I don’t use superlatives often, but this is the ultimate guide to biking in San Diego. I lived in Pacific Beach and cycled thousands of miles through America’s Finest City. I know the secret through routes that string together biking trails in San Diego with bike paths and bike-friendly roads.
I have created nine incredible bike routes that can be sliced, diced, and added together to serve every rider from visitors looking for an easy peddle by the ocean to hardcore cyclists searching for an epic ride. This article is massive and detailed, but has enough structure to make it user friendly too. It even comes with an interactive map that you can download to your phone. Keep reading and discover that cycle touring San Diego is as easy as riding a bike.
Introduction to San Diego Bike Routes
The core of this biking guide is the quintessential bike routes that we believe make up the best cycling in San Diego. To start with, we define nine bike routes that cover the best road biking in San Diego. It’s admittedly light on North County and East County rides, and it does not address mountain biking at all. Still, you have to start somewhere, and this post is already enormous! This piece does cover the heart of the San Diego tourist district that runs from Del Mar down to Imperial Beach with exceptional detail. We think that biking San Diego is the perfect complement to romantic getaways in Southern California or even a bike, beach and brew tour (be sure to read our disclaimer and ride responsibly). Throughout this post, you’ll see both of Jenn’s women’s specific hybrid bikes featured, which, if you’re a female rider looking for new wheels, we would strongly suggest you checking out. With that, let’s get going on San Diego’s best bike routes.
|Route||Ranking||Distance (miles)||Elevation Change|
|Mission Beach Loop||10||2.7||moslty flat|
|Mission Bay Loop||8||16.4||moslty flat|
|La Jolla Coastal Ride||9||14.1||↑262' ↓262'|
|Mission Beach - Downtown Ride||7||19.5||↑194' ↓194|
|Ocean Beach / Cabrillo National Monument Hill Climb||8||21.8||↑906' ↓906'|
|La Jolla Hill Climb||9||29||↑1864' ↓1864'|
|Mission Trails Hill Climb||6||36.7||↑1273' ↓1273'|
|Pacfic Coast Highway Ride||8||34.8||↑837' ↓803'|
|Bayshore Bikeway / Silver Strand||6.5||21.9||mostly flat
Breaking Bike Routes into Segments
Next, I divided the nine core routes into 37 segments, both for easy navigation and to facilitate biking any of these segments on their own. I applied my ratings to the following table. Here is a key to those ratings:
10: Easy route with amazing views the entire way (example: The Bay Walk going around Sail Bay)
9: Great views and riding but not sustained (example: climbing through the mansions of La Jolla to the top of Soledad)
8: Good riding and good views (example: The San Diego River Trail)
7: Good riding and limited views (example: The Silver Strand Bike Trail)
6: Bike lanes and little views (example: Friars Road)
5: Navigating through neighborhoods (example: avoiding the PCH in Oceanside)
Notice that this scale is a little harsh because the biking in San Diego is just that good. The premier bike trail in San Diego ranks a 7, and safely cruising through low traffic streets in a beach city is a 5. What can I say? I was a physics major, and my instructors aimed for a 50% on all tests so they could see the bell curve.
It bears repeating that you don’t have to ride the entire length of the routes to have a good time. In fact, if you combine the sorted list with the indexed table of contents in this guide, you can order off the menu and go directly to the best riding in San Diego.
San Diego Bike Segments
Bike Trails in San Diego
If you’re looking for bike trails, San Diego has a few. However, the issue with bike trails in San Diego is that they aren’t destination riding in and of themselves. They tend to be more shortish connectors with a couple of choice exceptions (Silver Strand / San Luis Rey River Trail). Even the famed ‘trail around Mission Bay’ isn’t a single trail, but two or three paths pieced together. That’s why this guide focuses on the bike routes and bike segments more than bike trails. For reference, the following table cross-references the bike trails with bike routes.
|Trail||Distance||Rating||Primary Route||Secondary Route|
|Ocean Front Walk||3||★★★★★||Mission Beach Loop||La Jolla Coastal Ride|
|Bayside Trail||4.2||★★★★★||Mission Beach Loop||Mission Bay Loop|
|Torey Pines Park Rd||1.2||★★★★★||La Jolla Hill Climb|
|Backbay Trail||3.5||★★★★½||Mission Bay Loop|
|San Luis Rey River Trail||7.8||★★★★½||Pacfic Coast Highway Ride|
|Ocean Beach Bike Path/San Diego River Bikeway||3.7||★★★★½||Mission Trails Hill Climb||Ocean Beach / Cabrillo National Monument Hill Climb|
|Father Junipero Serra Trail||1.8||★★★★½||Mission Trails Hill Climb|
|Spanish Landing||2.1||★★★★½||Mission Beach - Downtown Ride|
|Embarcadero (no bikes at Seaport Village)||2.6||★★★★½||Mission Beach - Downtown Ride|
|Silver Strand||10.8||★★★★½||Bayshore Bikeway / Silver Strand|
|Coastal Rail Trail||0.8||★★★★☆||Pacfic Coast Highway Ride|
|Rose Canyon Bicycle Path||1.1||★★★★☆||Pacfic Coast Highway Ride|
|Rose Creek Trail||0.8||★★★★☆||Pacfic Coast Highway Ride|
|Old Seaworld Drive||2.1||★★★★☆||Mission Trails Hill Climb|
|Highway 52 Bike Trail||4.7||★★★★☆||Mission Trails Hill Climb|
|Sweatwater River Trail||3.2||★★★★☆||Bayshore Bikeway / Silver Strand|
|Liberty Station Trail||1||★★★★☆||Mission Beach - Downtown Ride|
|La Jolla Bike Path||1.1||★★★☆☆||La Jolla Coastal Ride|
|Murphy Canyon Trail||0.7||★★★☆☆||Mission Trails Hill Climb|
|Ocean Front Walk||3||★★★★★|
|Torey Pines Park Rd||1.2||★★★★★|
|San Luis Rey River Trail||7.8||★★★★½|
|Ocean Beach Bike Path/San Diego River Bikeway||3.7||★★★★½|
|Father Junipero Serra Trail||1.8||★★★★½|
|Embarcadero (no bikes at Seaport Village)||2.6||★★★★½|
|Coastal Rail Trail||0.8||★★★★☆|
|Rose Canyon Bicycle Path||1.1||★★★★☆|
|Rose Creek Trail||0.8||★★★★☆|
|Old Seaworld Drive||2.1||★★★★☆|
|Highway 52 Bike Trail||4.7||★★★★☆|
|Sweatwater River Trail||3.2||★★★★☆|
|Liberty Station Trail||1||★★★★☆|
|La Jolla Bike Path||1.1||★★★☆☆|
|Murphy Canyon Trail||0.7||★★★☆☆|
Hill Climbing San Diego Bike Rides
Another San Diego cycling myth is that the coastal rides are flat. That’s just not true. There are three significant hills on the ocean (Torrey Pines, Mt Soledad, Cabrillo), and that’s not counting the climbing you get as you head inland, like riding to Mission Trails. If you wanted, you could take all the routes in the Seven Sides of Soledad segment and climb the mountain four times without duplicating your route. Add in a run out to Torrey Pines Beach and back, and you would have close to 4000′ of hill-climbing in less than 30 miles of cycling for your San Diego bike ride. I’m not saying that you need to do that, but you could, and it would be epic!
|Cabrillo National Monument||400|
|Mission Trails Park||600|
San Diego Bike Map
Below is our interactive San Diego bike map that you can load onto your phone for easy use. I added descriptions to all the points of interest, and there are usually pictures that Google Maps links in too.
