San Dieguito Lagoon’s new “Lagoon Trail” and boardwalk now stretches 1.4 miles between Jimmy Durante Boulevard and the Albertsons shopping center just south of Via de la Valle. The new segment of trail is yet another completed link in the 55-mile-long Coast to Crest Trail that will eventually stretch eastward all the way to the mile-high crest of Volcan Mountain near Julian. This effort is part of the fledgling San Dieguito River Park, which seeks to preserve as much as possible the natural features of the San Dieguito River/Santa Ysabel Creek watershed and provide various means of public access to it.
Take along a pair of binoculars if you are interested in bird-watching. Perhaps you might pick a time when the tide level is high and the water’s edge is closer to the trail. At low tide, the water recedes to a point where it is barely visible from most vantages.
You can start at either end of the 1.4-mile segment, but finding a place to park is easier on the east end. Exit Interstate 5 at Villa de la Valle, go east just past the Albertsons shopping center, and turn right on San Andres Drive. You can pick up the trail at the dead end of San Andres Drive, near the site of the future San Dieguito River Park Visitor Center.
The first two-thirds mile of the trail (for use by hikers and bikers) takes you west toward the freeway and then south to the bank of the San Dieguito River, which at this point flows underneath the concrete bridges of the freeway. As you continue under the freeway and farther west, the white noise of speeding cars mercifully fades and broad vistas of the lagoon are in view to the south, backed up by the wooded residential areas of Del Mar. At 1.1 miles into the hike you come upon an observation platform, which marks the start of the boardwalk portion of the trail. Bicyclists aren’t allowed ahead on the planked section of trail; they must turn back at this point.
The boardwalk section definitely represents 21st-century trail-building techniques, with Trex composite material underfoot and plenty of interpretive panels to educate the public. After about 0.3 mile, you come to the trail’s end on Jimmy Durante Boulevard, just south of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
If you care to walk a little farther toward the ocean, you can head south using Jimmy Durante Boulevard’s bridge over the river and pick up the short “River Path” on the far side of the bridge.
SAN DIEGUITO LAGOON TRAIL
Del Mar’s new Lagoon Trail guides hikers alongside the San Dieguito Lagoon salt marsh.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 22 miles
Hiking length: 2.8 miles round trip