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Biking In San Diego (America’s Finest City)

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With a warm climate and lots of sunshine, San Diego can be the ideal location for many outdoor activities all year long. In recent years, hundreds of miles of bike lanes have been added to existing roads, making this a pretty bike-friendly city. And that’s not to mention all the beautiful parks and off-road trails that can be found.

We’ve put together this quick guide to some of the amazing places where you can go cycling in San Diego. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or you’re looking for a family-friendly bike ride, hopefully, we can provide you with some inspiration for your next trip.

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11 Best San Diego Biking Trails And Rides

1. Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park covers around 8,000 acres of desert and mountain landscapes. There are lots of trails of varying degrees of difficulty, so it can be an ideal location for beginners and experienced cyclists. Some of the trails are shared with hikers and some are multi-use.

If you’re looking for fantastic views, check out the Cowles Mountain Trail for spectacular panoramic views of San Diego. This is a multi-use trail so you are required to yield to equestrians and hikers. There’s also a maximum speed of 10 mph for cyclists on trails to keep other users safe.

Cowles Mountain Trail

You can also link up to other trails within the park for a longer workout and different scenery.

2. Mission Bay

Mission Bay Flickr ImagePin
Courtesy: Oleg Shpyrko on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Mission Bay Trail is a 12-mile paved path that loops around Mission Bay. This can be a great trail if you’re bringing your kids, as it’s away from roads and traffic, apart from some short sections. However, the trail is shared by pedestrians.

There are plenty of places to stop to rest little legs, with playgrounds, beaches, and benches to be found all along the route. Wildlife enthusiasts can also be entertained with two wildlife reserves on the route. The northern end of Mission Bay is home to the Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve, where you can see a wide range of bird species.

Fiesta Island Trail

This Mission Bay Trail can link with the Fiesta Island Trail, which can add another four-mile loop to your ride. Both trails offer great views of the bay.

3. Tecolote Canyon Natural Park

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park Flickr ImagePin
Courtesy: Mike Liu on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park to the east of Mission Bay can be a great place to get off-road without leaving the city. There are two mountain biking trails, totaling around six and a half miles: Tecolote Canyon Trail North and South. And both can be easily linked for a longer ride.

The trails in the park are shared with hikers but the dirt tracks are mostly wide, so there’s usually plenty of room to pass. But there are some single-track areas.

Starting from the North Clairemont trailhead can mean your ride is mostly downhill. The southern end of the trail is very close to Mission Bay so it can be easy to continue your ride onto the Mission Bay Trail.

4. Rose Canyon

Rose Canyon Open Space Park features the Rose Canyon Trail which is around a 10-mile loop. The trail runs through the canyon where you’ll find the pretty Rose Creek stream, but it dries up in the summer. You’ll also find oak trees providing shade and colorful wildflowers in the spring and early summer.

This trail can also be linked up with the San Clemente Canyon Trail which offers further trails off into finger canyons and lots of single-track dirt paths up to the trailhead near the 805 interstate.

Rose Canyon Trail

You’re not permitted to go under the 805 or on the eastern side of it, as you can risk being fined and having your bike confiscated, so it’s best to turn around and head back the way you came.

5. La Jolla

La Jolla Flickr ImagePin
Courtesy: K M on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

La Jolla can be a great place to explore by bicycle, with stunning coastal scenery and cliffs. You can also ride to the top of Mount Soledad to check out the National Veterans Memorial. From the top, you can get amazing views of downtown San Diego, Mission Bay, and the surrounding areas.

There are various routes you can take to explore La Jolla and the La Jolla Bike Path lets you cycle away from the traffic. The bike path links Fay Avenue with La Jolla Hermosa Avenue.

La Jolla Bike Path

La Jolla is mostly residential streets with a coastal bike route from La Jolla Cove to Windansea and continuing to Pacific Beach. For a longer trip you can cycle along the Pacific Beach Boardwalk to Mission Bay and from there link up with even more trails.

6. Coronado Bayshore Bikeway

The Coronado Bayshore Bikeway is a 24-mile long dedicated bike route stretching from the Coronado Ferry Landing through Chula Vista and National City and continuing into downtown San Diego. There are scenic vistas and pretty streets. And the route takes you past the historic Hotel del Coronado.

Around half of the bike route is traffic-free, which is the first half from Coronado to Imperial Beach. After Imperial Beach, the route moves on-street which may not be ideal if you’re cycling with kids.

Coronado Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway can offer fantastic views of the San Diego skyline and the Coronado Bay Bridge. It also travels through the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a large number of migratory and endangered birds.

There aren’t many places to stop for refreshments on the route, so it can be a good idea to pack water and snacks.

7. Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument Flickr ImagePin
Courtesy: Mark Doliner on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Cycling from Collier Neighborhood Park to Cabrillo National Monument can be a rewarding ride. The views from the top are definitely worth the climb. You can see downtown San Diego, Coronado, the Naval Base, and the surrounding mountains. It can also be a great spot for whale watching.

