San Dieguito Lagoon

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Originating from a spring on Volcan Mountain in Julian, the waters of Santa Ysabel Creek combine with other streams and creeks to form the San Dieguito River. This watershed traverses a 55 mile corridor across the county, eventually flowing into the Pacific Ocean at the San Dieguito Lagoon in Del Mar. Eventually, the Coast to Crest Trail will span that full distance, but as of now it exists as a series of non-contiguous (but ever-growing) series of trail segments.

The westernmost segment of the Coast to Crest trail runs along the northern side of the San Dieguito Lagoon. The inter-tidal marshland of the Lagoon is a unique ecosystem that provides habitat for a multitude of plants, birds, fish, and other animals.

We decided a hot, muggy summer weekend was the perfect time for an easy coastal hike, so headed out to San Dieguito Lagoon. There is a large dirt parking lot and staging area on the east side of San Andres Drive just after you turn from Via De La Valle, but we just parked along the street. Stepping out of the car, we were immediately presented with impressive views of the marsh. The trail runs both east and west of this point. 20150822_DSC5101-EditSan Dieguito

Today we were heading west, so we set off from the trailhead at the end of the cul-de-sac, passing the requisite kiosk and information signs. 20150822_DSC5105-EditSan Dieguito

Just beyond, the wide, crushed gravel trail passed through a corridor of lush green growth. 20150822_DSC5109-EditSan Dieguito

Some lizards skittered off the trail as we approached, but hesitated along the edge of the bushes long enough for us to get a few pictures.20150823DSC_2790San Dieguito

There were benches spaced out along the trail, providing pleasant views of the lagoon.20150823DSC_2791-EditSan Dieguito

Unfortunately, while the views were fantastic, the trail was heading directly towards the course of the busy I-5, and the freeway noise was somewhat overwhelming. To our right, beyond the bushes, was the backside of a shopping center.20150822_DSC5111-EditSan Dieguito

At .25 miles, the trail bent south, paralleling the freeway.20150822_DSC5114-EditSan Dieguito

We did our best to ignore the roaring traffic, and focused our attention eastward as we walked. It was fairly late in the morning, and only a handful of birds could be seen hanging out along the water’s edge.20150822_DSC5121-EditSan Dieguito

At .6 mile, there was a wide spot overlooking the river. We noticed a fish leaping out of the water and plunging back down. An informational sign informed us these were Mullet fish, and the jumping was a common activity. We waited around awhile, hoping to catch a fish mid-leap on camera, but were disappointed and eventually continued on.20150822_DSC5123-EditSan Dieguito

From here the trail turned west again, crossing a bridge over a small creek before running under the freeway. 20150822_DSC5125-EditSan Dieguito

Once on the other side, we found ourselves just south of a golf driving range, and we were soon engaged in a rather nerdy discussion of the probability of a golfer managing to hit a ball far enough to smack a hiker on the trail. Based on our collective understanding of physics, and the lack of golf balls in the immediate vicinity, we decided it was pretty unlikely.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds stretched out ahead of us on the right. To the left was the cool, blue course of the water.20150822_DSC5128-EditSan Dieguito

We spotted a blue heron and a snowy egret hanging out on the shoreline opposite us. The freeway noise had noticeably diminished as we headed west, and by now it was really quite peaceful.20150823DSC_2821San Dieguito

A little beyond, we realized we could just make out the northern end of Crest Canyon to the south, another nice little coastal hike in Del Mar.20150822_DSC5132-EditSan Dieguito

At the 1.1 mile point, the dirt trail transitioned into a wooden boardwalk, which allowed us to continue without impacting the fragile lagoon habitat (note: bikes are not allowed beyond this point). A bench and fixed pair of binoculars were here as well. A dirt parking lot from the Del Mar Fairgrounds lay to the north.20150822_DSC5134-EditSan Dieguito

The boardwalk section spanned another .25 miles, with the Del Mar Fairgrounds looming on our right, and the serene water on our left. The occasional interpretive sign punctuated the trail.The San Dieguito Lagoon Boardwalk

Finally, at 1.4 miles, we came to the other end of the trail where it met the road (Jimmy Durante Boulevard). This was our turnaround point, so we headed back the way we had come.20150823_DSC5152San Dieguito

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From I-5, take the Via De La Valle exit. Head east on Via De La Valle. Turn right onto San Andres Drive and follow it to the end. Park on the street along San Andres Drive, the trailhead is located at the end of the cul-de-sac. map

Total Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: Negligible
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes are only allowed up to the boardwalk
Facilities: There’s a port-a-potty located in the dirt parking lot about .25 miles EAST along the trail (opposite direction of this hike)
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
San Dieguito River Park
Trail Map
View route on Google Maps

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