The San Dieguito Lagoon trail is a short hike that leads along the mouth of the San Dieguito River and its associated lagoon. This trail is also part of the longer trail system known as the Coast to Crest Trail which runs from the Pacific Ocean to the Pacific Crest.

San Dieguito Lagoon Trail Hiking Guide

For the better part of over a century, California’s coastal lagoons have slowly become surrounded by civilization. These lagoons are often a lone refuge for many diverse species of plants and animals that make their home here. The coastal stretch of northern San Diego County has several lagoons along the Interstate-5 corridor. Each one of them serving as a place of solace to a multitude of plant, bird, reptile, and fish species.

The San Dieguito Lagoon trail runs along the edges of the San Dieguito River which forms the edges of the coastal cities of Solana Beach and Del Mar. The trail leads along the edges of the San Dieguito River mouth to the lagoon with the same name. The hike terminates where San Dieguito Lagoon empties into the Pacific Ocean at the well known, Dog Beach in Del Mar.

Some of the notable highlights along the trail will include the San Diego (Del Mar) Fairgrounds, the train trestles that run up and down the coast, and the Pacific Ocean. Once the trail leads to the lagoon fishing is allowed. Keep an eye out for the many species of birds such as egrets and ospreys. While walking past the fairgrounds, look along the light posts of the parking lots. On the top ospreys build their large nests and raise their young.

San Dieguito River Park History 

The San Dieguito River Park was officially formed in 1989. The area encompasses the entire San Dieguito River which runs from Del Mar to the its source above Santa Ysabel on  Volcan Mountain in the town of Julian.  The San Dieguito River Park is responsible for protecting approximately 92,000 acres of land along the river and its banks.

Altogether there are nearly 50 miles of hiking trails along the San Dieguito River. Eventually the plan is for a full 71 miles of hiking trails to be available that span from Del Mar to Volcan Mountain. The San Dieguito River Park makes up the lagoon portion of the eventual trail which is called the Coast to Crest Trail. Each year the San Dieguito River Park holds an annual hiking challenge encouraging visitors to visit and hike portions of the trail along the river. More information about the Coast to Crest Trail Challenge can be found here. 

On A Personal Note:

If you’re aching to get outside during the hot summer months when other places in San Diego are unbearable, this short and easy trail can offer some relief to those in need of fresh air. During the spring, California sunflowers make for some vibrant colors along portions of this trail. This is also a great spot to view egrets and osprey.

For more information, visit the San Dieguito River Park website. Are exploring the local lagoon habitats your thing? Check out the hikes in Batiquitos Lagoon or San Elijo Lagoon.

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 5% 5%
  • Overall Views: 40% 40%
San Dieguito Lagoon Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 46 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 38 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 4.8 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 4.1 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours.
  • My Time: 1 hour 35 minutes moving; 1 hour 45 minutes total.
San Dieguito Lagoon Trail Directions:
Open in maps. Directions to the San Dieguito Lagoon are fairly simple. Directions are off San Andreas Drive in Del Mar. Parking is along the street. There is ample street parking but per usual, parking fills up quicker on the weekends. There is no cost for parking. The trailhead is at the end of San Andreas Drive and clearly marked.
San Dieguito Lagoon Trial Pictures:
Who San Dieguito Lagoon Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: This is a great trail for new hikers, those that are unable to hike long distances, families, or people that just need a quick fix to get outside. 

Advanced Hikers: If you’re needing a quick fix to get outside but don’t have a lot of time, it’s a great hike.

Expert Hikers: Same. But otherwise you’ll be longing for a hike with more difficulty and distance. 

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike San Dieguito Lagoon:
San Dieguito Lagoon is generally a great hike all year long. While the trail doesn’t offer up much in terms of elevation or length, it’s a great trail to see the native California estuary habitat. Because of the close proximity to the ocean and the effect of the ocean breeze, the relative air temperature is generally cooler than that just a couple miles inland.

Summer and fall months can be hot, especially during Santa Ana events so people sensitive to heat should use caution. That being said, even during the hottest times of the year, this trail is still an option. I personally think spring is the best time to hike this area. The lagoon is full from winter rainfall, birds are plentiful and nesting, the native chaparral is green, and wildflowers are blooming.

As with any trail, it’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out.

San Dieguito Lagoon Trail Conditions:
The trail alongside of San Dieguito Lagoon is in excellent condition. The area is maintained by the San Dieguito River Park and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. The majority of the trail is made up of loose soil and gritty sand. The majority of the trail hugs the San Dieguito River as it leads into the lagoon and nears Del Mar. 

The trail leads under Interstate-5 and eventually intersects with Jimmy Durante Blvd. From here there are a couple of options. One option is to complete a small portion of the trail that extends in a short out and back to another portion of the lagoon. The other option is to use the crosswalk and continue along the Del Mar River Path until the trial ends at Dog Beach. 

The Del Mar River Path will lead to the lagoon outlet overlooking the San Diego Fairgrounds as well as crossing the train trestles. There is no poison oak along the trail. Rattlesnakes are common during the warmer months so keep your eyes open.