West Side Road

The West Side Road in Ramona is an old forest road traveling through the Cleveland National Forest just outside of San Diego Country Estates. The road climbs high above the San Diego River Gorge, providing some breathtaking views. A little past two miles, the road crosses into private property. But just before that point, one can execute a short bushwhack to a hill overlooking the Devils Jumpoff, a nearly 100 foot waterfall active only during the wettest seasons. Even without the allure of flowing water, this is a great hike exploring some of San Diego’s backcountry.

After a recent spate of rainstorms, we decided to venture out and see if the waterfall was ready to show off its stuff. The trail began at the end of Ramona Oaks Road. While there was a large dirt lot at the end of the road, it was very rough looking – clearly unsuitable for our little car. We parked along the street since there was plenty of room.

To the left of the dirt lot was a paved road with a “NO EXIT” sign that passed next to a house. It almost looked like the house’s driveway, but it was in fact the start of the West Side Road.

We began trekking up the paved road. As always, I felt a little awkward passing so close to someone’s rural house, but I’m pretty sure the road was there before the house so they probably knew what they were getting into. Still, out of basic consideration, we avoided loud conversation as we quickly passed. On our right was a fantastic view looking out towards the San Diego River Gorge.

We quickly came upon a closed vehicle gate and passed around it.

The road went somewhat steeply uphill, the pavement adorned with graffiti in places.

Around .34 miles the pavement disappeared and we had a lovely, rugged dirt fire road.

We also had increasingly awesome views to the south. The hills and valley were a vibrant green thanks to the wet winter.

Around .6 miles the road turned northward.

At .8 miles we spotted some oak trees along the trail.

A use trail led down to a small, dry creek beneath the trees.

We started finding some puddles and wet sections along the trail, but it was overall in decent enough condition.

We also spotted a couple of manzanita bushes in bloom, which struck me as a little odd in the beginning of January, but the bees seemed happy about it.

Around 1.65 miles the trail turned north. We had some nice views looking east towards Eagle Peak Road. The Cuyamacas were hidden by clouds in the distance.

We continued on until around the 2 mile point. To the right was a sage-covered rise overlooking the deep river gorge below. The road continues on, crossing into private property a short distance ahead. We left the road, heading northeast towards the rise. (If you reach an old gate and the forest marker boundary signs along the road, you’ve gone too far).

We bushwhacked our way through the sage and grass, making sure to take in the view behind us so we’d have an easy time finding our way back to the road. It was fairly easy to pick a clear route through the brush, and we were only poked by a minimal number of sticks.

Our goal was to find a good vantage point to see the rocky cliffs due north of us. It didn’t take long to get to the edge of the rise and get our view.

Sadly, despite the ridiculous amount of rain we’d had the previous few days, the waterfall wasn’t flowing. Zooming in with our cameras, we were able to see a small trickle near the bottom of the falls.

We could hear water down in the gorge below. We explored the hill we were on, but were unable to find a spot that offered a view of the creek below. The views of the gorgeous San Diego River Gorge more than made up for the lack of a waterfall. We decided that this was easily one of the best disappointing hikes ever.

After exploring the hill we bushwhacked our way back to the road and headed back. We met some locals on the road who were even more surprised than we were that there wasn’t any water, but another group we met down the road said there is a dam somewhere upstream, so the flow is likely controlled there. Even without a waterfall, this is a gorgeous hike well worth doing.

Check out this video on YouTube to see the falls in action.

View the full photo gallery

From Main St. in Ramona, take 10th Street to San Vicente Road. Follow San Vicente Road for approximately 6.5 miles, then turn left onto Ramona Oaks Road. Follow Ramona Oaks Road for approximately 3 miles to the end. West Side Road begins here. Note this is a residential area so please be quiet and respectful of your neighbors. map

Total Distance: 4.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 920 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

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View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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