San Diego has been actively building a bike trail network around the city. These are trails where bikers can ride pretty much free of auto traffic. One of the biggest projects is the San Diego River Trail. This is our guide to biking the San Diego River trail for the first 3.5 miles.
Starting Point: Robb Field or Dog Beach
Length: 7 miles
The eventual goal of the San Diego River Trail is to have a pedestrian and biking trail that goes over 50 miles from the beach to the mountains. When we did this trail in late June 2018 we found that the trail ended at Sefton Field baseball park. Beyond that you need to ride on roads for awhile before hooking up with the rest of the trail.
The trail starts right at the ocean by Dog Beach. There is a free parking lot by Dog Beach but it can get crowded with beach goers. We choose to park about a half mile up the trail at the large Robb Field parking lot. Access to the trail is right by the river.
Robb Field is home to a great deal of recreational activities including a skateboard park you will pass by. The trail follows along the San Diego River. For the first part you will actually see water in the river. However, much of the year the river quickly becomes dry.
As you leave Ocean Beach on your right will be the San Diego Sports Arena aka the Valley View Casino Center. This 13,000 seat arena has bene home to many San Diego sporting and music events since it was built in 1966. On your right, across the San Diego River, you will see Sea World with its iconic 300-foot Skytower (plus some newer rollercoasters).
Once you hit the major intersection with I-5 and I-8 you will be in Mission Valley. To your left, on the top of a hill is the University of San Diego. Here things start getting somewhat urban. Thankfully a nice thing about this trail is that it goes under major roads. You do not need to cross at any intersections.
On the downside there is a great deal of construction going on. This area also has a fairly high population of homeless and vagrants. There is also a lot of graffiti on the trail. At about 3 miles you will come to a nice nature mural as the trail curves into Cottonwood Grove Park. Beyond this is Sefton Fields baseball park.
At this point we lost the trail. We went about a mile down Hotel Circle Place but turned around at the Motel 6. This seems to be an uncompleted portion of the San Diego River Trail. The San Diego River organization lists the area between Shefton Field and Fashion Valley Road as a current “gap.”
We look forward to going back when more segments of the trail are open. For now, this is a nice 7 to 8 mile bike ride. Perfect for a quick afternoon exercise. The trail is entirely flat so it is great for kids. The only issue is the trail heading back goes right into the offshore wind and it is significantly harder biking into the wind. However, even with a strong breeze it was not that difficult.