The rest of this article contains detailed directions that describe the bike routes. However, the routing isn’t always perfect. That’s why we have each of the bike routes broken down into bike segments for the remainder of this guide. If the map doesn’t load, refresh your browser. It’s worth it 😉
Mission Beach Loop (2.7 miles, flat)
Mission Beach Loop is a 2.7-mile loop that is waterfront almost the entire time. For navigation’s sake, we’re starting at Belmont Park, where Mission Bay Drive T-ends into Mission Blvd. Between Belmont Park and Bonita Cove across the street is some of the best parking in Mission Beach. On most days, you should be able to find a spot. This ride is short enough that it’s not divided into any smaller segments.
There is light foot traffic in the area, especially on the bayside, so you should be able to roll smoothly with incredible views. The Mission Beach Loop is a great introduction to biking the beaches of San Diego.
Mission Beach Loop Segments
|Belmont Park to Mission Point (ocean side)||10||1.1|
|Missin Point to Belmont Park (bay side)||10||1.6|
Belmont Park to Mission Point Park (1.1 miles, flat)
The Mission Beach Loop is straight forward and avoids the busiest parts of the Mission Beach Boardwalk. You can take this loop either direction, but we’ll describe it starting on the boardwalk, which is immediately adjacent to the beach. Mission Beach Boardwalk, aka Ocean Front Walk, is an institution in San Diego. People come to see and be seen. Here you will find wide pavement and unobstructed views of the beach and ocean. It would be the perfect place to ride…if it weren’t for all the people. It can happen; you just need to be out before 10 am latest.
Ride south on the boardwalk for about a mile. I lived a half-mile off the boardwalk for almost five years and biked this several times a week and never heard anybody calling it Ocean Front Walk, but I digress. OFW empties onto a parking lot at the Entrance Channel to Mission Bay. You cross over to the bayside by following the roads along the channel until you reach Mission Point Park.
Mission Point Park to Belmont Park (1.6 miles, flat)
Mission Beach is a narrow spit of land that separates Mission Bay from the ocean. Even though MB is only about a 1/4-mile-wide, each side is dramatically different. The bay side is mellow with a lot less foot traffic. Another interesting feature about Mission Bay it doesn’t function as a singular body of water, but rather a series of coves and bays that are interconnected. This section of Mission Bay is called Bonita Cove or Mariner’s Basin. It’s a quiet sailboat anchorage that’s perfect for paddleboarding. There’s even a snorkeling spot on the inside of Mission Point, but, even on high slack tide, you’ll have issues with visibility.
Hop on the Bayside Walk again and follow it around the water back to Bonita Cove / Mission Bay Drive. The views are so spectacular that we usually take the long way around Mission Point. Once you reach Bonita Cove, use the traffic light at Mission Bay Drive to get back to Belmont Park.
Mission Bay Loop (16.4 miles, mostly flat)
Mission Bay Park (4,235 acres) is the largest man-made aquatic park in the country. About half this area is the bay itself, and the rest is parks surrounding the water, and a 16-mile bike trail runs through it all. If 16 miles sounds like too much for you, try riding to Crown Point and back for an easy 8-mile jaunt or skip the optional 4.4-mile loop around Fiesta Island.
Mission Bay Loop Segments
|Belmont Park to Crown Point||10||4.1|
|Crown Point to Fiesta Island||9||4.3|
|Fiesta Island Time Trial||8||4.4|
|Fiesta Island to Belmont Park||8||3.6|
Belmont Park to Crown Point (4.1 miles, flat)
This section is where the Bayside Walk goes around Sail Bay. It’s my favorite section of Mission Bay because there are always people having fun in the water. You’ll see kite surfers, kayakers, paddle boarders, sailboats, the Bahia Belle Riverboat cruising up to the Catamaran Hotel, and maybe even people flying around on a water jet pack. It’s crazy cool to see new watersports every time you ride by Sail Bay.
Navigating this section is super easy, simply follow the path around the bay to Crown Point. There, the trail climbs up a little hill out of the park and empties onto Corona Oriente Rd. If you’re having doubts about making the full 16-mile loop, this is the best place to turn around. Using the Bayside Walk is also a great way to avoid congestion on the north end of the beach boardwalk by exiting just past the Catamaran Hotel and taking Cass or Bayard across Pacific Beach.
Crown Point to Fiesta Island (4.3 miles, flat)
This section of Mission Bay is called the Back Bay. It’s, um, not as nice as Sail Bay. Judging from the satellite maps, they managed to get rid of about three-quarters of the mobile homes, but there’s still that derelict sailboat anchored in De Anza Cove. That being said, it’s absolutely gorgeous by any objective standard. There’s also fewer people and ample parking everywhere. It’s a fun, flowing ride, and you can even ride on Mission Bay Drive if you want to race.
From Crown Point Park, head out of the parking lot onto Crown Point Drive, which will take you to Pacific Beach Drive. Keep going around the bay to the entrance to Campland on the Bay. This is where you take the Mike Gotch Memorial Bridge across Rose Creek to join up with N. Mission Bay Dr. Go a little bit past the golf course on N. Mission Bay Drive, and you’ll come to an intersection with De Anza Rd. Take De Anza Rd to the water where you enter onto a scenic path (unnamed on Google, but for the sake of this post, we will call it the Backbay Trail). Follow the Backbay Trail to Fiesta Island.
Fiesta Island Time Trial (4.4 miles, flat)
Fiesta Island is an entirely optional 4.4-mile loop. It’s a place you can ride as fast as you want with decent views. The local riders race for the best times on Strava on what’s aptly called the Fiesta Island Time Trial.
Keep riding past the entrance to Fiesta Island if there’s a strong wind, you are out of water, or you are just tired. There are any number of perfectly good reasons to skip this portion. If you do turn in, it’s on. Saddle up and ride. I was keeping a 28 MPH clip drafting into a headwind. Then, we came to a bend in the road, and the wind shifted to our backs. That monster I was drafting off of dropped me like a sack of potatoes. That’s my Fiesta Island story, and I’m sticking to it. There might even be a Strava segment somewhere in my feed that backs me up.
Fiesta Island to Belmont Park (3.6 miles, mostly flat)
The next leg is a bit anti-climactic for an epic ride. It’s safe and easy, but lacking any real eye candy. After Fiesta Island, the trail continues waterside for a bit before looping around SeaWorld. The gardens around SeaWorld are decent, but will not set your world on fire. You will circle around SeaWorld to the traffic light at Perez Cove Way just before the Ingraham Bridge.
