Mission Trails: Oak Canyon Waterfall

San Diego, CA
Length: 3.00 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

[Total: 26    Average: 3.3/5]

The Oak Canyon waterfall is a relatively easy waterfall to hike to on a 3 mile round trip easy trail. There is some easy rock scrambling which may be hard for young kids or adults who don’t feel balanced while baby wearing. However as long as you go slow, you should be able to make it. On a good day my 3 year old can hike the whole thing herself.

Start at the trailhead at the end of the parking lot. Walk down the path, pass Old Mission Dam on your right, over a long metal bridge, and past some flat rocks on your right. About 0.25 miles in the trail will get steeper and rockier. There will be a big fork, to the right will go down some steps to the creek, you want to stay left. About a mile in you will get to another fork in the trail. It is easy to miss and there are no real signs, so keep an eye out. You will want to take the unmarked trail to the left. There is a picture of this trail included below with the purple arrow. From there you will start doing more rock scrambling and hike along the creek bed. You cannot see the waterfall from the trail. Once the trail starts branching up away and above the creek, very carefully walk to the edge of the rock cliff. When you look down you should see the waterfall below you! If your trail dead ends into the N Fortuna Summit Trail and you start hiking up the mountain away from the creek, you have gone too far. The waterfall itself isn’t a good place to stop and rest because of the cliff, but along the trail there are many gorgeous oak trees to stop under for a snack and break. Once you are ready, head back along the trail you came.

Just as a note, the pictures below were taken during an unusually wet winter. Though there is always water at the dam, there may not always be water in the waterfall in the summer/fall months. The best time to go is late winter/early spring. It is possible to do this hike without getting your shoes wet, but since the trail is along the creek make sure you wear shoes with good traction you don’t mind getting wet just in case. Also be on the lookout for poison oak along the wetter shady areas of the trail.

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains Yes
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception Excellent
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Creek / River, Picnic Area, Viewpoint, and Wildlife Viewing

Relatively easy and beautiful waterfall hike!

Fee & Parking Details

Fee : $0.00

Park in the small parking lot for the Old Mission Dam. If the lot is full you can park along the road.

Trail Contributor

[Total: 26    Average: 3.3/5]

Hike it Baby member since spring 2016. Current HiB Asheville NC Branch Ambassador. Past HiB San Diego CA and Orange County CA Branch Ambassador, and past National Team volunteer for Community Values, HiB30 Challenge Prizes, Mentor, and Ambassador Continued Education teams.


Trail Head


Trail Map