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San Dieguito River Park offers Coast-to-Crest Trail

Seven of 12 existing trails welcome horses along 55-mile stretch

From Horsetrader staff reports - June 18th, 2009 - Feature Article
Jan Tuck and Kathy Cooksey enjoy a trail ride in San Dieguito River Park’s Lake Hodges area.

Horsetrader photo / Daniel K. Lew

Jan Tuck and Kathy Cooksey enjoy a trail ride in San Dieguito River Park’s Lake Hodges area.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY — For Southern Californians, one of the numerous equestrian trails available to the public is the San Dieguito River Park in San Diego County. One of the goals of forming the San Dieguito River Park is to create a multi-use trail system for horseback riders, hikers and bicyclists that will extend from the ocean at Del Mar to the San Dieguito River’s source on Volcan Mountain, just north of Julian. This is a distance of about 55 miles. This linear trail system has been named the “Coast to Crest Trail.”

Areas within San Dieguito River Park have been divided into 12 trails, which currently are not continuous, but the goal is to eventually connect them all into a true Coast to Crest Trail.

Future trails will be aligned along existing rights of way and back country dirt roads whenever possible, in order to minimize impacts to the natural environment. Specific trail alignments will be developed in cooperation with landowners and leaseholders in order to minimize impacts to existing uses, such as farming, cattle ranching and private residences. Trails will be separated from existing uses through setbacks, significant elevational separation, or fencing. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on park trails, except for service or emergency vehicles.

Seven Horse Trails in San Dieguito River Park
Currently, seven out of the 12 San Dieguito River Park trails can be used for horseback riding. The equestrian-use trails are: Highland Valley Trail-Lake Hodges area; North Shore Lake Hodges area; Mule Hill Historical/San Pasqual Valley Agricultural trail; Volcan Mountain trail (north of Julian); Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve-East trail; Santa Fe Valley trail; and Del Dios Gorge trail.
Specific details about the San Dieguito River Park’s 12 trails, including directions to the staging areas, trail maps and levels of difficulty, are listed at: www.sdrp.org/trails.htm

Coast-to-Crest Trail - click to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Coast-to-Crest Trail

Equestrian Trail Patrollers and Trail-Ride Leaders Needed
San Dieguito River Park is seeking equestrians for volunteer trail patrol. The volunteer patrol members act as ambassadors to the park, monitor trails, report incidents and emergencies, share park policies with visitors, and provide general park information to the public. Volunteers are required to patrol in pairs and are asked to enjoy at least one, four-hour patrol per month for a minimum of one year.

Park officials are also looking for anyone who would like to lead trail rides, or help organize horse activities. In the past, they had equestrians lead trail rides, in areas such as the North Shore Lake Hodges trail–which would lead from Del Dios area in Escondido to the Hernandez Hideway restaurant, where people can tie their horses to the posts and eat lunch, and then make the return trip back.

Another popular equestrian trail in San Dieguito River Park was the Mule Hill Historical/San Pasqual Valley Agricultural Trail. “The Mule Hill trail goes up to an area called Raptor Ridge, where the horses can go to the top and look out over the entire San Pasqual Valley,” said Barbara Baker, event and volunteer coordinator of San Dieguito River Park.

Anyone interested in volunteering as a patrol member or trail-ride leader should contact Barbara Baker by calling (858) 674-2275 Ext. 14 or e-mail: barbara@sdrp.org

Recovering from Wildfires, Horses Welcome Again
The Witch Creek Fire was the largest of the October 2007 California wildfires, and it destroyed about 62 percent of San Dieguito River Park’s trails in the mid-section. “We were really hit hard by the fires, and we only resumed our activities last fall,” Baker said.

Those fires didn’t touch the coast or the summit, but it took the whole mid-section–which was a popular area for equestrians, since staging areas there were built especially for trailers. “We were in restoration mode and had to keep people off to ascertain the damage and erosion, and ensure that the habitat would come back–both plant and animal,” Baker said. “So, trails were closed, plus we had FEMA and insurance money to rebuild bridges. We have a lot of bridges on some of our trails, like the Santa Fe Valley.”

Rebuilding bridges brides and restoring the habitat put the trails out of commission–and park officials said they were fortunate it was only for a year and a half. “We’re just now coming back and we need more patrollers out there–we’re hoping to beef back up the equestrian patrols,” Baker said. “Equestrians (both recreational trail riders and volunteer patrol members) can come back.”

20 Years of San Dieguito River Park
San Dieguito River Park is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority was created by its member agencies, the County of San Diego and the Cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego and Solana Beach in 1989. There will be a series of special events throughout 2009 and throughout the River Park.

The Vision: Like the river that begins in the ancient forests of Volcan Mountain and runs through rich farmlands of the San Dieguito River Valley to the San Dieguito Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean, the vision of the San Dieguito River Park reaches out to the future with ideals of preservation and protection of the beautiful rural character of the San Dieguito River Valley. From the Coast to Crest Trail system that will someday link trails and paths from Del Mar to Anza Borrego–more than 55 miles–to the celebration and preservation of local heritage and natural resources, the San Dieguito River Park is creating recreational and educational opportunities that interface gently with nature.

The Reality: Creating the San Dieguito River Park has and will take many years. More than 50 percent of the land within the planning area of the park is in public ownership now. Some of those areas will be set aside as habitat preserves. Appropriate recreational activities for the remaining public areas are being planned and implemented. Some trail segments are already open to the public. For funded planning projects, workshops will be held to determine where park facilities should be placed. It is park policy that private property rights will be respected and the park will not infringe upon those rights to implement its goals and objectives.

For information about San Dieguito River Park trails, activities and volunteer opportunities, visit: www.sdrp.org.

2 comments have been made on “San Dieguito River Park offers Coast-to-Crest Trail”

  1. Stephanie Moore Says:

    This is wonderful information for horse people who love to trail ride, but have no idea where to go.
    I live in Potrero, and mountainous, rocky area, and have to haul my horse at least 20 minutes to the nearest open land, and it’s a real hassle. But these trails sound worth the drive!
    Thanks for this article – I’m passing it along to other horse people up north.

  2. admin Says:

    You’re welcome, Stephanie. If you or any trail-riding friends have a favorite trail, please use this blog to share.

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