This past Saturday, Sumrall and I decided to take Ele, our Belgian Malinois on a hike to the Three Sisters Waterfalls near Descanso. We people have done this hike before, but it would be Ele’s first time. I was excited about seeing the waterfalls again because of all the rain we’ve been having.
Saturday was warm, cloud-free, and gorgeous and we headed out around 11am. With quick stops for lunch and fuel, we arrived at the trailhead at 1:20pm. It’s a commitment to do this hike since you’ll be driving on I-8 West for over an hour, wind around some Julian / Descanso roads without cellular coverage for a bit, and then snake around a mountain for 13 miles on a dirt road. I’ve done the drive in both a VW Jetta and a Toyota Tacoma, and highly recommend the larger vehicle. You’ll know when you arrive because it’s a popular hike and there will be many cars parked on the side of the dirt road. The entrance is well-marked.
The hike to the falls starts with a descent, which means you (and your dogs) will be doing the hardest work on the return trip. Make sure you plan accordingly. Most of the trail is wide, easy, and woodland, but there are about 3 very steep sections. These sections are full of slippery, sandy soil that may give way while walking. There are even ropes available to use as a guide. I was impressed at how well Ele did both descending and ascending these areas. She could climb better than we could.
You will see many people (and other dogs) on the trail both down and up. It seemed everyone was impressed with what Ele could do and cleared her on. I kept her off-leash, but would hook her up when another dog came by just in case.
There was one point when I think she was tired and tried to hide in a bush, but otherwise showed spirit the entire time.
I’m glad Sumrall packed as much water as she did. All three of us got a workout and needed to rehydrate frequently. We had a collapsible water bowl and I’d hold it right by her mouth to encourage drinking. By the time we got down to the falls, Ele laid down in the cold stream to cool off and the three of us relaxed on a rock for about an hour.
The return trip was arduous. After all the work you’ve done, you’ve now got to go uphill and there are 2 or 3 sections that are tough. I was very impressed with how well Ele could climb and jump over the rocks and boulders and surprised at just how much gripping strength her claws had on the soft, dusty soil areas.
By 5:30, we had made it back up to the dirt road and to the truck. I was beat and showed it. Sumrall and Ele might have been, but hide it better.
We ended the day with a refreshing Hairy & Merry self-wash (with soapy massage) for Ele, a double-portion of her Acana dog food, and some relaxation for everyone.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind before you and your dogs attempt this hike:
- Snakes. We did not see any rattlesnakes on Saturday, but they are out there. Make sure you keep your dogs away from rattlesnakes, and stop any curiosity they might have. Snakes won’t bite a dog because it’s trying to be mean — It’ll bite because it’s scared.
- Water. You need to budget water for people and dogs, and keep in mind you’ll end up wasting water left in a bowl if your dog doesn’t finish it during a break. We took about 60 oz and wouldn’t take a drop less in the future.
- Paws. You’ll want to check paws during the hike for debris or sharp objects that may become lodged. You’ll obviously notice a limp immediately, and you’ll need to remedy what caused it immediately to prevent further injuries.