San Diego’s Coastal Rail Trail and Coastal Rail Service

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

A San Diego population dead set on outdoor recreation in the fine desert weather of southern California generates a high level of support for developing new recreational opportunities. The large numbers of bicyclists riding along congested Pacific Coast Highway and other roadways and in parks indicated the need for a bike trail system. A coalition of city and county agencies took on the challenge, planning the ambitious Coastal Rail Trail. The new, as yet incomplete trail parallels the coastal railroad line at a safe distance, in some places separated by a fence or vegetation. 

Bicyclists, runners, walkers, rollerbladers and wheelchair users look forward to using the 42-mile trail and greenway from Oceanside to downtown San Diego. Along the way the route passes through the towns of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Leucadia, Cardiff, Solana Beach and Del Mar, crossing coastal wetlands and tracing the coastal bluff. Where the rail line crosses narrow bridges, the trail will follow existing roads. An important element in the plan connects the Coastal Rail Trail to other trails including the Coastal Trail, Bay Shore Bikeway, Mission Bay Park, Route 56 Trail, San Dieguito River Park Trail, Batiquitos Lagoon, Route 76 Trail and the San Luis Rey Bike Path, all either planned or in use.

Predictions tell us to expect seven million recreational users annually, saving over 500,000 vehicle trips. Because the rail trail passes through the heavily developed coastal zone, it serves as a commuter trail, especially useful in the year-round mild weather. Estimates predict 22,500 commuters daily, eliminating even more vehicles from the burdened road system.

Many miles of the Rail Trail already exist, but much remains to be done. Problems to solve include routing on streets in some areas, dealing with narrow rail right-of-ways in several locations, and finding funding of at least $25 million. The CCT route described in this book both serves as an alternative to the Rail Trail and combines nicely with already opened sections of the Rail Trail to form loop trips and better explore the great territory. San Diegans expect a rich walking and cycling experience on the extensive trail system upon the completion of the Rail Trail and its connecting trails.

The Coast Express rail passenger service, with 11 daily trips in each direction between San Diego and Los Angeles, further enhances the choices for hikers, cyclists and all users of the Rail Trail and the CCT. With train stations at San Diego, Old Town San Diego, Sorrento Valley, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside, users of both trails can catch any of the daily Coast Express or Coaster runs for a shuttle since they all stop at every station. Choose a train station to start from, then walk, ride or skate north or south to the station of your choice and catch the next train back to your starting point. Along the way you’ll be able to explore the towns, wetlands and beaches of the San Diego coast.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume Two: Monterey to Mexico by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
Category -
For trail section -