Whatever you are doing right now….STOP! Go hike these trails! Actually, they are more of a walk than a hike, but they have just become some of my new favorites. We have hiked out at Lake Hodges more times than I can count and for some reason, we always just stayed to what we knew. But today, we were up for some exploring….and I am soo happy that we did!
After parking at the Coast to Crest Trailhead off of Via Rancho Pkwy, we headed Southwest towards Lake Hodges. Normally, we would stay on this trail, go out and back or head up to summit Bernardo Peak. But instead, we went across the pedestrian ribbon bridge to connect to the Bernardo Bay Trail and the Piedras Pintadas Trail. We were looking for a place to get in some higher mileage, but not as much climbing. That is exactly what we got today, plus a bonus of some amazing scenery to go with it.
We saw Western Grebes engaged in their unique mating ritual of “rushing” across the water in pairs, Great Egrets, Mallards, American Coots, Pelicans, turtles, butterflies, and Osprey’s (aircraft…haha!). The wildflowers are abundant right now and made for a longer hike than normal, as I had to stop every 2 minutes to take pictures!
The Piedras Pintadas trail is a the highlight of this adventure and can be done easily on it’s own. Parking to do just this section (which is a loop) is located at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. This trail is rated easy and 2.20 mi round-trip. Right now there is a little waterfall located on this trail, but not sure as the summer months come if it will still be flowing. The wildflowers were the most abundant on this section of trail and would best be viewed in early spring. It is dog and kid friendly. It felt more like an interpretive trail as they had many signs located along it’s route explaining different plant life and how the native Kumeyaay used these natural resources in their daily lives.
The Bernardo Bay trail can also be accessed from the Rancho Bernardo Community Park. It is rated easy and 1.60 mi one way. This trail takes you along the shoreline of Lake Hodges and offers you prime areas to birdwatch and enjoy some great views of the lake and surrounding area. Dog and kid friendly also.
As these trails are highly exposed, I would recommend doing them in Fall, Winter, and Spring. Overcast days, mornings, and evenings are going to be best times to go. Or, you could go on a day it thunderstorms like we did and have the trails all to yourself!
By connecting all 3 of these trails we were able to get in a great day of hiking and training.