Santa Fe Valley Trail

Someday the Coast to Crest Trail will span a full 71 miles from the San Dieguito Rivers’s headwaters on Volcan Mountain to the Del Mar coast. Currently, about 60 percent of the trail is complete, with the longest segment being the 22-mile section from Highway 78 to Santa Fe Valley. This hike covers the westernmost end of that 22-mile segment through the Santa Fe Valley.

We had been to this staging area previously when we hiked in the other direction through the Del Dios Gorge. Today we’d head west. From the parking lot, we headed up the paved road to where the trailheads lie.

On the left was the trailhead for Del Dios Gorge. The path we took was to the right – the Santa Fe Valley Trail.

The narrow single track ran alongside a chain link fence on the edge of a private golf club. To the right was an open field of dry grass and buckwheat.

The trail passed under a bridge which spanned the river.

We encountered several wooden footbridges where creeks drained into the river below.

We’d gone less than a quarter mile when we spotted something on the trail ahead of us: a rattlesnake, slowly making its way into the brush.

We approached carefully, grateful for the powerful zoom on our cameras. We got our pictures and then carefully made our way along the trail past the snake (who had since moved completely off the trail). He rattled his warning alert as we passed and kept slithering in the opposite direction, and we all went on our way. We were extra vigilant about watching the trail ahead of us for the rest of the hike, but didn’t see any other snakes.

Around .33 mile, we crossed a utility road and continued on the trail on the other side.

We were past prime wildflower season, but there were still some blooms to be found along the trail.

As we continued, we finally lost sight of the golf course and fence on our left.

We found some nice views of the riverbed too.

There were a few spots where brush overhung the trail, and numerous bees were happily buzzing around collecting pollen. After having read several recent stories of bee attacks in the county, we were a little leery of disturbing such large groups of bees. But we passed through slowly and calmly, doing our best not to disturb the brush, and the insects completely ignored us.

Around 1.33 miles, we came to the start of the first set of switchbacks. We could see the wooden railing marking the trail all the way up to the top of the hill.

The gentle switchbacks made the climb easy, and we soon found ourselves admiring the view.

We enjoyed a brief level stretch before coming around the hillside and spotting the next set of switchbacks.

Of course the trail dropped down into the canyon, losing elevation, before crossing a bridge and heading uphill again.

But once again, the climb was fairly easy. We also had a number of fence lizards, butterflies and damsel flies along the trail to keep us entertained.

The top of the switchbacks held a fantastic view.

Upon reaching the top we found a course of electric towers and an old utility road. Eventually the trail will connect to the Lusardi Creek preserve, but for now this was our turnaround point so we headed back down to retrace our route to the parking lot.

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: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 488 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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