Difficulty: Not technically difficult, but not for tenderfoots either. Teva or Keen style water shoes, or waterproof hikers are highly recommended as you are constantly in and out of the creek and the terrain is all rock, all the time. There is a wonderful payoff for those who persevere.
Ashdown Gorge Trail is an out and back, slot canyon trail that follows a rocky, turquoise creek as it flows under overhangs and between shear limestone cliffs. The views are spectacular and dizzying at times.
This is a refreshing hike with plenty of opportunities to cool off. If you’re hiking on a cool day, the water crossings can be chilly.I hiked it a couple weeks ago and jumped into a little pool. This time, Labor Day weekend, it was too chilly for me to dunk in under the falls. Low temps in the area are dropping into the 30s next week.
Notes: At mile 3.5, the creek/trail forks. (It’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention.) Take the trail to the left to discover the 2 wonderful waterfalls of Lake Creek and Rattlesnake Creek (adds 2 miles roundtrip). Stay straight to experience the slot canyon cracking open to the big sky of the gorge. Be prepared for weather and don’t attempt this hike if there is rain in the forecast due to the danger of flash floods.
Tip: Post hike libations and sustenance at Don Miquel’s in Cedar City highly recommended.
Getting there: 15N to exit 57 to UT-130 to UT 14E UT (about 15 minutes form Cedar City) You can access the trail via the large pullout area along the 14 or via the Rattlesnake Trail, Crystal Springs / Potato Hollow Trail.
San Diego County’s 3-tiered seasonal waterfall in Cleveland National Forest is definitely worth a visit when the water is running.
At the beginning of the hike, these 3 lovely trees will greet you.
The falls are much more impressive than you might expect. As you hike down the trail, you can see the frothy, white veils in the distance.
For me, it was vaguely reminiscent of Yosemite. Of course, I was fortunate to experience the area after a rainy season, during the spring super bloom. The hillsides were green and sprinkled generously with wildflowers. If you’ve been following my superbloom posts (Walker Canyon, Diamond Valley Lake, Denk Mountain) this spring, you know I can’t get enough of these wildflowers. (I wasn’t expecting any on this hike and what a wonderful surprise to see the colorful abundance along the trail – perfect wildflower filters for my distant water shots.)
It’s a pleasant single-track, out & back trail that takes you down to the falls and then bring you back up to the parking area.
The falls are a wonderful spot to have a picnic, cool off, and while away the afternoon – that is if you don’t mind being joined by too many humans who have the same idea. (Heavy sigh.) Be forewarned, this is one of San Diego’s most popular hikes so go early or be prepared for the crowds and a full parking lot.
If you want to add on another hike, the Cedar Creek Falls hike is in the vicinity too. Since I’ve done that one already, I decided to take the scenic drive out the other side on Descanso Road.
The Scoop on 3 Sisters Waterfall Hike
Distance: 4 miles RT (out & back)
Elevation gain/loss :1000 ft (downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level. Trail run friendly on a non-crowded morning.
Getting there: From the town of Julian, turn left on Pine Hills Road, right on Eagle Creek, and left on Boulder Creek Road, which will become dirt road for the last 5 miles.
Note: Both Boulder Creek and Descanso are dirt roads with potholes, but no suv or 4-wheel drive needed. A regular passenger car with adequate ground clearance will do the trick as you have patience with potholes and bumps. However, it might not be prudent to attempt it without a SUV or 4-wheel drive after a heavy rain.
They say that 100-acre Lundy Lake (ele. 7,800′) is one of the most overlooked drive-to lakes in the Eastern Sierras. Named after W.J. Lundy who operated a sawmill near Lundy Lake, it’s hidden in the easily accessible foothills above Mono Lake. Part natural beauty, part manmade, originally, Lundy Lake was a smaller lake that was expanded to its current size in 1910.
