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Try This Bike Trail: Balboa Parks’ Florida Canyon

Venture on two wheels through this spider web of trails offering views of the Coronado bridge on a clear day
San Diego bike trail called Florida Canyon Trail found close to Balboa Park featuring a mountain bike and a stream
Photo Credit: James Murren

On Florida Drive, which bisects Balboa Park, but not extending beyond Park Boulevard on the west side and Pershing Drive on the east, there is a spider web of trails in Florida Canyon. If you’re willing to explore it, you can connect upwards of seven miles of trails, depending on how you link them up. Since there’s no set route, use any available stretch of dirt pathway to get in around an hour of fairly strenuous riding.

Park in the parking lots by the Morley Field baseball and softball fields. To start, ride in the direction of the tennis courts and on toward the dog park, skirting its edge and diving into the trail on the far left corner, which is the southwest side of the dog area. The immediate cobble-filled downhill will get you loosened up a bit.

San Diego bike trail called Florida Canyon Trail feating an incline route towards Balboa Park
Photo Credit: James Murren

Stay straight, never making any hard turns. The trail will twist and turn as you pass turnoffs, but stay the course. If you do, about a mile later you will end up down at the intersection of Pershing Dr., 26th St., and Florida Drive. Staying on the dirt, look to your left and note the single track that climbs up alongside Pershing Dr. Take it. Enjoy the wildflowers if they’re poppin’.

It is about a half-mile climb up a tight and fairly narrow single track. Back down at the three-way intersection, go right, back in the direction that you came. As you work your way back through, at about the half-mile mark, turn left and cross over Florida Dr. The crossover occurs slightly beyond Zoo Place ahead of the trail entrance. It’s a little past Zoo Place, going north, on the west side.

Again, dive in and get ready for cobbles. Follow the trail as it bends to the right. At this point, there is a main trail going north, but you’ll see other trails jumping off as you go. I tend to stay low and keep close to the stream. When I reach the north end, crossing over Morley Field Drive, I slowly pedal the Little Eden Trail. It’s very short but oh so beautiful with the big trees and shady canopies.

At this point, turn around and cross back over Morley Field Drive. Then go up the steep incline/hill to your right. Up top, it will come to a T intersection, at which point, go left. From here, go across the top.

San Diego bike trail called Florida Canyon Trail featuring native flowers
Photo Credit: James Murren

From there, it’s a free-for-all as to what to do next. You can double up again and ride what you rode earlier. One typical route I do is after crossing Florida Drive at Zoo Place, I go north on the trail and take the immediate right-hand trail that climbs up and up. It’s a switchback that can be grueling, especially on a single-speed.

Up top, turn right and ride the dirt road, heading south. On a clear day, you can see the Coronado Bridge and distant Coronado Islands in Mexican waters. It’s a stunning view when there’s no marine layer or haze. From there, look around and wander your way back to wherever you started. There are other trails up top that drop down. You can’t really get lost.

By James Murren

James Murren is an award-winning adventure/travel writer, with nearly three decades of independent journalism experience. He's often having a good time in our local mountains, deserts and waters, when he's not teaching classes at SDSU.

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