San Dieguito River Valley ConservancySan Dieguito
River Valley Conservancy

Coast to Crest Trail Challenge

| Conservation

Explore some of the San Dieguito River Park’s most iconic spots in the Coast to Crest Trail Challenge!

From July 1st, 2017 through June 30th, 2018, complete the five River Park hikes listed below. You can complete them in any order, in your own time, or with the Conservancy—we’ll lead five guided hikes (one on each trail) throughout the year.

Each hike has a designated spot where you’ll take a selfie. Once you’ve completed all five hikes, email all your selfies to for verification.

Everyone who completes the Challenge and submits photos for verification will receive special certificate and decal, along with prizes from our partners: $10 in Adventure Bucks from A16 and a 20% coupon from REI while supplies last –plus bragging rights and at least five cool outdoor adventures!

Inspiration credit goes to the Mission Trails’ 5-Peak Challenge.


  • The Coast to Crest Trail Challenge starts on July 1st, 2017 and goes through June 30th, 2018. All hikes must be completed during this timeframe.
  • The Challenge (including Conservancy-led hikes) is FREE.
  • Follow all regulations for each trail.
  • Hikes may be completed in any order.
  • Use #C2CChallenge for social media.

The Conservancy is leading guided hikes for people at each location. All of these hikes are at full capacity. To be placed on a waiting list, click on the link of the hike you would like to join below:

Bernardo Mountain Summit, January 20, 2018

Clevenger Canyon South, February 24, 2018


San Dieguito Lagoon Trail map here.

Selfie spot: Old Grand Ave. Overlook Bridge

Miles: 5.50 round-trip.
Difficulty: easy
Hiking and biking. Dogs allowed on leash.

Directions: Take the I-5 freeway to Via de la Valle. Go east on Via de la Valle, turn right on San Andres by California Bank and Trust at 2775 Via de la Valle. Park along San Andres, then access trail at kiosk.

The intertidal marsh habitat at the San Dieguito Lagoon is among the most rare and threatened habitat in California. Starting the fall 2006, an ambitious restoration project created 115 acres of wetlands in addition to the traditional coastal sage scrub habitat.

The Lagoon is a popular spot for birdwatchers as it provides habitat for a number of endangered species. It’s also a popular stopping point for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway.

In 2016, the River Path Del Mar along the south side of the Lagoon was extended from Jimmy Durante Blvd. east to the Old Grand Ave. Overlook Bridge.

Volcan Mountain Directions map here.

Selfie spot: The Scope at the Summit

The Volcan Mountain ridge is iconic as both the headwaters of the San Dieguito River and the highest point in the River Park (5,300 feet at the summit). Ironside Spring feeds Santa Ysabel Creek, which meets Santa Maria Creek in San Pasqual Valley to become the San Dieguito River.

The Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is home to mixed conifer, oak and cedar forest, native grassland, and seasonal ponds. The summit features sweeping views of Earthquake Valley and the Salton Sea to the east, and on a clear day, all the way to the ocean to the west.

Just as striking as the views from the summit is the beautiful Hubbell Gateway at the beginning of the trail. The striking entry monument was designed by local artist and architect James Hubbell and constructed by dedicated volunteers.

Del Dios Gorge Trail map here.

Selfie Spot: Rattlesnake Viewpoint

Miles: 4.54-miles, round-trip
Difficulty: moderate
Hiking and Biking. Dogs allowed on leash.

Directions: here.

Rest assured—the Rattlesnake Viewpoint gets its name not from frequent inhabitants (though do keep an eye out for slithering friends), but from the shape the viewpoint bench (built from native rock) forms.

Just as striking as Del Dios Gorge’s beauty is its archaeological significance. The area is home to the C.W. Harris Site Archaeological District, which has artifacts going back 9,000 years, to San Diego County’s earliest inhabitants.

The Lake Hodges Dam controls the river’s flow through the Gorge. The natural landscape is made up of both riparian vegetation and coast live oak. You can also see the historic Hodges Flume, which transported water from Lake Hodges to the San Dieguito Reservoir until 2003. Although the water is transported by gravity, an optical illusion makes it look like the water is traveling uphill.

Bernardo Mountain Trail map here.

Selfie spot: Bernardo Summit (with Lake Hodges in the background)

3.9 miles/strenuous (Summit Trail only; total hike mileage depends on your starting point)

Hiking and biking. Dogs allowed on leash.

Directions: here.

Bernardo Mountain rises 1,100 feet on the north side of Lake Hodges. Its hillsides and areas around the base are full of coastal sage scrub and prickly pear cacti, providing habitat for the California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren. The summit offers breathtaking panoramic views where golden eagles once nested.

The Summit Trail breaks north from the longest completed segment of the Coast to Crest Trail (22 miles, from Santa Fe Valley to San Pasqual Valley).

Clevenger Canyon South Trail map here.

Selfie spots: Chairs (east fork) OR “End of Trail” sign (west fork)

4.4 miles/strenuous (east fork); 2.8 miles/strenuous
Hiking only. Dogs allowed on leash.

Directions: To get to San Pasqual and Clevenger Canyon from downtown San Diego, take state Route 163 north and continue onto Interstate 15 north. Exit at Via Rancho Parkway and travel east. Turn right on San Pasqual Valley Road and follow signs to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The southern trail head is located 5.3 miles from San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Clevenger Canyon is named for John Clevenger and his family, who settled in the San Pasqual Valley in 1872. The South Trail traverses hillsides full of low-lying coastal sage scrub and taller, denser southern mixed chaparral. Wildflowers emerge in the spring, coloring the hillsides with lilacs and other blooms.

The South Trail splits and reaches a 1,550-foot summit on the west fork, with sweeping views of San Pasqual Valley. The east fork takes hikers to two summits, at 1,755 feet and 1,635 feet, with views of Boden Canyon and beyond to Palomar Mountain, Volcan Mountain, and the Laguna Mountains. The east fork features something unusual: two wire-mesh chairs bolted to a boulder from which you can survey the surroundings.