Mission Bay is one of San Diego’s great playgrounds. Along with about 2,000 acres of water, there are 27 miles of shorelines, 18 of which are sandy beaches. There are also many bike paths appropriate for all ages. We often do the 12-mile loop around the Bay, but for tourist and first-timers we suggest this 8-mile Mission Bay/Beach Bike Route.
Instead of just sticking to Mission Bay, this route also incorporates a ride along Mission Beach’s ocean front boardwalk. It can be a very crowded area, so the best time to go is mid-week and off-season. There is an 8 MPH speed limit on most of the route, so this is better for scenic riding as opposed to a full out expert bike ride. The entire route is flat and there is only one small portion where you need to ride on roads. In other words, this is a great trip for kids. This route takes about an hour of biking, but you may want to set aside time to stop for food or other exploration.
Because this is a loop you can start at any part of the trail. We like to start at Crown Point because there is plenty of parking. However, many visitors may need to rent a bike. If this is the case we suggest parking at Belmont Park and renting a bike. There are several places to rent from but we recommend Mission Beach Rentals @ Belmont. If you do this simply head north along the boardwalk, following our directions from Belmont Park below.
I will admit this is the only place we have rented from, but our experience was very positive. During a ride our son’s tire blew out half-way through, and so we stopped here to rent a bike. They offered to repair our bike for free, so we didn’t have to get a rental. However, I went ahead and rented a bike because I realized my son had outgrown his 20” bike. It was only $7 an hour and they really went out of their way to provide great service when they were only getting $7 from us.
Overall, this is a very easy trail to follow, with only a couple of places where you need to cross the street. Starting from Crown Point, you will head south to go under the bridge at the tip of the point. The path then turns back towards the north as Crown Point is a small peninsula that juts into the bay. You will ride along the north shore of the bay until you come to the Catamaran Resort. The resort often has a lot of activity going on and it is a possible stop to check out the gardens and tropical birds they have. Of course, there are also several dining options at the Catamaran and all along this route.
From the Catamaran the trial heads south along what is the entire length of Mission Beach. Mission Beach is basically a two mile long sandbar that at the most is about 4 blocks wide with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Mission Beach on the other. This route will go down along the Mission Bay side and come up on the Pacific Ocean side. Note if you start at Belmont Park you will be starting on the Pacific Ocean side.
Riding along the trail you will going past many of the classic San Diego beach vacation rentals. The Mission Bay side is calmer, both in terms of the water and general level of activity. The beach side is the party area. You will come to a stoplight at W. Mission Bay Dr. To your left is the Bahia Resort and on your right you will see Belmont Park with its iconic roller coaster.
At this point, you are simply going to cross at the traffic light and continue on the trial down the bay side. Note there are several trials splitting off here, but you want to head due south, hugging the bay houses on your right and the bay on your left. In less than a mile you will reach the end where Mission Bay meets the San Diego River. This area is known as Mariner’s Basin and is a great place for beginner snorkeling (among other water activities).
At this point you head right towards the ocean. You will cross a parking lot and Mission Blvd before picking up the trial again on the boardwalk. At this point you are heading back north. The boardwalk along the beach will tend to be more crowded, but it is quite wide and the main concern is not hitting a pedestrian.
Halfway up you reach Belmont Park, home of all kinds of activities and our bike rental shop. Continue on the boardwalk another mile until you reach Pacific Beach Dr. It is right by the World Famous restaurant/watering hole. Head inland one block along Pacific Beach Dr. and cross the busy Mission Bay Blvd by the Catamaran.
This is the only portion that does not have a dedicated trial. You need to go about 3 blocks to reach Dawes St. You make a right at Dawes and hit back up with the trial by the Catamaran. You should recognize it because you came this way. Turn left and you head back another mile or so to where you started at Crown Point.
Overall, this is a scenic beachfront outing that is a fairly easy introduction to biking for children. Generally, my only concern with my kids is that they will hit a pedestrian. We have had some close calls but no damage so far. I do note that I always consider this an 8-mile trial but our GPS said 8.78. Either way it is easily done in an hour of biking.