When thinking of the famous “crests” of Del Mar, it's easy to imagine the majestic waves crashing down on the town’s iconic beaches. And while the swells definitely provide for great surf, head to the town’s turf for a different kind of crest. Enter Crest Canyon Open Space Park. A part of the southern section of San Dieguito Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, the small but beautiful green space can be explored on a 2.2-mile loop that features famous flora, lagoon views, and sandstone cliffs.
Park at the southeastern corner of the park (the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Durango Drive) to ensure comprehensive exploration of the charming yet rugged suburban oasis. Head north and avoid any spur trails as you parallel Durango Drive to your east and the beginning of great canyon views on your west. You may also have to spend some time on the sidewalk, as endangered Dudleya brevifolia succulents reside here (look for signs).
After just under a half-mile along the canyon rim, reach the official trailhead entrance at the intersection with Lozana Road. From here you descend into the canyon via some quaint wooden stairs, along the striking orange of steep-sloping sandstone cliffs. The reserve is populated with chaparral classics, like sagebrush, buckwheat, toyon, prickly-pear cactus, and even yucca (to name just a few), but hikers will notice the real stars right away: towering Torrey pines. There are multiple specimens throughout the hike as you meander north through current indigenous plant and habitat restoration efforts, with the San Dieguito Lagoon in your sights ahead.
The trail ends just past the 1-mile mark at Racetrack View Drive; here you’ll cross the road for a lagoon vista point (fittingly framed by the Del Mar fairgrounds). On the return trip heading south, take the leftmost trail (east side of the reserve) that heads toward those bluffs where it’s a tad more rugged before reconnecting with the original trail.
SUNSET TIP: Visit at sunset for crepuscular action—you may spot coyotes, rabbits, and quail, but also listen for towhee and the threatened California gnatcatcher.
To get to the southeast trailhead and entrance to Crest Canyon Open Space Park, take the I-5 to the Del Mar Heights Road exit and exit west. After 0.5 mile, you will reach the intersection with Durango Dr. Make a right to find immediate street parking and the trailhead. Dog-friendly!
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