A dad hiking with his girlfriend and 13-year-old son over the Father’s Day weekend saved his family from the top of a Californian waterfall thanks to a hopeful call for help.

Curtis Whitson and his family became stranded three days into a hiking trip by the Arroyo Seco river when they were trapped by high water levels near a waterfall.

The 44-year-old told the Washington Post he hiked the same route seven years ago and descended the same waterfall by climbing down a rope attached by its side.

But this time, there was no rope to be found and it was too dangerous to backtrack.

Stuck, the trio came up with an optimistic idea.

“I don't think this type of thing happens to virtually anybody,” said Mr Whitson.

“Anything can happen on a trip like that.

"There's always something that you risk.

The word 'help' was scratched on either side of the bottle. Credit: Cindi Barbour/CBS

"We came to the waterfall and knew immediately it was not what we wanted to see in regards to the water levels.”

Stranded miles from the nearest campsite, he wrote an SOS note on a receipt his girlfriend brought to keep score playing card games: “We are stuck here at the waterfall. Get help please.”

The family was rescued before long. Credit: CBS

Mr Whitson then put the message into a green water bottle and chucked it over the waterfall, hoping the hikers they could hear below might pick it up and come to their rescue.

“We had exhausted everything that we could do and now how long was it going to take for someone to find us?” Mr Whitson asked.

“We were optimistic, but it was a matter of trying to keep our emotions high and positive because we were prepared for a long haul.”

This was not Curtis Whitson's first time hiking in the area. Credit: CBS

The note was picked up by unknown hikers and a rescue team tracked the family down by midnight on June 15.

They were brought back to safety the next morning.

“It just feels like a touch of Hollywood and there's nothing Hollywood about any of us.

"We're just normal people that had a set of circumstances that worked out the way it did,” Mr Whitson added.