Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 San Diego - Coastal & Western County Season: All year

San Dieguito County Park


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On the trail at San Dieguito County Park
On the trail at San Dieguito County Park
Geology in San Dieguito County Park
Geology in San Dieguito County Park

San Dieguito County Park

  • Location: North San Diego County, near Del Mar and Solana Beach.  From I-5, exit at Lomas Santa Fe and drive east (turn left if you’re coming from the north, right if from the south) for one mile.  Turn left on Highland Drive and go 0.7 miles to a T-junction with El Camino Real.  Turn right and park in a dirt turnout on the right side of the road, just before the entrance to the park.  If no parking is available you can park inside for $3 per vehicle.
  • Agency: County of San Diego
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: Del Mar
  • More information: here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 4
0:00 - North entrance to San Dieguito County Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – North entrance to San Dieguito County Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Though it’s basically a suburban recreation park, San Dieguito County Park is a pleasant surprise for hikers, with a few trails that climb up the hillside and provide some nice views of the surrounding area. Water features, picnic areas and playground equipment make the park and its trails a great destination for families with small children.

0:04 - Beginning of the hiking trail past the picnic area (times are approximate)
0:04 – Beginning of the hiking trail past the picnic area (times are approximate)

The 1.7-mile loop described here, one of many possible routes, circles the park, stopping at three lookout points. Enter the park’s north gate, passing by some fountains and turn right at the first intersection (the left road is your return route). Almost immediately, turn left into a small parking lot and look for a trail leading into the bushes past some picnic tables. Across a field, look for a signed hiking trail and begin climbing some stairs.

0:08 - View from the first lookout point
0:08 – View from the first lookout point

The ascent is short but surprisingly steep. The trail splits and soon rejoins just below the first lookout point. After enjoying the scenery, continue following the trail past some playground equipment which can be accessed by a footbridge. Past the bridge you reach the second lookout point.

0:16 - Dirt service road past the second lookout
0:16 – Dirt service road past the second lookout

The trail then heads briefly downhill and back up to a dirt service road.  Bear right onto the road and pass by some interesting geological formations before joining another picnic area near the park’s south entrance.

0:25 - Turn left onto the paved road
0:25 – Turn left onto the paved road

From here, look for another sign indicating the hiking trail on the right side of the picnic area. Follow it to the south end of the park, where it heads east, following Lomas Santa Fe Drive (about 3/4 of a mile from the start.)

0:30 - View from the third lookout
0:30 – View from the third lookout

After a short distance, the trail heads back into the park, bearing left on an abandoned paved road. A dirt trail heads off to the left, bringing you to the third and highest lookout point, about a mile from the start.

0:37 - Bear left and follow the trail through the trees
0:37 – Bear left and follow the trail through the trees

After enjoying the view, head downhill on a trail to the right of the platform. As you pass by another picnic area, bear left and follow the trail through a grove of trees. Walk down the grass to the end of a paved road, which you will follow back to the park’s entrance.

0:38 - Head through the picnic area to the paved road back to the park's entrance
0:38 – Head through the picnic area to the paved road back to the park’s entrance

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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One comment

  1. I stopped off to check out this park on my way to a meeting in La Jolla. It’s easy to get to from the freeway, has free parking right outside the gate (gate closes at 8 PM this time of year), nice playground, clean restrooms. All of the trailheads are marked “Hiking Trail.” Duh. Friendly ranger gave me a map. Worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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