A popular Cleveland National Forest hiking trail that had been closed to the public since a teenager fell to his death from a cliff in the area two summers ago reopened April 5 under tightened restrictions.
Ramona Fire Department/Cal Fire Station 81 in San Diego Country Estates reported that it responded to one medical aid call from the trail on Saturday. Engineer/Paramedic Dan Mora said a female in her mid-20s complained of leg cramps as she was hiking back from the falls, but she was able to hike out.
The western access to Cedar Creek Falls is available by reservation, with 75 permits for individual visitors or groups of up to five people available each day, at a cost of $6 each, authorities said. The passes can be obtained online at recreation.gov, a federal parks website.
Those using the path, which begins off Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates in Ramona, are subject to several regulations, including bans on drinking and cliff-diving into pools at the falls. Deputies and forest rangers will actively enforce the rules, according to sheriff’s officials.
Law enforcement officers were on hand over the weekend at the trailhead to make sure hikers complied.
The rugged 5.5-mile trail had been closed since July 9, 2011, three days after 16-year-old Joseph Meram of El Cajon slipped while walking on a footpath and plunged off an 80-foot-high precipice over a pond known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, fatally striking his head on boulders during the fall.
San Diego County reported recently it is suing the U.S. Forest Service to get the agency to set aside its decision to reopen the western access.
“The lawsuit is in response to the forest service’s decision to ignore both the public safety and fiscal concerns raised by the county during the appeal of the permit system plan,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
Cedar Creek Falls has long been popular with sightseers and thrill-seekers who enjoyed leaping from bluffs into the swimming hole, often during alcohol-fueled youth gatherings.
The eastern entrance to Cedar Creek Falls, off Eagle Peak Road near Julian, reopened last April.