SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Authorities urged the public Thursday to take thorough health and safety precautions when hiking the challenging trails around Cedar Creek Falls, where 18 people have had to be rescued so far this year, including one who wound up dying of suspected heat exhaustion.

On Wednesday afternoon, two 9-year-old girls were overcome by exertion and high temperatures while visiting the popular wilderness locale near Ramona with a YMCA group from La Jolla.

A sheriff's helicopter airlifted the stricken children out of the area, and medics tended to them before releasing them back to the outing's supervisors, who had ignored forest rangers' advice against taking the trek in the midday summer swelter.

Last week, a 24-year-old San Ysidro man collapsed and died as he and friends walked away from the falls. A cause-of-death ruling in the case is pending.

The main trail to the site, which features scenic waterfalls during wet seasons, is about 5 1/2 miles long, with little to no shade. The return route is mostly uphill.

Inexperienced hikers, children and seniors are advised to avoid the area, and dog owners should leave their pets at home because the paths in and out are covered in sharp rocks and get extremely hot to the touch.

Those who do venture to the falls should check out the weather forecast ahead of time, dress appropriately, take at least a gallon of drinking water and familiarize themselves with the symptoms of heat exhaustion so they can rest or seek medical help if they fall victim to it, according to sheriff's officials.

Drinking alcohol in the area is not allowed, and the cliffs surrounding the falls are closed to jumping and diving.

Public-safety videos about hiking at Cedar Creek Falls are available online at, and at