Cross over Ingraham and continue onto Dana Landing Rd. Follow Dana Landing around to the entrance of the Dana Hotel, just before Mission Bay Bridge. Continue out to Mission Bay Drive and take the sidewalk up and over the bridge (it’s a bit of a climb, typically a bit too much for beach cruisers). From there, continue to Belmont Park. Note, if you parked in the Mariner’s Cove parking lot across the street, consider looping back around on the trail underneath the bridge to avoid crossing Mission Bay Drive and to see one last panoramic view of Mission Bay.
La Jolla Coastal Ride (14.1 miles, ↑262′ ↓262′)
La Jolla Coastal Ride, in my opinion, is the best oceanside ride in San Diego County for moderate riders with geared bikes. You’ll see big waves and bigger houses. Plus, once you reach La Jolla Cove, you find seals, sea lions, and the world’s best gelato.
There are people everywhere on North Mission Beach, but you will not want to be going too fast anyway since there’s so much to see with Crystal Pier and all the shops. Once you leave the boardwalk, you’ll have to do a little route-finding through La Jolla neighborhoods (you can follow the bike route signs) to reach La Jolla Cove. If you want to shorten this ride, it’s only about a 5-mile out and back along the boardwalk to Law Street Beach.
La Jolla Coastal Segments
|Belmont Park to Law Street Beach||9||2.5|
|Law Street Beach to Camino De La Costa||9||1.5|
|Camino De La Costa to La Jolla Cove||9||3.1|
|La Jolla Cove to Belmont Park||9||7|
Belmont Park to Law Street Beach (2.5 miles, flat)
Starting from Belmont Park, you head north on the boardwalk to Law Street Beach. This stretch is thick with tourists, especially in front of World Famous Seafood. Jenn would ring her bell a lot and end up walking a couple of times. I may or may not have chucked an elbow or two at people who had it coming before offering up a faint-hearted apology. We lived just north of Garnet and often avoided this stretch of the boardwalk from Crystal Pier to World Famous during peak times by taking Baynard and the Bayside Walk.
North Mission Beach / Pacific Beach is a fun and crazy place, which is why all the people are there. You can walk to the end of Crystal Pier, go for ice cream stuffed cookies at Baked Bear, or grab a drink any number of watering holes. You might even catch a glimpse of Slo-mo, the doctor who quit everything to rollerblade (very slowly) up and down the boardwalk. One thing to remember here – lock your bike up like it’s Fort Knox. It will walk away the very moment you turn your head, regardless of whether it is locked up in front of bouncers, but again I digress.
Law Street Beach to Camino De La Costa (1.5 miles, ↑90′ ↓0′)
Once you leave the boardwalk, head up Law St to Mission Blvd and turn left. Mission jogs left into La Jolla, and a little less than a mile later, you get to Tourmaline.
It gets a little funky here, so follow carefully, this is the local’s way to get on La Jolla Hermosa. Turn right onto Tourmaline, and you’ll immediately reach a crosswalk. Take that crosswalk across Tourmaline and follow the sidewalk away from the street to the dead-end of La Jolla Hermosa. See, that wasn’t too hard. Now, if only there were a ramp to get off the sidewalk…
La Jolla Hermosa is a beautiful, quiet avenue that could almost be a botanical garden with all the exotic plants and flowers in the yards. Continue for about a mile until you reach Camino De La Costa.
Camino De La Costa to La Jolla Cove (3.1 miles, ↑42′ ↓132′)
You see bike route signs pointing in all directions, but you want to make a left turn onto Camino De La Costa and continue across La Jolla Blvd. The road hooks to the right (north) and follows the coast. You’ll be following bike route signs, La Jolla Cove signs, or scenic route signs the rest of the way into La Jolla Cove.
Around the first bend, you’ll come to a lookout with a super small parking lot where we always stopped to check the surf. If the sets are right, the point break here is one of the longest rides in San Diego. After the lookout, there is a little hill that’s just enough to make beach cruisers with coaster breaks a whole lot of not fun. A jog to the left takes you onto Neptune and the famous surf break of Windansea. Hug the coast while avoiding dead-end roads and follow the signs to La Jolla Cove.
Highlights of La Jolla Cove include the harbor seals at Children’s Pool Beach (especially during spring pupping season) and the sea lions around the cove. There are usually kayak tours visiting the sea caves, flocks of sea birds, and maybe even a glider or two visible up the coast. There’s a lot to take in at La Jolla Cove, but you have to stop at Bobboi Natural Gelato before heading back. It will change your world!
Return to Belmont Park (7.0 miles, ↑132′ ↓132′)
If the crowds aren’t bad, you can ride the coastal sidewalk around La Jolla Cove (Scripps Park) and watch the waves breaking at Boomers. There’s also a one-way section of Coast Rd just past Children’s Pool Beach that’s now heading in the right direction. Otherwise, you basically retrace your steps back to where Camino De La Costa turns towards La Jolla Blvd. Instead of going to the roundabout, continue straight onto Chelsea.
Ride Chelsea for a mile to Crystal Drive, which takes you to a pedestrian entrance onto the sidewalk and La Jolla Blvd. Along the way, you might want to check out the Bird Rock Waterfront. There is a secret viewpoint (and staircase) that looks out onto the famous Tourmaline surf break. Almost immediately after getting back on La Jolla, the road jogs to the left, but you want to hook right and follow the bike route signs back to Law Street Beach and the Mission Beach Boardwalk. From there, take the boardwalk home.
Mission Beach – Downtown Ride (19.5 miles, ↑194′ ↓194′ )
The MB-Downtown Ride is a great way to set up the Bayside Bikeway for experienced road riders. You can even create an epic loop where you combine the parts of the Pacific Coast ride with the La Jolla Coast and the Bayside Bikeway by leaving out of the Santa Fe Station. I’ve done this ride before, and it’s about the best 60 miles of riding around. You can consider modifying the trip home from downtown to come back through Liberty Station and Old Town for an urban loop.
There are destinations to reach downtown like Little Italy, home to a fabulous Saturday farmer’s market, or San Diego’s premier entertainment district – Gaslamp. There’s also some unique eye candy when you reach San Diego Harbor with the Midway aircraft carrier and Star of India tall ship. The Embarcadero Path is great to Seaport Village, but you can’t ride your bike in Seaport. The hills, street traffic, congested sidewalks, and all the trolly tracks detract from the joy of biking once you leave the waterfront, so I’m not putting anything in the guide past Harbor Dr.
Mission Beach to Downtown Segments
|Belmont Park to Spanish Landing||6.5||5|
|Spanish Landing to Broadway Pier||8||3.4|
|Broadway Pier to Balboa Pier||7||1.3|
|Hilton Bayfront Park - Belmont Park||7||9.8|
Belmont Park to Spanish Landing (5.0 miles, ↑97′ ↓97′)
This segment has some great views crossing the Mission Bay Bridge and San Diego River, but riding Nimitz Blvd is a mixed blessing. Nimitz is an efficient way to bypass Ocean Beach. It’s straight with smooth pavement and a bike line, but there’s not much to see along the way. There is also a 100′ hill you climb to get up and over the ridgeline at Point Loma. It’s not much, but it’s there.
