From July 1 – July 3, 2018, I completed the Coast to Crest Challenge, hosted by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy! Here is my “race recap” 😉
I found out about the Coast to Crest Challenge from the @hike.sandiego Instagram account a few weeks ago and got excited, knowing that I’d be heading to San Diego this summer (where I grew up, and where my parents still live). The challenge, hosted by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy (SDRVC), is to complete 5 specified hikes along the 70-mile Coast to Crest Trail anytime between July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019, and take a selfie at a designated location along each trail. Those who complete the challenge fully receive a certificate and small prize pack.
I ended up being in San Diego from June 29 – July 3, which gave me just enough time to start the new round of the 2018-2019 Coast to Crest Challenge starting on July 1… and finishing just a few hours before I left to drive back to Utah!
I’m going to outline the five hikes in this year’s Coast to Crest Challenge, share my favorites, and give little tidbits about each trail.
General tip: I recommend doing these hikes earlier in the morning when the marine layer is still covering the sky. On the practical side of things, there isn’t much shade on any of the trails so the marine layer helps keep it cooler. On a personal note, I just think the marine layer also makes everything look really cool. This is also coming from the girl who lives in Utah, so we don’t have a marine layer there, just clouds and the occasional fog. The marine layer is now one of my favorite things about Southern California, just because I haven’t had it regularly for several years!
Trail #1: Santa Ysabel East Preserve Kanaka Loop, 1 July 2018
July 1 landed on a Sunday. I don’t typically run on Sundays to observe the day of rest, but sometimes I hike! I knew I needed to use every day I could to complete these trails, so on Sunday afternoon I grabbed my brother (thank you, Gary!!) and we went up to Julian to hike this trail.
The SDRVC website said that this trail is 6.7 miles and rated easy/moderate. My Garmin clocked us in at 7.09 miles with 958 ft of elevation gain (which doesn’t matter much in San Diego, but I live in Utah where most of my hikes include climbing at least a bit up a mountain, so I pay attention to elevation gain!).
I liked this hike and had a lot of fun doing it with my brother. I also learned that I’m scared of cows (they’re huge and just stare at you) and I’m grateful that Gary kept his cool while I nervous laughed every time we passed near them. There was little shade on the hike, so if you do it, I recommend wearing a hat + sunscreen.
Fun Fact: We also saw a lot of rabbits and a coyote. Gary, did I miss any animals?
Trail #2: Piedras Pintadas Trail, 2 July 2018
I did Trails 2 and 3 on Monday, July 2, and I chose to run them — though I stayed conservative with my pace and hiked a bit of the uphill to conserve energy, knowing that I had more trails ahead over the next two days. I was also treating these two days of running as my “long run” during my “peak week.” If those words mean nothing to you, continue on! I’m just nerding out about running training. Haha!
This was probably my FAVORITE trail out of all of them. The website said this trail is 4.4 miles round trip and rated easy. My Garmin said it was 3.91 miles and had 331 feet of elevation gain.
The route took me from the parking lot, to educational signs about the Kumeyaay Natives who used to live in the region, to crossing a stream, then to a loop that led me near Lake Hodges and up the hill to an incredible overlook—then back to the beginning. It was a beautiful area. The trails were also well maintained, clear, and mostly flat with some gradual inclines, making it very hikeable/runnable for most people (there is a retirement home across the street and I think some of the residents walk on these trails).
Trail #3: Santa Fe Valley Trail, 2 July 2018
My second trail on Monday… and my least favorite of the whole challenge. Website says 4.4 miles round trip and rated easy. My Garmin said 3.74 miles and 390 feet of elevation gain.
By the time I got there, the marine layer had burned off so the sun was shining pretty brightly. I also saw no other person on the trail, which is kind of eerie to me. I let my brother know where I was and when to expect me back, just to be safe!
Most of the trail ran along a golf course, then a lot of switchbacks in a canyon lined by neighborhoods, and ended at power line poles. The two things I liked: the switchbacks made the incline very gradual, so I could pretty easily run most of the switchbacks; and there was a very small stretch of the trail that felt a bit tropical and had a small lake nearby, that felt a bit like Jurassic Park maybe? So that was cool, but also only lasted literally a minute or two while I ran by.
