Northern San Diego Adventures


Beyond the Beach

Hitting the beach isn’t the only way to spend a day in northern San Diego. Here are three ways to keep things cool beyond the summer sands.

Bike Ride Stone Brewing Co.

Bikes & Beers

There’s an easy way to lose the San Diego summer beach crowds without losing the chance to chill out. Turn two wheels inland for a 16-mile out-and-back rural road ride that starts and ends at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido. Park at the brewery and head south on Citracado Parkway. A few quick turns will have you on Harmony Grove Road. The summer days can be warm, but intermittent old-growth oak trees keep things comfortable—especially along the first part of the ride. At mile 4, you’ll pass the entrance to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. The 784-acre park has 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails as well as a few low-key picnicking areas. But if you just want to use it as a rest stop, there’s a short trail off the parking lot leading to a clearing where you can cool your feet in the year-round creek. Back on your bike, Harmony Grove Road becomes Elfin Forest Road at mile 5.5. From here, privately owned horse ranches and lemon orchards spring up on either side of you. Make a U-turn when you hit the stop sign at Calistoga Way and return the way you came. Back at Stone Brewing Co., relax in the lush 1-acre beer garden and rehydrate with one of many award-winning craft beers on tap. The Stone Levitation Ale is known to put people on cloud nine. Or opt for a Lucky Bastard Ale and call it a day!

Stone Brewing Co. is located at 1999 Citracado Pkwy. in Escondido. Hop on your bike and head south on Citracado Pkwy. Turn left on S. Andreasen Dr., then right on Enterprise St. Take a right on Harmony Grove Rd. and veer left to stay on Harmony Grove Rd. In 4.4 miles, Harmony Grove Rd. becomes Elfin Forest Rd. In 2.5 miles, make a U-turn at Calistoga Way and return the way you came. There’s no bike lane, but the shoulder is adequate and traffic is light. No dogs at Stone Brewing Co.

SUP Agua Hedionda Lagoon

Agua, Por Favor

Thousands of people drive over the 400-acre Agua Hedionda Lagoon every day on I-5, but it’s impossible to fully appreciate it at 70 mph. A stand-up paddleboard is a much better way to explore this vast wetland. “Hedionda” is Spanish for “foul smelling,” but Carlsbad’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon hasn’t smelled of anything but a sea breeze since the construction of two stone jetties in 1954 and subsequent dredging assured permanent drainage to the ocean. Rent a board from California Watersports or launch your own from their docks and head southeast toward the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Ecological Reserve. The farther you get from the freeway, the more serene things become. The din of cars gives way to the sounds of jumping mullet fish or your paddle gliding through the brackish water. Keep an eye out for snowy egrets or any of the other nearly 200 species of birds that make this wetland their home. On the south side of the lagoon sit small sandy beaches accessed only by watercraft. Beach your board and check out the coastal scrub plants that cover the shoreline. The center of the lagoon is used for water skiing and wakeboarding, but the edges are reserved for swimmers, kayaks, and paddleboards, so you can explore at ease. For a less-crowded lagoon experience, make your paddle an evening one. Smells fun, right?

Board rentals at California Watersports are $30 for one hour or $50 for two hours. You can also launch your own SUP at their docks for a $5 launch fee. Or you can park at the end of Bayshore Dr. and launch your own SUP at the small beach area, but a permit from the City of Carlsbad is required ($13 at California Watersports). To get to Agua Hedionda, exit I-5 at Tamarack Ave. in Carlsbad. Turn right on Adams St., right on Chinquapin Ave., and left on Harrison St. California Watersports is at the bottom of the hill at 4215 Harrison St. To get to the dead-end of Bayshore Dr., continue on Adams St., turn right on Park Dr. and right on Bayshore. The path to the beach is at the end of the street.

San Dieguito River Park hike

Take the Highland Road

Some developments mean expanding suburbs and urban sprawl, but not the one happening at San Dieguito River Park. Here the Coast-to-Crest Trail system is underway, with plans to connect 55 miles of corridor from the top of Volcan Mountain to the ocean in Del Mar. Most people gravitate toward San Dieguito’s lakeside North Shore Lake Hodges Trail, but to duck the crowds and hike an offshoot of the Coast-to-Crest Trail system, head for the 4-mile (round-trip) Highland Valley Trail outside Rancho Bernardo. It gets substantially less foot traffic and its singletrack trail makes it more of a hike than a walk. While sporadic oak tree shade makes Highland Trail cooler than most, it’s still smart to go in the morning for a more temperate trek. Starting from the trailhead, the mostly flat path begins with views of the northern section of Lake Hodges and Bernardo Mountain, passing through a sunbathed field of California buckwheat before dipping down to a stream crossing that’s shaded by oak and willow trees. Once across the wooden bridge, listen for the beehive that dangles from a branch 20 feet off the ground. Farther along, black sage, laurel sumac, and wild squash plants crop up beside the trail while golden, grass-covered hills spotted with boulders the size of cars and darting Cooper’s hawks keep the scenery lively. A lone picnic table set in the shade of an old oak tree marks the halfway point. Take a snack break here before heading back the way you came.

From I-15, exit Pomerado Rd./West Rancho Bernardo Rd. and turn east onto Pomerado Rd. Turn left onto Highland Valley Rd., then an immediate right into the dirt parking lot. Parking is free. Pick up a map at the trailhead. Dog-friendly!

Two Free Tickets to Savor the Central Coast

More than 200 Central Coast wineries. Over 30 of the region’s best chefs. The only female Iron Chef of America (Cat Cora!). And 2 tickets for you to be part of it all! It’s Sunset magazine’s food and wine event of the season: Savor the Central Coast, September 30 to October 2, in San Luis Obispo. Book a two-night stay with the limited-time Savor SLO Hotel Package and receive 2 complimentary tickets to the main event. Savor the Central Coast is a 4-day extravaganza with Sunset magazine editors guiding you through outdoor adventures and exciting culinary excursions. Taste wine from award-winning Central Coast wineries and guest wine region Washington State. Indulge in gourmet creations of celebrity chefs preparing locally sourced dishes. Eat and drink al fresco at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa where SLO’s culinary superstars will pair their finest creations with the most fitting wines. And join in plenty of outdoor explorations! Sunset’s publisher, Peter Medwid, is leading a kayak and paddleboard tour of the Morro Bay Estuary, and Associate Garden Editor Julie Chai will be hiking to Point San Luis Lighthouse for a tour and lunch. Savor the Central Coast with Sunset magazine this September 30 to October 2.

BONUS: Start planning your adventure with the limited-time Savor SLO Hotel Package! Book a two-night stay in any San Luis Obispo hotel from September 30 - October 2, 2011 and receive 2 free Savor tickets to the main event on Saturday, October 1 or Sunday, October 2.

To reserve your Savor SLO Hotel Package, book a San Luis Obispo two-night stay and forward your hotel confirmation receipt to When your hotel confirmation is received, a representative will contact you and arrange your Savor ticket pick-up upon hotel check-in.*Available only while supplies last. For extra information on deals promotions and special packages, sign up for the Secrets of SLO newsletter.

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