To ride this segment, head out of Belmont Park and over the Mission Bay Bridge. Remember, the bridge is pretty steep for beach cruisers. Once you cross the bridge, take the first right, then left onto Quivira Rd around Quivira Basin for a half-mile. You’ll see a bike path leaving off the road to your left with a sign that says it goes just about everywhere, take it over the Sunset Cliffs Bridge to Rob Field Skate Park. From there, take the path that leads you to Nimitz.
Be super careful at the intersection of Sunset Cliffs and Nimitz when crossing traffic because there isn’t a crosswalk or crossing lights. You should be an experienced road rider who is comfortable riding with traffic for this intersection; this is especially true for the return trip where you have to cross the entrance ramp to I-8. One more hint for the return trip, when you’re crossing the San Diego River, there’s only a dedicated bike crossing on the west side of the bridge. To avoid biking on the road, use the San Diego River Trail to cross under the bridge and return via the dedicated pedestrian crossing.
Once you reach Nimitz, there’s a dedicated bike lane that you ride 2.5 miles to Harbor. Take a left onto Harbor and ride one mile to Spanish Landing Park.
Spanish Landing to Broadway Pier (3.4 miles, flat)
This segment is the money section of the ride. You have views of the San Diego skyline across the harbor for almost the entire way, and it’s all on a bike trail. There’s also very light foot traffic, which is always appreciated after dealing with the throngs of people on the Mission Beach Boardwalk. The drawback is that the trail is more of a sidewalk than a paved, smooth path. It’s nice enough, but not ideal.
The segment begins at the Spanish Landing parking lot. Google Maps failed me here. I couldn’t convince the algorithm to route along the entrance ramp you will see to your right as you pull in. It kept insisting that you take an entrance under the bridge in a circuitous loop. Save the loop under the bridge for the ride home and just take the first entrance to the trail.
Once you reach Spanish Landing Trail, you’ll be riding on it, or the Embarcadero Trail the entire way into Broadway Pier. Navigation is easy, and the views a superb. The trail goes across a couple of intersections that you have to pay attention to, but it’s nothing compared to crossing onto Nimitz.
Broadway Pier to Balboa Pier (1.3 miles, flat)
This segment is ok riding with excellent views of things you’ll only see in San Diego. You pass the Maritime Museum of San Diego with the USS Dolphin submarine, and the tall ships the Star of India and the HMS Surprise right before you reach Broadway Pier.
Just after the pier, you get to the USS Midway aircraft carrier. Perhaps the best view of the Midway is from the 25′ tall statue of the famous Unconditional Surrender Kiss that sits in Tuna Harbor Park. Later on, you pass by the sprawling Convention Center, home of Comic-Con, and the massive Coronado Bridge that’s tall enough to let warships pass underneath. You might even see jet boats and shark submarines entertaining tourists in the harbor along the way.
Seaport Village and their anti-bike rules make navigating to the Convention Center a tad tricky. The best way to bypass Seaport Village is to turn onto Harbor at Rocco Park, which is a small park almost immediately after Tuna Harbor Park. Take Harbor Dr past the Cheesecake Factory, where you turn right onto Kettner. Kettner ends quickly back at Seaport Village in a cul-de-sac with two obvious paths leading off a ramp. One is a smallish brick path, and the other is a smooth path with a Hyatt sign directing you to the boardwalk at the Convention Center. You take the smooth path to the boardwalk and follow it past the Convention Center to Bayfront Park / Balboa Pier.
Ride Home (9.8 miles, ↑97′ ↓97′)
I had to flip a coin to decide the best way to close the MB-Downtown Ride. I considered leaving it blank or routing through Liberty Station and Old Town, which adds a mile and a half but avoids the I-8 on-ramp at Nimitz and gives you a little change of scenery. I reluctantly decided to make it an out and back with caveats.
The return trip home just retraces your steps, but you take the ramp under the bridge at Spanish Landing. Immediately after leaving Spanish Landing, you’ll see a pedestrian bridge (Nimitz Bridge). You should take that if you want to go to Liberty Station for a bite to eat at the public market or a pint at Stone Brewery. Liberty Station / Old Town is also a viable route home.
If you continue on Nimitz, be careful with the on-ramp to I-8, where Nimitz turns into Sunset Cliffs. An alternative route would be to take a left at Point Loma and get on the San Diego River Trail at Bacon. You can even walk your bike across the crosswalk here. Be safe and ride within your ability.
Ocean Beach / Cabrillo National Monument Hill Climb (21.8 Miles, ↑906′ ↓906′)
This ride takes you through the hippy enclave of Ocean Beach and the absolute best mile and a half of biking in San Diego, where you descend from the Cabrillo National Monument down to the tide pools. This ride is the first climb in this guide, but you can cut the hills out by turning it into an out and back to Sunset Cliffs. You could even take a beach cruiser to Sunset Cliffs, but you will probably have to walk the Mission Bay Bridge.
Ocean Beach / Cabrillo National Monument Hill Climb Segments
|Belmont Park to Dog Beach||8||2.9|
|Dog Beach to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park||8||3.1|
|Sunset Cliffs Natural Park to Cabrillo National Monument||7||4.4|
|Biking Cabrillo National Monument||10||3|
|Cabrillo National Monument to Belmont Park||7||8.4|
Belmont Park to Dog Beach (2.9 miles, mostly flat)
The views from the top of Mission Bay Bridge are exceptional. The first time you cross, you’ll stop, break out your camera, and take a couple of pictures of the boats heading in and out of the bay. Quivira Rd is a short connector that takes you to the San Diego River Bikeway, where you ride along the river to Dog Beach.
From Belmont Park, head up and over the Mission Bay Bridge and take the first right onto Quivira Access and an immediate left onto Quivira Basin Rd. Ride on Quivira Basin Rd for .6 miles to an entrance ramp onto the San Diego River Bikeway with a sign for Ocean Beach. Cross the San Diego River on the dedicated pedestrian walkway on the west side of Sunset Cliffs Blvd Bridge. After right the bridge and continue on the path to Dog Beach.
Dog Beach to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park (3.1 miles, ↑85′ ↓30′)
This segment takes you through the heart (and soul) of Ocean Beach. Highlights include the Ocean Beach Pier, Sunset Cliffs, and the groovy, hippy vibe of the town itself. You can feel the spirit of OB in places like Winston’s, that features a Grateful Dead cover band every Monday night, the OB Farmer’s Market on Wednesday night, or sitting in the VW bus table at Hodads eating the second best burger in OB. Heresy, I know, but I like the burgers at Bo-beau Kitchen better.
From the end of the San Diego River Bike Trail, go into the Dog Beach parking lot and then exit on Brighten Ave by the showers. (I couldn’t make the route on the map go this way, but it works). Bike a block down to Abbot, which runs beachfront through OB to Newport. Newport Ave is the main drag in OB and a great place to cruise around to get a feel for the town. Much like Garnett Ave in Pacific Beach, a bulletproof bike lock is a must.