While I wouldn’t recommend this trail… I do recommend it if you want to complete the challenge! 😉
Trail #4: Raptor Ridge, 3 July 2018
THIRD AND FINAL DAY! The website says 4 miles round trip and rated easy/moderate. My Garmin said 4.51 miles and 363 feet of elevation gain. *I should note that I started my watch at the parking lot, and you had to run by a palm tree farm for a bit and cross the street before the trail itself started. On the way back, I stopped by watch right before crossing the street and walked the rest of the way back along the palm trees to the parking lot. So the trail is probably somewhere between 4-4.75 miles.
The Raptor Ridge Viewpoint trail was pretty beautiful. This is probably my second favorite hike (or tied for second with the Ramona Grasslands Preserve). It starts, as I said, at a parking lot across the street from the actual trail. You then walk beside a palm tree farm for a bit before crossing the street at a designated spot. After you cross the street, you’re then in a more open area with a lot of native Southern California plants. The trail is mostly flat here, with some small rolling hills. The trail then takes you off to the right and you begin making your way up the hill. There are benches and picnic tables at the viewpoint—and it really is an incredible view! I recommend walking around a bit and seeing the different vantage points. I like this more rural area of Escondido/San Diego a lot.
Note: There is no bathroom or port-a-potty at the parking lot or anywhere along this trail. A plant may or may not have been watered during this trail run.
Personal note: While I was trying to take it easy yesterday, I really did my best to push my pace today—though my pace ended up being very similar to those of the day before. During the second half of this run, as I began my descent, I started to feel my right IT band get tight—which has never happened before—and I started noticing some tightness in my shins too. I had to take it easier on the downhill than I would have liked to because of this. I think this was just from overuse over the last couple days. Gratefully, I didn’t notice either issue on the next run.
Trail #5: Ramona Grasslands Preserve, 3 July 2018
LAST TRAIL!! The website said 3.5 miles round trip, rated easy. My watch said 3.4 miles round trip with 277 feet of elevation gain.
I had intended to do this hike first on Tuesday, but when I arrived just before 6am I discovered that the gate was locked and wouldn’t be open until 8am. I was pretty frustrated (I had woken up early to get back on the road to Utah as soon as I could, and this altered my timing a bit), but it turned out okay. When I finally got there, I was grateful that there was a nice port-a-potty in the parking lot (with water and paper towels even—see, these things matter to me, haha) and that there were several cars already there. This is apparently a popular spot, and I understand why!
This is another very runnable/hikeable trail. The incline is mostly gradual (the back end is a little steeper at a point but it’s still very manageable), the trail is clear, and the mileage is definitely doable for hikers of most experience levels (the mileage is probably closer to 3 miles if you just did the Wildflower Loop, or even shorter if you just did the smaller loop to the left, whose name I can’t recall. So there are a couple different options. The challenge had me complete both loops). For all of these reasons, I definitely recommend this trail to everyone! It’s also very beautiful, and I’m guessing at a certain time of the year, Wildflower Loop is particularly beautiful (though the plant life was pretty sparse at this time of the year).
Aside from feeling tired, I felt pretty good on this trail. I continued to run/walk it, but found bursts of energy to go up little hills toward the second half, and power to the end. Miraculously, even though this was one of two most inland trails (the most inland being the first one in Santa Ysabel), I even had the marine layer covering for the first half of the run, until around 8:30am. That was sure a blessing!
To summarize: from July 1 – 3, I hiked/ran 22.5 miles—which is more miles in THREE DAYS than my average WEEKLY mileage lately (my weekly mileage lately is closer to around 17 miles). I am SO STOKED and SO TIRED after completing this challenge!
I THINK I was one of the first people to finish the challenge for the year—if not THE first. I finished just before 9am on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. According to Instagram (#c2cchallenge), it looks like another man finished later that day. I think he was hiking the trails (as I think most people will do) so that’s even more time on his feet, which is crazy impressive to me.
I loved this challenge. It was worth the 5am and 6am mornings, even during my “vacation.” It was (mostly) worth feeling so tired during this trip, and it was definitely worth starting my day each morning on the trails. If you live in San Diego or are going to the area sometime, I recommend checking this challenge out. You don’t need to do it in 3 days—you have an entire year to do all 5 hikes, and you can do them at whatever pace you’d like, as long as you’re on your feet!
Thanks to SDRVC and Hike San Diego for creating and managing this awesome challenge! It was a joy to participate in it!