Discovering the Coast to Crest Trail

Hike from Del Mar to Volcan Mountain



Volcan Summit

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In San Diego, we know a thing or two about hiking; we’ve all spent countless hours trekking the dusty paths and beachside cliffs. Once completed, the new Coast to Crest Trail will be the backbone of the San Dieguito River Park. Currently, you can hike along 45 miles of the planned 70–mile trail, which meanders from Del Mar (the Coast) to the summit of Volcan Mountain (the Crest), just north of Julian. The completed segments are popular with hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians and offer a unique opportunity to either encounter nature right in your own backyard or to journey into more rural, backcountry regions in San Diego County.

If to you “hiking” means driving out to a remote trailhead, outfitting yourself in heavy hiking boots and a bulky backpack and climbing up a steep trail, you might be surprised by what you find in the San Dieguito River Park. Its trails range from short and flat to long and strenuous. There are accessible trailheads in Del Mar, the Del Dios Gorge, Lake Hodges and the San Pasqual Valley. As the trail ventures east, the trailheads and surroundings get more remote and rugged, but they are still a quick drive from North County.

San Diego County has wonderfully rich biodiversity, and the Coast to Crest Trail gives you a chance to experience the region’s native wildlife and varied habitats. Since 2010, over 200 different bird species have been spotted at the San Dieguito Lagoon alone! Lake Hodges is also a popular “rest stop” for migrating birds, giving birdwatchers many chances throughout the year to see rare species.

Here are some other highlights along the trail:

Sikes Adobe Historic Farm

Stops along Lake Hodges, Bernardo Bay or San Pasqual Valley are not complete without a visit to the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead. Located at the Sunset Drive staging area in Escondido, the 1870 adobe is one of the oldest structures in San Diego County and is a California state point of historical interest. Nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike will enjoy the nearby Bernardo Town Site and Mule Hill Battlefield, as well as Sikes Adobe’s own “living museum.”

Called Rattlesnake Viewpoint because native rocks were used to create a rattlesnake-shaped seating area and viewpoint, this spot is situated directly on the Coast to Crest Trail just west of the Lake Hodges Dam. It offers sweeping vistas of Del Dios Gorge and an up-close view of the dam architecture. With interpretive panels, sculptures and other objects of interest, Rattlesnake Viewpoint is a perfect hiking destination from either the Santa Fe Valley or Rancho Drive staging areas.

Spanning Lake Hodges just west of I–15, the David Kreitzer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge is the world’s longest stressed-ribbon bridge, which provides convenient access between the North Shore and Bernardo Bay sections of Lake Hodges. An impressive combination of architecture, engineering and art, it serves as the epicenter of an international flyway for migratory birds, meaning this is the perfect viewpoint to spot exotic species.

Located directly off the Coast to Crest Trail, Raptor Ridge provides an ideal view of the San Pasqual Valley, appealing to hikers as well as to the valley’s eagles, hawks, vultures and falcons—often seen flying startlingly low overhead. Cyclists experience the thrill of downhill speed on the single-track segments of this trail. Raptor Ridge and similar, nearby cliffs provide shade for this legendary agricultural region.