Del Dios Gorge

The Del Dios Gorge section of the Coast to Crest Trail holds both natural beauty and historical significance. The trail runs between the scenic San Dieguito River and the Del Dios Highway, just downstream of Lake Hodges. Remains of the historic Hodges Flume can be seen on the hillside above the highway, and the area is home to the C.W. Harris Site Archaeological District, where artifacts from over 9000 years of human habitation have been found.

We began at the Santa Fe Valley staging area off of Del Dios Highway. From the gravel parking area, it was a short walk up the paved driveway to reach the trailhead.

At the top of the hill, we found the start of the Del Dios Gorge trail on the left. To the right was the Santa Fe Valley Trail, a hike for another day.

The dirt trail was a bit muddy from recent rains, but otherwise was in good shape.

But the rains also meant lots of water in the river below.

The Del Dios Gorge Highway was just opposite the river, running parallel to the trail. Unfortunately, this meant there was a fair amount of traffic noise interrupting the lovely serenade of morning birdsong.

Above the highway were remnants of the old flume that used to transport water from Lake Hodges to northern coastal San Diego County.

Around .65 miles a utility road connected led off to the right. We continued straight.

At .7 mile we came to a “Y” split. The left fork led a short way to a small overlook with a picnic table. The trail continued to the right. We went over to the overlook to check out the view.

We resumed hiking along the main trail, and at .9 mile came to a “T” junction. The right branch was another utility access road. We turned left and began down hill towards the river.

Around 1.1 miles we came to a large bridge spanning the river.

From the bridge we were able to get some more views of the water.

On the far side of the bridge, the trail was situated below the level of the nearby highway, so the traffic noise wasn’t quite so loud. On our right we could hear the sound of water flowing over rocks, mostly hidden by thick vegetation.

We passed some lovely oak trees and descended further down into the gorge.

At 1.7 miles there was a small overlook on the right with a bench.

From here we had some decent views of the water below.

Before long we caught our first glimpse of Lake Hodges dam in the distance.

At 2 miles we reached our destination – the Rattlesnake viewpoint. While rattlesnakes are always a possibility on San Diego trails, the viewpoint is actually named for the stone rattlesnake built here, not the presences of actual snakes.

Young children will no doubt enjoy the pipescope in the middle of the viewing platform that shows viewers specific items of interest in the area.

The trail continues on towards Lake Hodges, but we turned around at this point and headed back to the car.

View the full photo gallery

From I-5, take the Via De La Valle exit. Head east on Via De La Valle for approximately 5.2 miles. Turn right onto Paseo Delicias/Highway S6 (Del Dios Highway). Continue on Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway for 2.9 miles. Just past Calle Ambeinte, there is a small produce market on the right. Turn into the market’s parking lot, and find the entrance to the San Dieguito River Park staging area at the southwestern edge of the lot. Drive down the long driveway to find a parking lot at the bottom. map

Total Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 550 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
San Dieguito River Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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