If you’re looking to ride, exit Newport ASAP by taking the first right onto Ocean Front Way. It looks a lot like an alley, but it climbs up to the entrance to Ocean Beach Pier on Niagara. You could take Niagara to Sunset Cliffs Blvd at this point, but if you jog over on Bacon / Coronado, you’ll avoid some congestion. Sunset Cliffs Blvd continues for another 1.6 miles from Coronado, featuring beautiful houses and sweeping bluff side views. Sunset Cliffs Blvd turns into Ladera and starts to head away from the ocean. This spot is where you flip and head home if you’re not into a hill climb.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park to Cabrillo National Monument (4.4 miles, ↑420′ ↓131′)
This segment is where you get to earn panoramic ocean views with a very OB appropriate 420′ climb. Most of the elevation gain is on the appropriately named Hill Street. Once you reach the ridge, it’s a gradual uphill to the end. You’ll want to bring your ID just in case you need it to enter Naval Base Point Loma, and it is $10/rider for entrance into Cabrillo National Monument.
The views from the top are sweeping and epic, especially as you ride by Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. You can look south to see San Diego Harbor and Coronado Island. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Mexico. Turn to the North, and you’ll see Mission Bay and the coastline up to the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Once you reach the end, you can look out onto the open ocean for miles and miles. During winter months, you can use the vantage point to spot whales migrating up and down the coast.
I was torn on the best route up the hill. I’ve done it in any number of ways. Ultimately, I’m suggesting that you turn around at Ladera and take one more run down Sunset Cliffs until you reach Hill Street, then it’s on. Head up Hill Street to a little neighborhood cut off that’s a little more scenic and fun than going straight to Catalina Blvd by taking Morena-Lomeland-Tarento-Garden-Catalina. Once you’re riding Catalina Blvd, the views keep getting better the farther you go. After .4 miles, you reach the naval base checkpoint. 1.4 miles later, you reach Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and .9 more miles to arrive at the Cabrillo National Monument fee station.
Biking Cabrillo National Monument (3 miles, ↑350′ ↓350′)
As of 2020, it cost $10 / rider to enter Cabrillo National Monument. When I lived in San Diego, I would hesitate to spend this amount on each ride. Now, when I think of visiting and riding, I would pay it in a heartbeat just to ride Cabrillo Rd down to the tidepools. It’s the best 3-miles of biking in America’s Finest City when you combine the Cabrillo Hill ride with the INCREDIBLE views from the visitor center that is if hill climbing is your jam.
The ride down (and up) Cabrillo Rd to the tidepools is the highlight of this segment for cyclists. If you’re not planning on riding this hill, I would turn around at Rosecrans Cemetery and save the entrance fee to Cabrillo (after checking out the views from Rosecrans, of course).
Cabrillo Rd is 1.5 miles each way with 300′ of elevation change. There’s light traffic so you can focus on the ocean views and natural hillside around you. Tidepooling in San Diego is a fickle activity that’s really only worthwhile during extreme low tides in the winter/spring, and, even then, the park hours at Cabrillo eliminate about half the of the daylight extreme low tides. You probably will not see the tidepools in their full glory, but you will enjoy the ride.
Cabrillo National Monument to Belmont Park (8.4 miles, ↑53′ ↓394′)
The ride down Catalina back into Ocean Beach is fun and flowy, but it feels a lot like a loop connector after the eye candy of Cabrillo National Monument.
You lose about 400′ over the 4.7 mile run down to Voltaire Street. From there, you head left to Bacon (.9 miles) and then turn right to Bacon and take it back to the San Diego River Bike Trail. Retrace your steps across Sunset Cliffs – Quivira – Mission Bay Blvd to get back to Belmont Park.
La Jolla Hill Climb (29.0 miles, ↑1864′ ↓1864′)
If anybody thinks you can’t climb on oceanfront rides, they should try the La Jolla Hills Route. You can modify this ride a bit by skipping sections like the Mt Soledad Climb or the final drop down to Torrey Pines Beach. You can also climb Soledad and skip the last two climbs. You can even climb Soledad four times and take a different route up and down each trip. The La Jolla Hills Route has options, but what I drew up is an excellent combination of oceanfront rides and hill-climbing to panoramic views.
La Jolla Hill Climb Segments
|Belmont Park to Cardeno Dr||8||3.7|
|The Seven Sides of Soledad||9||4|
|Torrey Pines Rd to Torrey Pines St Beach||7||6.3|
|Torrey Pines St Beach to La Jolla Shores Park||9||6|
|La Jolla Shores Park to Belmont Park||8.5||9|
Belmont Park to Cardeno Dr (3.7 miles, ↑171′ ↓10′)
This segment opens with the insanely beautiful bayside ride around Sail Bay and climbs up Fanuel St to Cardeno Dr. We described the Sail Bay ride in our Mission Bay Loop in great detail, but you’ll love it. Once you reach Fanuel Park, exit onto Fanuel St and continue to Cardeno. You’re less than .2 miles away from our Pacific Beach apartment at one point on this leg.
The Seven Sides of Soledad (4.0 miles, ↑636′ ↓730′)
Mt Soledad dominates the La Jolla coast. The Veterans Memorial Cross at the summit is visible for miles from I-5, and the views from the top are epic! If you gaze to the north, you will see The Torrey Pines Glider Port, and Mission Bay is visible to the South. The mountain itself shapes the local weather creating Venturi Effect winds that keep the breaks at La Jolla Shores from being blown out and fuel the kiteboarders on Sail Bay. Funny aside, Mt Soledad was the inspiration for Mount Crumpit, where the Grinch lived high above the joyful Whos in Who-ville, aka Pacific Beach.
I’ll go through each of the seven major routes up Mt Soledad, but the map directs you up Cardeno and down Via Capri / Hidden Valley. There’s a hidden eighth route through the La Jolla Country Club that utilizes a set of pedestrian gates to bypass Hillside Drive, but that’s complicated and breaks my mnemonic alliteration, so I’ll leave that one as an exercise for the reader.
- Soledad Mountain Rd (3.4 miles) – This is the easiest way up the mountain with the worst views on the downhill and limited views of the mansions of La Jolla. There is a dedicated bike lane almost the entire way.
- Soledad Rd (2.7 miles, from the corner of Lamont and Beryl) -A low traffic road up that goes by Kate Sessions Park and some associate natural areas. Don’t let the 610′ elevation change fool you. You climb that extra 100′ just to get to the corner of Lamont and Beryl.
- Cardeno (2.4 miles, from Turquoise) -Steep in parts, especially at the start. Great views of the bay coming downhill, but the road surface detracts from the downhill run.
- La Jolla Mesa (2.7 miles, from Turquoise) -This ride is a beautiful way up the mountain through the mansions of La Jolla. The biggest drawback is that it doesn’t originate from Mission Bay or La Jolla Cove.
- Nautilus (2.4 miles, from La Jolla Blvd) – Jenn’s favorite way up Soledad because the climb is so steady with no overly steep sections. It has a beautiful bike lane and pavement but lacks mansion views.
- Hillside (2.0 miles, Prospect and Oliver) -We primarily use this as a backway to La Jolla Cove by winding through the neighborhoods. We chose Prospect and Oliver as a waypoint to help guide you through. The pavement is a bit sketchy, but the views make up for the extra breaking. There’s also a funky entrance to Hillside from Via Capri, which, if you miss it, you can enter by Rue Adriane.
