REGION — From mountain summits to intertidal lagoons, hikers come from near and far to trek through the wilderness areas of Southern California.
The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy was determined to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and motivate people to experience more of them by beginning the Coast to Crest Challenge in July of this year.
Running through June 30 next year, adventurers will have the opportunity to hike five specific trails within the Coast to Crest Trail system for a chance to win prizes for completing all of them.
Hikers may tackle the trails in any order, but they must be completed before the deadline. The five trails include: San Dieguito Lagoon, Del Dios Gorge, Clevenger Canyon South, Volcan Mountain and Bernardo Mountain.
“We picked these five specific trails because they represent the diversity of the 55-mile-long (as the crow flies) River Park — from urban areas to more remote locations,” said Trish Boaz, executive director of San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.
Described as some of the “most iconic spots,” the trails take hikers through a vast array of habitats and terrain, offering prime wildlife viewing opportunities along with the adventure of the hikes themselves.
According to the conservancy, “The intertidal marsh habitat at the San Dieguito Lagoon is among the most rare and threatened habitat in California.” And this is just one of the locations trekkers will have the chance to experience. Volcan Mountain, on the other hand, is the headwaters of the San Dieguito River, and offers a summit of 5,300 feet — from low to high, visitors will experience it all.
Since initiating the challenge, 84 people have successfully completed the task — including two dogs. And Boaz says they would love to get that number up to 100 before the end of December.
“We want to get people outside to discover the beautiful landscapes in our backyard,” Boaz said. “Many of the people who have completed the challenge made the comment that they never knew places like this existed in San Diego and want to share their experiences with their families and friends. That’s why we refer to them as ‘SDRVC Champions.’”
Each trail has a designated “selfie” spot, where hikers must photograph themselves to show they’ve completed the journey. Once all five hikes have been accomplished and photos have been verified, participants will receive a special certificate and decal, along with $10 in Adventure Bucks from A16, a 20 percent discount coupon from REI and all the bragging rights they can handle — not to mention the fact that they’ve had a chance to visit some pretty amazing places.
More information may be found at www.sdrvc.org/coast-to-crest-trail-challenge.
“We do not want the San Dieguito River Park to be the best kept secret in San Diego,” Boaz said, adding that they want people of all skill levels and abilities to enjoy the trail, whether hiking, biking, on horseback or in other ways.
As with most outdoor activities, it is important to exercise caution — bring enough water for everyone in the hiking party, a first aid kit and sunscreen. It is recommended to hike with a companion or to let someone know where you will be traveling.
The Coast to Crest Challenge offers not only the motivation to get out and move, but the opportunity to visit some breathtaking wilderness areas.
“By listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind, seeing wildlife and smelling the sage, we want their appreciation for the outdoors, nature and the environment to grow,” Boaz said.