Lake Hodges West

The longest completed segment of the Coast to Crest Trail is a 22-mile segment from Santa Fe Valley to Highway 78. We had already hiked a portion along the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail from I-15 to Del Dios Community Park, and the segment through Del Dios Gorge from Santa Fe Valley to Rattlesnake Viewpoint near the Lake Hodges Dam. This left us with a gaping hole in the middle of these two sections along the western shore of Lake Hodges we had not yet completed.

We set off early one misty morning to check this segment off our list. The parking lot was full of mountain bikers, as this is a very popular riding trail. It proved to be almost as popular with bird-watchers, and we passed a large group of binocular-wielding people peering up into the trees.

The plan was to hike from Del Dios Community Park to Rattlesnake Viewpoint and back. There are many options for doing this differently, if you are so inclined: you could go the opposite direction, you could do it as a point-to-point, you could break it into two smaller segments utilizing the staging area at the intersection of Rancho Drive and Lake Drive, which is in the middle of this route, or you could make it even longer by tacking on another section.

The trail began at the edge of the parking lot. We set off, heading west, into the foggy morning.

We passed through the small park, which held a few picnic tables in nice, shady spots. We came upon a small drainage filled with water, and used one of several logs in the middle to step across. Several mountain bikers behind us wisely chose to dismount before crossing the gap.

The trail turned south, running along side a road (Lake Drive), with houses on the other side. Fortunately, it was a very quiet street, and did nothing to detract from the beautiful surroundings and peaceful morning.

The trail meandered through tall oaks and thick, green grass.

Soon, we were able to see the lake on our left.

Periodically, there were small little use trails leading down to the water’s edge.

Back on the main trail, we found large stands of cacti scattered intermittently.

We came upon a rather eroded section of trail where water trickled down from the left, draining into the lake. I expect this had been an exciting spot during the last torrential downpour, but today it was a simple crossing.

Around .95 miles we came upon a “Y” junction. The right fork appeared to go towards the road – we continued left.

Around 1.15 miles we found another kiosk along the trail, and realized we had reached another staging area. (There’s a port-a-potty in the parking area if you need it).

We continued south on the trail and came upon yet another small creek crossing.

Shortly thereafter was another “Y” junction. The two forks reconnect a short distance ahead, so choose whichever. We headed uphill to the right.

The tree cover diminished and and we had more grass and sage adorning the trail.

This also allowed for even better views of the lake itself.

We passed an area protected from boaters. Cormorants and seagulls lined up along the barricade.

The flowers were just beginning to bloom along the trail.

The further we hiked, the fewer people we encountered. The stream of mountain bikers had diminished significantly. Thanks to the quiet, we were able to see a flock of egrets resting in a nearby tree. They flew away a few minutes later as a biker passed by.

Around 2.25 miles, we had a brief uphill stint leading towards the road. At 2.45 miles, we reached a paved utility road and turned left.

The road curved around, following the contours of the lake.

Around 2.7 miles, we finally got our first glimpse of the Lake Hodges dam. Our destination was just a bit further beyond.

As we approached the dam area, the trail headed uphill again.

The short climb gave us a nice vantage point from which to admire the dam.

Del Dios Highway, a relatively narrow and curvy road, was just above us. We found a reminder to always drive cautiously on such a road alongside the trail.

Just under 3.2 miles we passed a sign denoting the entrance to Del Dios Gorge.

The trail traveled along the road for a short stretch.

We quickly came to a turnout along the highway right above the Rattlesnake Viewpoint. This is where you can park if you want to do this hike in the opposite direction or as a point-to-point.

From the turnout, the trail headed downhill into the gorge.

Here, we at last reached our destination – the Rattlesnake Viewpoint.

We sat down and rested for a little while, enjoying our snacks, and admired the nice dam view before heading back the way we had come.

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From I-15, take the Via Rancho Pkwy exit, and head west on Via Rancho Parkway. Follow Via Rancho for approximately 3.3 miles, then turn left on Lake Drive. Follow Lake Drive for approximately .8 miles, then turn left into the Lake Hodges entrance, then turn into the parking lot immediately on your right. map

Total Distance: 7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 500 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Port-a-potty at trailhead and at 1.25 miles;no water
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
San Dieguito River Park
Trail Map
City of San Diego – Hodges Reservoir
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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