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5 Bike Paths to Tour Every Part of San Diego

Bicyclist Andrew Bowen shares his favorite rides to see the county on two wheels

By Andrew Bowen

This story was originally published on April 7, 2021. It was updated in November 2023.

Escondido Creek Bike Path

12 Miles

If busy roads have deterred you from biking in the past, look to this North County trek—not a single section forces you to share a lane with cars.

Start at the path’s northeastern terminus on the corner of Beven Drive and Wohlford Drive. The path will follow the “creek” (it’s more like a paved storm drain) for just under four miles before turning into a two-way protected bike lane that runs along North Broadway. This half-mile “missing link” through downtown Escondido was completed in 2019 and offers a preview of the many new high-quality bike lanes due to open in the coming years.

The bike path will rejoin the creek at Centre City Parkway. When you pass the Escondido Transit Center on your left, you’ll see another bike path called the Inland Rail Trail that you can take all the way to Oceanside.

For this shorter ride, the path ends at Harmony Grove Road. Turn around and pedal back to your starting point. The last few miles of your return trip offer views of the surrounding mountains.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Trail

13 Miles

This trail tucked in the middle of suburbia is popular with hikers, but exploring it on a mountain bike is even better (and easy enough for kids!). Keep Google Maps handy, because reception is fairly good throughout the canyon and there are infinite combinations of trails you can criss-cross.

For the simplest and flattest ride, start at the entrance by the southernmost tip of Camino del Sur. Head west following the trail that runs parallel to Peñasquitos Creek.

In two miles, you’ll see the waterfall that serves as the trail’s main attraction. Keep going west all the way to I-5, then double back and start your return.

Turn right at Wagon Wheel Crossing to reach the trail south of the creek and continue riding east. The trail south of the creek will eventually lead you to Eichar’s Grave, a memorial with some interesting local history. Take the next left, then go west on the final bit of trail to return back to your starting point.

Mid-City, Mansions, University Heights, and Normal Heights

9 Miles

This ride doesn’t have dedicated bike lanes, but the streets are relatively low-stress and you’ll be rewarded with a tour of gorgeous houses and canyon views.

Start on Park Boulevard and ride north to turn right on Adams Avenue. After you pass Trolley Barn Park, hang a left on Panorama Drive for the first detour. Admire the collection of historic homes as the street curves around to take you back onto Adams.

Continue east across the 805, then turn left onto Mountain View Drive for an even windier detour. Take a left onto Hawley Boulevard. Pedal to the end of Cromwell Place before returning to Mountain View.

Turn left and continue back to Adams. Ride east and turn left onto Kensington Drive for our final detour. Another left on Canterbury Drive will take you past stunning mansions. At the end, a right on Palisades Road, then another on Marlborough Drive, will take you back to Adams. Turn right onto Adams and it’s a 2.5-mile ride back to your starting point.

Bike Paths - Balboa Park

Bike Paths – Balboa Park

Balboa Park

6 Miles

Even if you’re a lifelong San Diegan, there are likely still pockets of Balboa Park you’ve never seen. Biking is a great way to scope them all out. Start at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street and take Balboa Drive south all the way to Marston Point, the southwestern tip of the park. Follow the curve northbound until you reach the bathrooms, then turn right onto a separate path that will take you up to El Prado.

Head east into the park’s central mesa and turn right onto Pan American Road. Pass Spreckels Organ Pavilion and keep right at the fork for a jaunt past the International Cottages. You’ll soon reach the  Palisades Plaza. While you’re there, stop at the Starlight Bowl amphitheater, a long-shuttered venue in the process of a revival.

When you’re ready to head out, travel southeast on Presidents Way and cross Park Boulevard to approach Inspiration Point, which has some lovely gardens. Hop off your bike and explore the area on foot for a quick rest stop.

Go back to Park Boulevard and ride north (this brief section can get busy and lacks bike lanes), passing the rose and cactus gardens on your right. Turn left onto Zoo Place and make a left at the crosswalk. This path will lead you back to El Prado, which you can ride all the way back to the park’s west mesa where you started.

Bayshore Bikeway

24 Miles

The Bayshore Bikeway is a staple of San Diego cycling. Don’t let the length scare you: The route is almost entirely flat and much of it is separated from cars.

The first section, starting at Broadway Pier and going southeast on Harbor Drive, is the most urban, but stick with it for a close-up look at San Diego’s shipbuilding industry. Continue south, following the Bayshore Bikeway signage to a bike bridge that runs parallel to I-5 over the Sweetwater River. The route will take you past the Chula Vista Marina and South Bay Salt Works, where massive evaporation ponds yield mountains of sea salt.

When you reach Main Street in Chula Vista, turn right onto a separated bike path. Trident Coffee in Imperial Beach marks the halfway point and makes for a great pit stop, offering delicious cold brew and clean bathrooms. The bike path continues west, then north, alongside the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The final stretch follows Silver Strand all the way to Coronado, winds around the golf course, and ends at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Relax and enjoy the ferry ride back to downtown. Your bike is included in the $5 ticket!

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