The bike route is made up of on-street cycling lanes along Catalina Boulevard and Cabrillo Memorial Drive. So it can be important to watch out for traffic, especially if you have kids with you. However, smaller kids may find this a little too much.

The trip should take around three hours there and back and covers around 16 miles in total.

8. Pacific Beach Boardwalk

The Pacific Beach Boardwalk links Mission Beach in the south to Pacific Beach in the north. This is a short paved trail stretching around three miles that is also shared with pedestrians. It can be an easy ride for families with lots of places to stop on the beach.

However, this boardwalk can sometimes be very busy with people, which can make navigating the route on a bike a little tricky, whether you have kids with you or not.

The route travels along the coast from Law Street down to North Jetty Road, giving you beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the beaches along the entire length of the path.

From the boardwalk trail you can easily extend your ride and join up with the Mission Bay Trail or if you begin in Mission Bay and end at Pacific Beach you can extend your ride north into La Jolla.

9. Solana Beach Coastal Rail Trail

The Solana Beach Coastal Rail Trail is a short paved trail that travels alongside the rail tracks. At less than two miles long, it can be an ideal bike ride if you have young children, as they should be able to manage it pretty easily.

The trail begins just off Via De La Valle and ends at Ocean Street in Solana Beach and is a flat path away from roads and traffic.

Around mid-way through the trail, you can exit at Plaza Street and take a trip to the beach, which can be a good spot to stop for a family picnic.

For an extended trip you can head south to Del Mar along the Camino Del Mar, but the bike route consists of on-street lanes so this stretch may not be ideal if you have children. You can also continue on this route to Torrey Pines State Reserve.

10. San Diego River Trail

The San Diego River Trail runs for around 20 miles alongside the river from Mission Valley near the Qualcomm Stadium to Ocean Beach. This is a paved path that is shared with pedestrians but it can be a peaceful ride through leafy surroundings. There are also various parks, picnic sites, and wildlife viewing points that can add interest to your ride.

There is a path on either side of the San Diego River, so you can ride up one side and down the other, crossing over at the Sunset Cliffs Boulevard Bridge.

Not far from Ocean Beach, you can check out the Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail. This trail heads south along the coast and can be a good place to see migrating California gray whales at certain times of the year. However, be sure not to get too close to the cliff edges, as these can be dangerous, particularly with rock-falls and sheer drops.

11. Torrey Pines Loop Trail

Torrey Pines Loop Trail Flickr ImagePin
Courtesy: D Yu G on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Torrey Pines Loop Trail can be found at Gonzales Canyon Open Space Trails near Del Mar. This can be a rugged trail that begins from the Sword Way Trail before reaching Torrey Highlands Park. This can be a steep section and better suited for more intermediate riders. It is from Torrey Highlands Park that the Torrey Pines Loop Trail can be found.

Torrey Pines is named after the rare pine trees that are found here. There is also a lot of brush, as well as cacti, which can be tricky to cycle through in places, as parts of the trail can be pretty narrow.

The trail eventually rejoins the Sword Way Trail to end back where you started. Sword Way can be accessed from Lansdale Drive, which is off of Del Mar Heights Road. Or, if you’re driving, you’ll find parking at Torrey Highlands Park.

Bike Rentals And Tours Around San Diego

There are plenty of bike shops in San Diego where you can rent bikes. You’ll also find that some of them offer guided tours, so you can get a local’s perspective on the area. 

San Diego Bike Laws

Most of the cycling laws for San Diego are California State laws but there may be some local laws that you might need to adhere to, as some are set out by cities and counties. It can be best to check the local and state laws before you set off, as this simply a guide and not legal advice.

  • Helmets must be worn by anyone under the age of 18 but it is recommended that helmets be worn by all cyclists for your own safety.
  • Alcohol – it is illegal to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or any drug. You can be fined up to $250 and if you’re under 21 you can lose your driving privileges or have them delayed by a year.
  • Group riding on roads – In California, cyclists can ride two or more abreast if moving at the same speed as traffic. If moving slower than traffic, cyclists must keep as near to the right-hand side of the road as practicable unless making a left turn or if the road is too narrow for a car and bike to share the lane.
  • E-bikes – Type 1 and 2 electric bikes are considered the same as regular bikes and they are allowed where regular bicycles are allowed unless there is a local law that prohibits their use on a particular route or path. Type 3 electric bikes are not allowed on bike paths or lanes unless local authorities specifically allow them.
  • Road rules – A white front light is required while riding at night and you must have a red reflector at the rear of the bike as well as white or yellow reflectors on the pedals.

Final Words

Cycling in America’s Finest City can be relaxing, scenic, and exciting. San Diego seems to have it all. Whether you’re after wild desert landscapes, beautiful bays, or stunning coastal cliffs, you can usually find a biking trail to take you where you want to go.

And as you can see, you don’t have to stray too far from the city to discover some of the best biking trails in Southern California (at least in our opinion). Some of the city trails can even be easily linked, making it super convenient if you want to extend your bike ride.

Let us know your thoughts on our favorite routes. And feel free to share this guide with your buddies to help them find exciting new trails.

Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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