Too cold to go to the beach? Take a Sunday drive instead. Here is one in the San Diego region.
Sunday Drive-Lake Hodges and Del Dios Highway
I was surprised when we visited Lake Hodges on a very warm spring day that there were only about 5 boats out on the water. We were told the fishing was bad so I can understand the lack of fishing vessels but it is a nice sized lake that seemed perfect for taking the boat out for a spin just for fun.
We had fished along the shore before and although we didn’t catch anything, we saw about five huge fish being caught some 100 feet down the shore from us, so we knew the fishing can at times be good. They told me that the water was murky and at a high level so that accounted for some of the lack of activity. Normally you can catch crappie, bluegill, carp, catfish, and largemouth bass.
The rainy California winter may not have helped the fishing but it certainly splashed the landscape with green hills and colorful flowers. On almost every drive we have taken in the last few months it has been like that. Amazing what a good pounding of rain will create later.
Lake Hodges is a lake and reservoir located about 30 miles north of San Diego and just south of Escondido off of Interstate 15. It has a maximum depth of 115 feet and has about 27 miles of shoreline.
The lake is open seasonally from February through October on Weds, Saturdays, and Sundays. Gates are open a half an hour before sunrise and lock at sunset. There is a concession store and a place to rent rowboats, motor boats, and kayaks as well as ramps to launch your private boats.
If you feel like just hanging around for the day, there is grassy area with picnic tables and designated barbecues that are all close to the store. There seemed to be plenty of parking places in the large lot but I don’t know how crowded it gets in summer.
There are also other smaller parking lots situated just off of the main road where we saw people pulling out picnic boxes, relaxing and reading a book, or hiking along one of the trails.
A little beach looked like a perfect place to launch your kayak and there was a family of four doing just that. I was glad to see at least they were going to take advantage of this beautiful day out on the water.
Across from the ramp and way on the other side, you will find pull-off areas where you can park your car and hike a short ways to find a cozy little fishing spot. That is what we did the time we had gone before. There are plenty of locations to cast out your line but you have to find spots that aren’t hindered by the reeds.
Don’t forget to save your appetite because nearby sits the Hernandez Hideaway restaurant which is known to serve up yummy Mexican food. My friends rave about this place, so next time I must take the time to stop for lunch.
Our Sunday drive was mostly spent checking out the lake but we were told we should take the Del Dios Highway on our way back to the coast. Curious to see where it led, we headed west. Del Dios took us around the back side where we stopped at one of the few vista points to get a full view of the dam.
Built in 1918, the multi-arched Lake Hodges Dam is a pretty impressive sight standing at 135 feet high. You could see the blue of the lake in the background and a large ravine in front. It is always amazing to see a dam and all of the water that it is holding back.
In the ravine there were hiking trails and as a few bicyclists flew by us we knew it was a great bike trail as well. I later found out that the trail spans about 15 miles and is a popular spot for intermediate as well as beginner bikers and hikers.
The curvy Del Dios Highway eventually dumps you off in the small downtown district of Ranch Santa Fe. If you know anything about this city, you know that it is where the super rich live. The whole vicinity is dotted with huge homes and mansions. I mean huge! Some sit behind giant gates while others you can see in the distance on a huge spread of land. I have a friend who went to an enormous compound to do some work and he said that it was so massive that he had no idea where the front door was. He eventually asked the pool guy who responded that he had been working there seven years and still didn’t know where it was.
When we arrived at Rancho Santa Fe downtown, I was puzzled by the business area which consisted of only a few streets. There were so many banks, real estate offices, and investment firms! They were everywhere you looked. Out of all the business establishments only one or two were restaurants, one gallery, one gift shop, and one antique store.
I think that tells a story; with all the money in this region, they must need to buy real estate, a place to keep all of their profits, and investment advice. Unlike where I live in humble Oceanside, where you have multiple breweries to spend your money and investment advice consists of knowing where all the dollar stores are located…such a different life.
I decided I liked my simple life and soon followed the sign back to the coast via the town of Encinitas.
I really loved the drive that took me around Lake Hodges, along Del Dios Highway, and finally ending in Rancho Santa Fe.
If you are looking for a Sunday drive, this will be a good one.
Story and photos: Debbie Colwell