Old Coach to Raptor Ridge

This segment of the Coast to Crest trail through San Pasqual Valley picks up where our last hike, from Mule Hill to the Old Coach connector trail, left off. This segment starts off almost perfectly flat as it continues along the San Dieguito River, then ascends to the Raptor Ridge Viewpoint where you have fantastic views of the San Pasqual Valley below. As you can guess from the name, it is an excellent spot to view hawks soaring by as they hunt.

To continue from where our last hike had left off, we began at the Old Coach Staging Area on Highland Valley Road. We found the trailhead across from the parking lot, on the opposite side of the Evergreen Nursery driveway.

We followed a wide dirt road that paralleled the Highland Valley Road a short distance. To the right was the nursery’s growing grounds, full of long rows of palm trees.

At .14 miles the trail crossed Highland Valley Road and continued on the other side.

Once across the road, it was just a short stroll to a “T” junction where we met the Coast to Crest Trail. This is the spot we had turned around at on our last hike. We turned right, heading east, to begin the next segment to Raptor Ridge.

An unnamed peak rose up before us, and we could see a road zig-zagging its way up the side. While it looked like a fun climb, it wasn’t where we were headed. The trail stayed to the left of the peak.

Around .3 mile we came to a “Y” junction. The right fork led back to the road, we took the left fork to continue on the trail.

The San Dieguito River was on our left, shrouded by brush. Closer to the trail was grass and buckwheat, full of chirping birds.

Around the 1 mile point we passed a large grove of eucalyptus trees.

A short distance off the trail was a picnic table – a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the morning. Shortly after we passed, we heard the cries of a large and boisterous pack of coyotes from somewhere up the hill beyond the trees.

Then we got our first glimpse of why they call it “Raptor Ridge” when a low-flying red-tailed hawk passed directly overhead.

The trail continued winding along the foot of the mountain on our right.

Around 1.5 miles the trail dipped down to a shady spot near the river. There was another picnic table and kiosk with trail information.

The trail had been almost completely flat up to this point, but now it began to ascend. Apparently all of the 480 feet of elevation gain was going to occur over the next .8 mile.

The trail wound up the hill through shady oaks.

We started to get some fantastic views of the San Pasqual Valley.

The trees soon disappeared and we were once again in the open. Fortunately it was still early, and the mountain still blocked much of the sun.

Around 2.3 miles we finally crested the ridge, and found a wide viewing area to our right.

The trail continued on to the left, and the actual “Raptor Ridge” viewpoint was a short distance beyond.

From the Raptor Ridge viewpoint we had an expansive view of the valley below. There was a quilt-like pattern of agricultural fields, and beyond those we could see a yellow hot-air balloon at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Zooming in we could make out a little more at the Safari Park, including some of the large enclosures, but didn’t have enough magnification to spot any animals.

A little further up the trail was another viewpoint with a picnic table. You can continue on the trail here for another two miles or so to reach the Santa Ysabel Creek Road staging area, but we intended to save that section for another day, so turned around at this point and retraced our path.

View the full photo gallery

From I-15, take the W Bernardo Dr/Pomerado Rd exit. Head east on Pomerado Road to Highland Valley Road. Turn left onto Highland Valley Road. Continue on Highland Valley Road for approximately 2.3 miles to a driveway on the right for the Evergreen Nursery Growing Grounds, the SDRP parking lot is on the right side of that driveway just off the road, and the trail head is on the opposite side of the driveway. map

Total Distance: 4.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 484 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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