Imagine 55-miles of uninterrupted hiking from the coast of San Diego to the crest of its mountains. Developers of the ambitious Coast to Crest Trail
plan to eventually connect 60,000 acres through San Dieguito River Park
. Some sections are already open, and the 7.2-mile (round-trip) trail to the summit of Bernardo Mountain is one of the most scenic and accessible. The first half-mile runs flat on a paved path next to the freeway; but not to worry, you’ll soon veer away from it by connecting to the North Shore Trail and hitting a beautiful stride among the wetlands of Lake Hodges, a 1,200-acre reservoir designated as a globally important bird area (home to humming birds, snowy egrets, and the threatened California gnatcatcher). Pass the Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge—the longest stressed-ribbon bridge in the world! Rock hop across Felicita Creek and turn up Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail for the 2-mile peak push on a single track wrapping around the north side of the mountain. Gentle undulations give way to a thigh-burning last mile before reaching the summit covered with sage and boulders. From 1,150 feet, look down to glistening Lake Hodges, flanked by green-work patches of the Elfin Forest Natural Reserve. To the south and east, Black Mountain and Woodson Mountain frame the city of Poway. This is how to reach new heights!
BONUS: Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the North San Diego Certified Farmers Market, happens at Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead on the south side of Sunset Drive, a few hundred feet from the trailhead. Grab a snack for the trek.
Take I-15 to the south end of Escondido in north San Diego County. Exit on Via Rancho Parkway and drive one block east. Turn right on Sunset Dr., curving back toward I-15. Pull into the small lot for the San Dieguito River Park trailhead off the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. Take a copy of the trail map and begin down the paved walkway and bike path heading south alongside the interstate. After half a mile, cross underneath I-15 and wrap around the lake to the bicycle/pedestrian bridge. Continue west along the lake on North Shore Trail, passing Felicita Creek to reach Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail, 1.65 miles from the start. Turn right and hike 1.95 miles to the summit, staying to the left through two junctions with adjoining neighborhood trails. You will pass a large holding tank with 0.3 mile to go. The trail ends at the summit. Dog-friendly!