While it often gets overshadowed by bike-friendly cities like Portland and Minneapolis, San Diego is actually an ideal destination for cyclists of all levels thanks to its mild year-round weather and plentiful bike paths. San Diego’s varied terrain – rugged canyons with mountain biking trails and flat boardwalks along the beaches -means there’s something for everyone, whether you prefer a mellow beach cruise or a steep mountain climb. Here are the best bike routes in San Diego to explore on your next trip.
The Pacific Coast Highway offers one of the most scenic road bike rides in the world. The section from the UCSD Campus to Oceanside takes riders past Torrey Pines State Park and through the picturesque beach towns of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. A great out and back ride is from La Jolla to Encinitas. Take Torrey Pines Rd. until you hit Camino del Mar. The coastal road eventually turns into Highway 101, or cyclists can take the Coaster community train to Encinitas or even Oceanside and ride back (or vice versa). There are beautiful ocean views and plenty of rolling hills along the way. Stop at Pizza Port in Solana Beach to fuel up on cold beer and pizza on signature wholegrain beer crust, before tackling the climb up Torrey Pines on your way back.
Coronado Island and the Bayshore Bikeway
Bicycling in Coronado, the idyllic island across from downtown, is a breeze since it’s relatively flat and easy to navigate. Riders can follow the perimeter of the island (accept for the off-limits Navy base) for an easy six-mile cruise that takes you underneath the Coronado Bridge and past the iconic Hotel Del Coronado. If you’re in the mood for something more challenging, the 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway is one of the most scenic bicycling routes in Southern California. Take the ferry over from downtown – you can take bikes with you on the ferry or rent them at Bikes & Beyond at the Ferry Landing. Make you’re way through Coronado, along the Silver Strand, through Imperial Beach and Chula Vista back to downtown. On of the best bike routes in San Diego, 13 miles of this ride is on car-free paths.
Mission Bay Park and Pacific Beach
Mission Bay Park (the largest aquatic park of its kind in the world) features 14 miles of scenic bike trails that hug the inner bay beaches and take you through protected wetlands. The paths are wide and flat and there are a variety of grassy parks on the bay perfect for picnicking. Just west you’ll find Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, where you can hop on the wide boardwalk and cruise all the way to Law Street, just before Tourmaline Surfing Park.
Florida Canyon/Balboa Park
1,200-acre Balboa Park in the centre of San Diego offers 65 miles of trails. Trail #23 takes you to the less-travelled side of Balboa Park and offers surprisingly beautiful canyon views. The 6.8-mile trail goes through natural Florida Canyon and along Balboa Park’s eastern border. Plus, you can use the ride as an excuse to visit the craft beer tasting rooms around 30th Street in North Park – just be sure not to overindulge before peddling back.
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve
The road bike ride around Elfin Forest has challenging climbs and great scenery, and is considered one of the top bike routes in Sand Diego. Start in Leucadia and take La Costa Avenue east. Follow it to Rancho Santa Fe Road, turn right on San Elijo Road, and right on Elfin Forest Road. To make it even more challenging, stay on Elfin Forest Road until it changes to Harmony Grove Road. From there, follow West Valley Parkway south to Solana Beach. You can also do an 11-mile mountain bike ride through the reserve itself. It’s home to native plant communities like oak riparian, oak woodland and coastal sage scrub.
There are a variety of ways to get up to Mount Soledad and all will give you a great workout; the 822-foot hill offers stunning views of the coast and Mexico. You can start in La Jolla or Pacific Beach. From La Jolla Blvd. take Nautilus Street until La Jolla Scenic Drive. Take a left and then a right on Soledad Park Rd. There are beautiful homes on Mount Soledad and the peak is the site of a Veteran’s memorial.
Advanced mountain bikers head to the Noble Canyon Trail in East County, near Mt. Laguna. The trail is located in Cleveland National Forest, a protected area that was created by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. It’s an out and back trail that is roughly 18 miles total. The Lower Noble Trailhead is located off Pine Creek Road. Noble Canyon is a great trail to do in the spring and summer when the wildflowers are blooming and remains of an old gold mine from the 1880s can be seen from the trail. Bring plenty of water and $5 for parking.
Booking a trip to San Diego? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it simple for you to travel all over North America, bringing these bike routes in San Diego closer than ever before.
Have you been on any bike adventures in San Diego? What did you do? Tell us in the comments section below.
Written by Casey Chiotti