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See Kitchen Creek Falls in the Laguna Mountains at its seasonal best.

What San Diego's backyard mountain ranges lack in terms of scale and grandeur is outweighed by the sublime and circumspect beauty to be found in some of its remote canyons. A case in point is a rugged little crease in the south flank of the Laguna Mountains called Kitchen Creek Falls. There, water from about 20 square miles of drainage upstream tumbles a total of 150 vertical feet over several cascades of various heights.

No road or trail leads directly to the falls, though the well-trod Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby. For the next couple of months, as a decent flow of water rushes down Kitchen Creek, the white noise of falling water gives away the falls' location as you approach; otherwise, finding the site may be a bit difficult. A short stretch of scrambling over jagged boulders is required to reach the cascades.

A good starting point is Boulder Oaks, site of a defunct store and campground, on Old Highway 80, two miles south of the Buckman Springs rest stop along Interstate 8. Starting out on foot from the old store, cross the road and follow the marked Pacific Crest Trail as it meanders beside oak-shaded Kitchen Creek and under the twin bridges of Interstate 8. Just past the second bridge, turn abruptly right and ascend several switchbacks up a slope. You then begin a gradual, meandering ascent through chaparral, high above and well away from the creek. Enjoy the aromatic fragrances of blue- and white-flowered ceanothus, manzanita, and many kinds of annual wildflowers -- all at their best in late March through early May.

After more than two miles of walking from Boulder Oaks, the trail pulls closer to the deeply creased canyon containing Kitchen Creek. Look for a narrow side-path on the left. It splits into several branches. Stay generally left and wander down the ridgeline just south of the creek to the falls area. The dry, water-polished rock on either side of the cascades provides fair traction. Beware of wet, slippery streaks on the rock. A misstep here could lead to a long, bone-crunching ride to the lowest pool.

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What San Diego's backyard mountain ranges lack in terms of scale and grandeur is outweighed by the sublime and circumspect beauty to be found in some of its remote canyons. A case in point is a rugged little crease in the south flank of the Laguna Mountains called Kitchen Creek Falls. There, water from about 20 square miles of drainage upstream tumbles a total of 150 vertical feet over several cascades of various heights.

No road or trail leads directly to the falls, though the well-trod Pacific Crest Trail passes nearby. For the next couple of months, as a decent flow of water rushes down Kitchen Creek, the white noise of falling water gives away the falls' location as you approach; otherwise, finding the site may be a bit difficult. A short stretch of scrambling over jagged boulders is required to reach the cascades.

A good starting point is Boulder Oaks, site of a defunct store and campground, on Old Highway 80, two miles south of the Buckman Springs rest stop along Interstate 8. Starting out on foot from the old store, cross the road and follow the marked Pacific Crest Trail as it meanders beside oak-shaded Kitchen Creek and under the twin bridges of Interstate 8. Just past the second bridge, turn abruptly right and ascend several switchbacks up a slope. You then begin a gradual, meandering ascent through chaparral, high above and well away from the creek. Enjoy the aromatic fragrances of blue- and white-flowered ceanothus, manzanita, and many kinds of annual wildflowers -- all at their best in late March through early May.

After more than two miles of walking from Boulder Oaks, the trail pulls closer to the deeply creased canyon containing Kitchen Creek. Look for a narrow side-path on the left. It splits into several branches. Stay generally left and wander down the ridgeline just south of the creek to the falls area. The dry, water-polished rock on either side of the cascades provides fair traction. Beware of wet, slippery streaks on the rock. A misstep here could lead to a long, bone-crunching ride to the lowest pool.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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