The Coast to Crest Challenge returns with five new trails

Cheryl Goddard, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s executive director, taking a selfie with “Walk ’n Talk” participants.
Cheryl Goddard, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s executive director, taking a selfie with the “Walk ’n Talk” participants at the San Dieguito Lagoon Boardwalk on July 13.
(Cheryl Goddard)

The trails include Sikes Adobe to the base of Bernardo Summit in the Rancho Bernardo area


Five trails throughout San Dieguito River Park have been chosen for the seventh annual Coast to Crest Trail Challenge.

The year-long challenge runs through June 30, 2024. Those who complete it will receive a certificate of completion and C2C patch if they submit selfie photos of themselves on each of the trails.

“Some people get very creative with their selfies,” said Cheryl Goddard, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s executive director. “In our digital newsletter we post the finishers and some have costumes and props.”

The conservancy’s annual challenge, with five designated trails per year, typically gets several hundred participants, Goddard said. During the pandemic’s early years about 400 completed the challenge; last year the finisher rate returned to the pre-pandemic numbers of around 200 to 250.

“Last year we had a lot of rainfall during the cooler months when most like to go on the trails, from November to February, so the trails were wet,” Goddard said. “It is courteous not to go when muddy and that played into our numbers.”

Goddard said there are many returnees each year.

One of those is Trish Johnson, a 28-year Poway resident who has completed the challenge five times with friend Anna Tink, and is looking forward to the 2023-24 version.

“I like being outside on the trails, seeing the different terrains and the views,” Johnson said.

San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy staff will host free “Walk ‘n Talk” events twice for each of the five chosen trails. Two have already been held this summer, with three more scheduled for later this year. All five trails will have another event next year, so challenge participants have another opportunity if they want to join in, Goddard said.

Joseph Rivera, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s conservation manager explaining San Dieguito Lagoon restoration.
Joseph Rivera, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s conservation manager, center, explaining San Dieguito Lagoon restoration efforts during the “Walk ‘n Talk” on July 13.
(Cheryl Goddard)

The first was held on July 13 with about 25 participants, according to Goddard. She said the “Walk ‘n Talk” might especially appeal to new hikers who would like to go out with staff and learn more about the area. They can register at Questions can be emailed to

The five trails in the 2023-24 challenge are:

• San Dieguito Lagoon Trail, from the ranger station to the boardwalk. It is around 3.5 miles long and described as “easy.”

• Santa Fe Valley, which is about 4 miles long and described as “moderate to strenuous.”

• Sikes Adobe to the base of Bernardo Summit is around 4 miles and rated “easy to moderate” difficulty. A “Walk ‘n Talk” is scheduled for Sept. 4.

• Santa Ysabel Lower Truck Trail is described as “moderate to strenuous” over its roughly 4 miles. A “Walk ‘n Talk” will be held on Nov. 9.

• Pamo Valley is around 3.5 miles and rated “easy to moderate.” A “Walk ‘n Talk” is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Maps and detailed descriptions can be found at

Selfie photos can be taken at any spot, unlike in previous years when a designated location was announced. They are to be emailed to with the names of everyone pictured, including dogs. A mailing address is also needed to receive the finishers packet.

Those who also post their selfies on social media are asked to tag them with @sdrvc to be entered into a drawing for a San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy T-shirt.

Goddard said the staff likes to choose a mix of difficulty levels and visual experiences when selecting trails for each challenge. They have many options — the Coast to Crest Trail system has 49 of its 71 miles established from the beach in Del Mar to the crest of Volcan Mountain near Julian.

Work on creating the 50th mile, the Osuna segment near Fairbanks Ranch to connect the four western-most miles of the regional trail to 27 contiguous miles to the east, will begin later this year. That work is possible due to $1.4 million in state funding secured by state Sen. Catherine Blakespear.

There is also a plan to complete a 13-mile gap once funding is available. This is East San Pasqual Valley to Boden Canyon (five miles) and Sutherland to Santa Ysabel West Open Space Preserve (eight miles).

Johnson said she has been on all the trails in this year’s challenge except the Santa Fe Valley one.

“That will be a fun one for us,” Johnson said.

Trish Johnson, left, and Anna Tink on the Santa Ysabel East hiking trail in December 2022.
Trish Johnson, left, and Anna Tink on the Santa Ysabel East hiking trail in December 2022. The trail was part of the 2022-23 Coast to Crest Challenge. Johnson said the snow was unexpected and “a fun surprise.”
(Trish Johnson)

“Since most are east of (Interstate) 15 they will be hard to do in the summer,” she said of the five trails. “I advise doing them in the spring or fall when it cools down.”

The east trails are harder because there is no shade and an elevation gain, Goddard said.

“So go early, take lots of water, wear sunblock and wear good shoes on the hike,” she said.

Johnson said she and Tink got into hiking several years ago while geocaching. Now they hike every weekend year-round, covering five to six miles but sometimes as many as 10 miles at a time.

“We like to go in the late morning, like 9 or 10 a.m. and when done treat ourselves to Mexican food and margaritas,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her favorite Challenge trail was the Volcan Mountain one featured during the 2017-18 challenge and again last year when “best of” were chosen for the sixth anniversary.

“The view is spectacular from the top,” Johnson said. “There is a side shoot trail, to Oak Grove, which is spectacular. The views are beautiful.”

Her advice for those new to hiking: “There is no need to go fast. Take your time and a break if it is too steep. Enjoy it. If you don’t make it to the end, that is OK. Bring lots of water. Enjoy what you are doing and don’t make it a contest.”

Johnson said she brings at least a couple liters of water when going out on warm days in order to stay hydrated.