- Via Capri / Hidden Valley (1.5 miles) – The steepest way up Soledad. Make sure you check your speed on the downhill and make the turn onto Hidden Valley. If you’re unsure about riding steep hills, don’t go this way.
Torrey Pines Rd to Torrey Pines St Beach (6.3 miles, ↑345′ ↓404′)
Assuming you felt comfortable coming down Via Capri, you’re now at the light at the base of Hidden Valley Rd. Continue across to Torrey Pines Rd. This segment features a hill climb up Pottery Canyon, a bike by of UC San Diego, and culminating with a beautiful downhill run to Torrey Pines Beach. Be careful about taking the left turn into the parking lot for the return trip home. There’s no shame in pulling over in the bike lane and crossing on foot when you’re sure it’s safe.
If you love route finding, there are some interesting ways through UCSD with its ultramodern library and fascinating public art. Be warned that biking is prohibited on many of the paths through campus. We would usually stay on Torrey Pines but take the detour into the glider port for the views. The detour ends in a dirt and rock lot, so plan to walk the bikes at the end for the view, but it is worth it.
Torrey Pines St Park to La Jolla Shores Park (6.0 miles, ↑449′ ↓449′)
You’re about to embark on the last major hill of the La Jolla Hill Ride, and it’s a beauty. You get to climb a car-free road up the interior of Torrey Pines Park with a couple of spectacular ocean views and pass through a grove of the rare Torrey pines which gave the park its name. The views of the PGA Torrey Pines Course are a little disappointing, but the beautiful hairpin descent into La Jolla Shores more than makes up for it.
Entry to Torrey Pines State Park was free for bicycles the last time I rode it. If that changes, please send me an email. Once you’re in the park, continue on the park road up the hill. Note, biking down this hill is prohibited. This road was part of the original Pacific Coast Highway, and interestingly, cars would have to climb the hill in reverse.
After enjoying the ocean views and pine groves, you reach the Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Hang a left here to return to Torrey Pines Rd. Take Torrey Pines past UCSD and hang a right onto La Jolla Shores Drive. The descent down the hairpin turn here with views of La Jolla Shores makes all the hills worth it. If you’re in the mood for one more hill, there are rumors of a secret descent to Black’s Beach off La Jolla Farms, but the first rule of Black’s Beach Club is that nobody talks about Black’s Beach Club. Once you reach the bottom, turn right at Paseo Grande and work your way down to La Jolla Shores Park.
La Jolla Shores Park to Belmont Park (8.5 miles, ↑263′ ↓270′)
Don’t worry about the size of this segment. I’m going to give detailed directions to La Jolla Cove and then refer you to the La Jolla Coast Route. I like ocean views more than riding on this section of Torrey Pines Rd, so I stay in La Jolla Shores as long as possible.
This mantra begins as soon as you see La Jolla Shores Beach, and you turn onto the boardwalk (La Verda). It’s only 1000′ oceanfront ride, but it’s an oceanfront ride, and you get to see all the shore divers gearing up at Kellogg Park. The back route through La Jolla Shores is La Verda – Avenida de la Playa – Calle de la Plata – Paseo Dorado – Spindrift – Princess, which takes you by the hidden entrance to snorkeling with sharks at Roseland Drive.
After Princess, you have to rejoin Torrey Pines, but not for long. Take a right on Prospect after .3 miles and then, after another .2 miles, take the funky exit to Cave St. The pavement on Cave St is a little rough, but you quickly reach La Jolla Cove. La Jolla Cove is incredible, and so is the ride back to Belmont Park from here. If you want to read more about this, refer to the La Jolla Coastal Ride detailed earlier in this article.
Mission Trails Climb (36.7 miles, ↑1273′ ↓1273′)
The Mission Trails Climb gives you a glimpse of inland biking in San Diego. Living in Pacific Beach, I considered I-5 the start of the Inland Empire, but that belief isn’t widely accepted. What is true is that it gets hotter and drier the farther inland you go. If you’re suffering from the hazy marine layer in the spring (June Gloom is real) or looking to experience the super bloom, this is a great ride for you.
The Mission Trails Climb is also a change of scenery from yet another panoramic ocean view. However, it’s decidedly hot on a summer afternoon with a strong chance of headwinds on the way home, so make sure you get an early start. The first leg of this ride to Pacific Highway is also the best route to Old Town and then the climb to Balboa Park. If you want to shorten the Mission Trails Climb, you could either take the San Diego River Trail to Fashion Valley Mall and back or take the road up and back down in Mission Trails Park.
Mission Trails Hill Climb Segments
|Belmont Park to Pacific Highway||7||3.9||moslty flat|
|Pacific Highway to SDDCU Stadium||6.5||6||↑100' ↓0'|
|SDDCU Stadium to Highway 52 Bike Trail||6||5||↑484' ↓125'|
|Highway 52 Bike Trail To Mission Trails||7.5||8.3||↑564' ↓685'|
|Mission Trails Park to Friars & Napa||6||9.4||↑115' ↓443'|
|Friars & Napa to Belmont Park||7||4||↑10' ↓20'|
Belmont Park to Pacific Highway (3.9 miles, flat)
We’ve already covered how to reach the San Diego River Path from Belmont Park on the OB ride and the MB-Downtown Ride. Be aware that a path runs on both sides of the river. The Murphy Canyon Climb takes the San Diego River Path first and returns on Old SeaWorld Drive.
The San Diego River Path has great pavement and very little traffic, making it a fast, easy ride to Pacific Highway. There’s also an excellent chance to see birds in the estuary too, especially at low tide. I once saw an eagle swoop in and catch and fish right in front of me.
A couple of notes about Pacific Highway, despite the name, the section from Old Town to Mission Bay is extremely bike-friendly with light traffic and a dedicated bike lane. Also, the Pacific Highway connects to the San Diego River Path but not to Friars Rd / Old Sea World Drive. If you’re heading to Old Town or navigating to Balboa Park, you should take the San Diego River Path.
Pacific Highway to SDDCU Stadium (6.5 miles, ↑100′ ↓0′)
This segment connects a couple of small bike trails while avoiding a couple of others. It’s not a bad way to get your miles in but doesn’t have any signature sections either.
You continue on the San Diego River trail underneath Pacific Highway and pass under Morena also. The trail passes through a small park and drops you off on Hotel Circle, which you take to Fashion Valley Rd.
You have a couple of options here. The map shows trails on both sides of the river, but the uneven sidewalk makes these less desirable. You could also continue on Hotel Circle to Camino Del Riana for a bit, but between the route finding and shopping traffic, it’s easier to head up to Friars on Fashion Valley Mall.
Friars Rd is smooth with a wide shoulder/bike lane. Cruise on Friars for 3.3 miles over 161 and I-8 until you reach the SDDCU Stadium. Say out loud that somebody should put an NFL team here as you take the exit towards the stadium.