I didn’t go jump in the lake as is my habit, because I only had a couple hours to Go Take a Hike and Go Chasing Waterfalls
The hike was rated as a 3 for difficulty and a 9 for scenery in my old school, 1995 Cali hiking book. They were spot on for the scenery and a bit off on the difficulty level. The book said we would pass 2 small waterfalls and then at 3 miles arrive at Lake Helen to be followed by Odell Lake a mile beyond. There were many waterfalls some were narrow snow melt tracing their way down from mountain ridges above and others were thundering tiered falls along the trail–all were quite beautiful.
We only had a couple hours before sunset so we thought, with a good pace, we could at least make it the 3 miles to Lake Helen and back. Nope. The book didn’t mention the mountain of scree that had to be conquered before encountering Lake Helen. It also, didn’t mention that the beginning of the trail would be all but obscured due to floods and avalanches. (How could it predict 2018 conditions?) I didn’t find anything about it online either. Of course, I wanted to see what was up and around the corner of this massive mountain of scree so I kept going only to find yet another, steeper mountain of scree and no sign of the Lake Helen. Sunset was upon us so I reluctantly “skied” (not really, well maybe on my backside) the scree downhill and headed back down the trail.
A young hiker who missed her loop trail from above said she had read about the scree mountains somewhere online and knew she’d be contending with them. We gave her and her little dog, Beast, a ride back to her car on Tioga Pass. It would have been a very cold night to bed down in the woods.
Back at home as I was writing this post I discovered that AllTrails rates the trail as difficult and one person noted this: The only downside is that you can no longer reach Lake Helen due to the shale slides. The mountain has wiped out the last portion of the trail and the shale is not stable.
Oops. Just as well, I turned around when I did. I’d say it’s an easy hike if you turn around before the scree / massive rock slide, which is the safe thing to do. (Do as I say, not as I did.) Thankful the forest fairies were watching over me.
Lake Lundy is a lovely area to explore, take a dip in the lake or under a waterfall, hike and / or fish. Maybe someday I’ll be back to meet up with Lake Helen and Odell Lake when new trails are established. Note: You can approach Helen and Odell Lakes from the top instead via Tioga pass, but should stop short of the scree for safety. Happy Trails.
And enjoy easy shore access, the natural beauty and your fishing without the crowds. Lundy Lake is home to healthy populations of rainbow (26K stocked each season) and some large brown trout and because it lacks the pressure of some of its neighboring lakes, the fish are known for being slightly more gullible and often slightly larger than you’ll find elsewhere.
Below the lake, Mill Creek is also known for its small, wild trout population.
You’ll have your best luck in the wet years, of course.
Lundy Lake Campground: First come first serve, no reservations
36 campsites with restrooms and non-potable water.
The Lundy Lake “Resort”
RV hook ups, additional regular campsites, cabins, a general store and boat rentals in paradise.
For more information or to book reservations at the “Resort”, call 626-309-0415.
Getting there: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest: From Highway 395 north of Lee Vining, turn west onto Lundy Lake Road and follow roughly five miles to the lake and two miles beyond on the dirt road top get to the trail head.
Wanted to make it to the lake and back. The trail is one of the best in the area with 11 waterfalls on the way. It was heavily wooded so the views of the waterfalls and the dramatic canyons and the cliffs weren’t always visible without a slight ramble on spur to the right.
Hiking distance: 11 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1,900 feet
Unfortunately, the trail was heavily iced and snow-covered so I had to turn back at Chasm Falls about a mile and a half short of the lake. In the video below, I misnamed the hike Hyacinth – it is Hyalite. Must have been the brain freeze.
Here’s a close up of the icicles by the falls.
By the way, do you think my jacket is bright enough? I’m hoping the hunters will too. Heard a couple shotgun shots on the way down. Ended the hike via the accessible and lovely 1.5 mile Grotto Falls trail.
Ah, closing a day of hiking with a great meal at Ted’s Montana Grill and a big sky sunset, does it get better than this?