a parking lot with plenty of spaces and overflow parking along the entrance road to the trail head.
When to go
I recommend going early! Sunrise is my favorite time to hike because the world is peaceful, quiet and still. And that’s the best vibe to have when surrounded by nature. We started at 6:30 AM and we were the only people on the trail until we got to the end. I was able to allow Emma to roam off the leash and didn’t have to worry about other dogs or people around her.
It took us about 2.5 hours to complete the hike. When we reached the Devils Punch Bowl we stopped to snack, take in the scenery and snap photos for about 20 minutes. This is when other people started to show up, and there were plenty more coming in as we were heading out. Although the whole way out is mostly uphill it seemed to take just as long as coming in downhill.
You will need a permit to go on this hike. It costs $6 for each group of 5 or less people. Buy it in advance here: Permit Info
There are park rangers roaming to check permits. You will be fined hundreds of dollars if you do not have a permit, don’t risk it! There is also a table set up with people at the trailhead that will sign you in and check your permit. Even if the people are not present (like they weren’t when we showed up early in the morning), still sign your name on the sheet.
This Hike is Beautiful!
My favorite part about this hike was its breathtaking beauty. Once you make it to the end you are greeted with “the devil’s punch bowl” a rocky opening in the canyon where you can sit among the rocks and admire the “cedar creek trickle” a cascading once-waterfall-now-trickle that is still gorgeous even though the drought has dried most of it up. The punch bowl is illuminated green and the only sounds you can hear are trickling water, sounds of still nature and echoing voices of other hikers. The punchbowl is very beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to swim in it. When I went it was around 8:30 a.m. and was freezing down there. There was no sun, it felt arctic so I wouldn’t have dared go in the water (even if it was clean), but there is a rope swing where people jump in, in addition to cliff jumping from the tops of the rocks above.
If you have the chance to journey through this hike, take it! It definitely tops the list of beautiful and challenging hikes around San Diego.