SDDCU Stadium to Highway 52 Bike Trail (5.0 miles, ↑484′ ↓125′)
This segment is primarily climbing up Clairemont Mesa via Murphy Canyon on a combination of (funky) bike trails and low traffic streets. Like much of the ride, it’s for riders who love getting their miles in with a touch of hill-climbing sprinkled in.
Don’t enter the stadium parking lot but instead jog onto San Diego Mission Rd. From there, it gets a little weird to get onto Murphy Canyon Trail. In .2 miles, you’ll see a series of white tanks and a bike sign directing you to Clairemont Mesa in 3.5 miles. Jog over onto the access road that runs alongside the tanks, which dead-ends onto Murphy Canyon Trail. If you cross over I-15, you’ve gone too far.
Murphy Canyon Trail and its the funky cousin, the San Diego River Trail north of Morena, are both a little odd, but get the job done. The riding is actually nicer once you leave the trail in .7 miles and head up Murphy Canyon Rd. Continue up Murphy Canyon 1 mile until you reach Aero then take Aero over till it ends onto Santo. Be careful with the entrance ramps to I-15 here, but between the bike lane and traffic lights, you should be ok if you stay alert. Continue climbing up Santo for 2.5 miles until it ends at an entrance ramp to Highway 52.
Highway 52 Bike Trail to Mission Trails (8.3 miles, ↑564′ ↓685′)
This section justifies the entire ride. If you can’t enjoy this, maybe you should find a different hobby. It’s fast, flowy with magnificent scenery along the way. The only catch is that long, slow uphill along highway 52. It isn’t too steep, but it goes on forever. If you want to make it easy on yourself, drive to Mission Trails Park and ride through the park as an out and back.
The entrance to the Highway 52 Bike Trail isn’t clearly marked. You’ll see the sign saying there’s a bike path on the left side of the road, but that’s about it. Make sure you take the path; do not take the freeway entrance! The path runs for 4.8 miles between Santo and Mast Blvd. From there, take Mast – W. Hills Parkway – Mission Gorge Rd and enter Mission Trails Park Campground / Old Mission Dam.
Once you enter Mission Trails Park, there’s a 2-way, 15 mph road for about .2 miles and then pass a gate to enter the hiking trail. Watch your speed heading downhill. Don’t be a jerk. You are biking alongside hikers in the pedestrian lane. The road traffic is one-way heading in the opposite direction. Slow down and enjoy the scenery. If you really need to hit it downhill, consider reversing the direction of this ride, so you go uphill through Mission Trails Park and downhill on the Hwy 52 bike trail.
Mission Trails Park to Friars & Napa (9.4 miles, ↑115′ ↓443′)
This segment is more about miles than views, but at least there are bike lanes and a fun downhill on Mission Gorge Rd. It’s 3.2 miles on Mission Gorge and 6.2 miles on Friars till you reach Napa St. You know you’re here because this is where the trolly crosses Friars. It’s important to switch to the shielded bike line on the opposite side of the street here by crossing on the crosswalk. Doing this will let you safely enter Old SeaWorld Drive on the next leg.
Friars & Napa to Belmont Park (4.0 miles, ↑10′ ↓20′)
You’re in the home stretch now, 4-miles to go and it’s all flat. There’s a chance of an afternoon headwind coming up the river, which is the perfect sadistic complement to the blazing heat you suffered if you started this ride late. Hopefully, you got an early start, and the winds are at your back (or at least not hitting you in the face); otherwise, enjoy the suffer-fest, my friend.
The entrance to Old Sea World Drive is .7 miles farther down Friars from Napa. Old Sea World Drive is kind of… old. The pavement is only ok, but there are excellent river views. Ironically, you have much better river views than you do of SeaWorld. You end up on Quivira Basin Rd in 1.6 miles. You rode this section earlier in the morning, so you simply trace your steps back to Belmont Park from here.
Pacific Coast Highway Ride (34.8 miles, ↑837′ ↓803′)
The Pacific Coast Highway Ride is a San Diego Classic for riders to get miles and views. Hardcore cyclists will ride it both ways just for fun. There are even those who go through Camp Pendleton and all the way into Orange County, but I’m suggesting you take the train north to Oceanside Station and bike back. I recommend this routing because the views are better heading south because you are adjacent to the ocean instead of looking at it from across the road.
There are bike lanes for almost the entire trip making an excellent course, but, for an oceanfront ride, you end up doing a bit of climbing too. You could easily make this a loop from Belmont Park by taking the Mission Trails or MB-Downtown Ride directions to Old Town and coming back from UCSD via the La Jolla Hill Climb route.
Pacific Coast Highway Ride Segments
|Belmont Park to Pacific Highway||7||3.9|
|Pacific Highway to SDDCU Stadium||6.5||6|
|SDDCU Stadium to Highway 52 Bike Trail||6||5|
|Highway 52 Bike Trail To Mission Trails||7.5||8.3|
|Mission Trails Park to Friars & Napa||6||9.4|
|Friars & Napa to Belmont Park||7||4|
Oceanside Transit Station to Carlsbad Blvd & Eaton St (2.3 miles, ↑20’↓36′)
We’re assuming you’ve loaded your bikes onto the train from Old Town Station. Old Town is a great place to begin as it has ample free parking, access to the light rail, and you can stow your bike at your car and reward yourself post-ride with a happy-hour drink or bite of authentic Mexican food. Your mission on the segment is to navigate out of Oceanside. The Coast Highway doesn’t have the usual bike lanes, but there is the Coastal Rail Trail if you can find it. You can also easily navigate to the 7.8 miles San Luis Rey River Trail from the Oceanside Station if you want to extend your trip a bit.
To reach the Coastal Rail Trail, you have to take the pedestrian underpass beneath the tracks. The trail runs along the west (ocean) side of the tracks. Once you reach the trail, continue for .8 miles until it ends on Oceanside Blvd. Jog right a block onto Pacific St and follow it for .4 miles until you reach Morse St, just past the small and unimpressive Buccaneer Beach. You’re turning onto Morse to avoid an underpass at Cassidy. The short jog Morse-Myers-Cassidy and then take Cassidy across the tracks to Broadway.
You’re almost through Oceanside, just a couple of more turns until open road. Take Broadway for a half-mile to Eaton and then Eaton out to Carlsbad Blvd (the name for this section of the PCH) and miles and miles of bike lanes.
Carlsbad Blvd & Eaton St to Del Mar North Beach (14.6 miles, ↑223′ ↓197′)
This stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is what you came here for. Almost 15 miles of basically flat riding in bike lanes, with intermittent beach towns and ocean views. I would give detailed directions for the segment, but you just stay on the main road and follow the bike lanes until you see Del Mar North Beach, where the San Dieguito River empties into the sea.
If you feel like a treat, our favorite stops along the way are Cafe Topes for extraordinary breakfasts and Las Olas for Mexican with a view. Another awesome excursion, if you’re riding in the spring, is to shoot up the bike lanes of Cannon Rd for some seasonal Carlsbad highlights.
Springtime is both strawberry and flower season. About a half-mile off the PCH is the Carlsbad Strawberry Company, which is right next to the Flower Fields. It’s only three more miles round trip and 100′ of climbing to take the Armanda Rd Trail (it’s a lot like a sidewalk) that runs above the Flower Fields. This free vantage point will give you an expansive view of the 50-acres of giant ranunculus that are grown there.
Del Mar North Beach to Gilman Dr (8.2 miles, ↑603′ ↓361′)
This section is where coast riders test the mettle with a 600′ hill climb. You head up, over, and through Del Mar before dropping back down Torrey Pines Beach. Now the real fun begins, a 450′ climb up to the ridge of Torrey Pines. I’ve shown the route heading right up Torrey Pines Rd, but I presented an alternative routing through the park in the La Jolla Hill Climb section. You continue down Torrey Pines past UCSD to Gilman Dr. Don’t worry. It’s all downhill from here (mostly).
Gilman Dr to N. Mission Bay Dr (5.7 miles, ↑7′ ↓305′)
This section is a sled ride down to N. Mission Bay with low traffic roads and a couple of bike trails. The descent is consistent throughout the length of the trip.
You start off by taking a right turn down Gilmore and taking 1.6 miles, going under I-5. After the underpass, the entrance to the Rose Canyon Bicycle Path is to your right, follow it 1.1 miles till it ends on Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a low traffic street that goes to 2 miles to Damon Ave, which quickly ends at Mission Bay Dr. You’re heading to N. Mission Bay Dr, and you definitely don’t want to take Mission Bay Drive to get there.
Cross Mission Bay Dr on the crosswalk and turn right on the sidewalk. Follow the signs to the Rose Creek Bike Path. Then entrance is a little funky, so you might want to walk your bike onto the path. The path goes .6 miles until it ends at N. Mission Bay Dr, near the Mike Gotch Bridge.
N. Mission Bay Drive to Old Town Station (4.1 miles, ↑16′ ↓10′)
There are some views of Mission Bay as you zip around N. Mission Bay Drive and into Old Town. Truth be told, you’ll never see Old Town with this routing, but you’re right there if you want to pop in to see what it’s all about and maybe get a happy-hour margarita, a street taco or freshly cooked tortilla.
Take N. Mission Bay Drive (the one that’s actually next to the bay) 2.8 miles to Pacific Highway. Pacific Highway, despite its name, is fairly low traffic with bike lanes. Take it 1.1 miles, past Taylor St and under I-5. As soon as you pass under I-5, there’s an entrance to a free parking lot for the Old Town Station. We used this lot frequently to explore Old Town and also take the trolley into downtown.
Bayshore Bikeway / Silver Strand Trail (21.9 miles, flat)
The Bayshore Bikeway, aka Silver Strand Trail, is the longest continual bike trail in San Diego, which makes it relatively straight forward and easy to follow. The elephant in the corner of this ride is that you can only ride over the Coronado Bridge one day a year in August during the Bike the Bay ride. Otherwise, you’re catching the ferry over from Coronado Island.
Besides using the MB-Downtown Ride to loop back to Belmont Park, you can form a massive loop utilizing all forms of public transportation (besides buses) that spans almost all of San Diego County North to South. You do this by taking the directions in Mission Trails Climb or MB-Downtown Ride to Old Town, then catch the trolley to the Convention Center. Bike the Bayside Bikeway and ferry across to the Broadway Pier. Go to the Santa Fe Station and take the train to Ocean Side. The take a combination of the PCH Ride and La Jolla Hill Climb back to Belmont Park. It’s 70 miles or so of epic riding and unusual shuttles.
One more note about the Bayshore Bikeway, it’s hard to find free parking downtown, except on Sundays when the meters are free. If you’re driving in and parking, I have marked a couple of lots that work well. You can also ride the Silver Strand from these lots as an out and back, hit the best portion of the trail, and avoid the logistics of the ferry.
Bayshore Bikeway / Silver Strand Trail Segments
|Belmont Landing Pier - Silver Strand||5.5||10|
|Silver Strand to Coronado Ferry Landing||7||11.9|
Convention Center to Silver Strand (10 miles, flat)
For one of San Diego’s most famous rides, this section feels a lot like biking through shipyards and light industrial parks. Barrio Logan is known for the best, authentic Mexican food in San Diego and the murals in Chicano Park are super cool, but you don’t ride directly by either. Right after Barrio Logan is National City, the place where I think you’re most likely to get away with boondocking in San Diego.
The massive salt flats and hills of the South Bay Salt Works are interesting and unique, as well as an installation of bike art that you’ll pass right after the salt works. The real highlight of this section is miles and miles of biking on low traffic roads with the occasional bike lane and even a dedicated path or two all with no real route finding.
I’m starting this segment from Bayfront Park / Balboa Pier, which is about where the Coronado Ferry – Convention Center Ferry disembarks. Waypoints along the way are:
- Mile 0.2 – Park Ave and Harbor Drive
- Mile 1.0 – Harbor Drive passing under the Coronado Bridge
- Mile 3.6 – Entrance to the bike path at Gate 9 (take this to cut the corner onto Tidelands)
- Mile 5.2 – Turn to 32nd st
- Mile 5.4 – Entrance to bike path across Sweetwater Channel
- Mile 5.8 – Junction with Sweetwater Bike Path (take the left fork up and over Sweetwater Channel)
- Mile 9.3 – South Bay Salt Works / left turn at Stella
- Mile 10 – Staging Area Parking / Entrance to Silver Strand Bikeway
Silver Strand to Coronado Ferry Landing (11.9 miles, flat)
If you’re only going to ride one segment of the Bayshore Bikeway, this is it. You can even adjust the mileage by which parking lot you choose. It’s a straight shot to Coronado Island on a dedicated bike trail. The Silver Strand is San Diego’s longest bike trail with very light foot traffic. It doesn’t have the views of like you get from Mission Beach or La Jolla, but you don’t have the industrial sections like you just passed through either. It’s just smooth pavement and lots of riding with an occasional glimpse of the water until you reach Coronado.
Once you’re in Coronado, things get way more interesting. The Hotel Del Coronado, with its vintage charm, is worth a stop, and we would always pop into the Doctor Seuss Museum at the Ferry Landing while we waited for the ferry to take us back across. The views of the Navy base, downtown skyline, and Coronado Bridge are by far the best scenery of the ride.
Waypoints along the way are:
- Mile 11 – Public Works Parking
- Mile 12.8 – Bayshore Bikeway Parking Lot
- Mile 14.6 – Coronado Cayes
- Mile 16.7 – Fiddler Cove
- Mile 19.4 – Trail joins Glorietta Blvd (take this in a loop around the golf course)
- Mile 20.6 – Trail Leaves Glorietta and goes under Coronado Bridge
- Mile 21.9 – Coronado Ferry Landing
Wrapping up the Ultimate Guide to Biking in San Diego
Well, that was intense, and I’m sure by now, you want it to the end 😉 You can see why we left most of North County, East County, and mountain biking out of the guide to biking in San Diego. Not only is San Diego America’s Finest City, but it also is home to some of America’s finest cycling routes. I hope you have as much fun riding San Diego as we did, and this guide will become your top bookmarked page in your favorite cycling routes folder.
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