San Diego is a great place to do some road biking pretty much any time of the year. The temperatures are fairly moderate, there are a number of bike paths and designated bike lanes, and I find the drivers in San Diego fairly accommodating for cyclists. The best cycling routes in San Diego are found in the Mission Bay, La Jolla and northern coast areas like Torrey Pines, Del Mar, and inland to places like Rancho Santa Fe and Poway.
Where to Stay When Cycling in San Diego
In order to best access these areas I would suggest staying in the Mission Beach, La Jolla area. I would not stay downtown as the routes which connect downtown to these northern areas are not the best for cycling. The are numerous houses and apartments for rent in the Mission Beach / Mission Bay area, and there are a lot of hotels in the La Jolla area.
Below you’ll find my five favourite cycling routes in the San Diego area. I like the challenge of some climbing and most of these routes involve a fair amount of climbing. If you are looking for an easier, flatter route, check out Route #4 which is a loop around Mission Bay and Fiesta Island, or Route #5 to Point Loma. I have these San Diego Routes saved in Strava, so if you are a Strava member and actually want the Route file just let me know (via a comment below) and I can send it along.
Best Cycling Routes In San Diego – Route #1 – La Jolla Mt Soledad Cycling Route – 25 kilometers
This cycling route is a great warm up ride if you’ve just arrived in San Diego. The Soledad Mountain Road climb is a good challenge and will get your legs warmed up for the longer rides later in the week. The view from the top of Soledad is spectacular on a clear day. The total distance for this ride from Mission Bay to the top of Soledad & return is about 25 kilometres.
For all of my cycling routes I am going to assume a start in the Mission Beach, Mission Bay area. If you are staying north in La Jolla you can take La Jolla Blvd and Mission Blvd south to around Garnet or Grand and then east over to join up at Soledad Mountain Road. I am going to provide a little more detail on this route as this is the basic starting route for many of the other rides described below.
Start your bike ride on the Mission Bay multi purpose path. Head east on the path around the point and then through Crown Point Park. Watch this Youtube video to get an idea of of what it’s like to ride the path.
The path will end just beyond the park. Continue on Crown Point Dr and then turn right on Pacific Beach Dr. Next continue on Pacific Beach Dr until just after you cross over the bridge. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, turn left on the Rose Creek Bike Trail. Stay on the bike trail until you get to Garnet Ave, then come up onto Garnet and cross over onto Soledad Mountain Road. Now you are starting the climb. The climb is about 5.5 km and rises about 250 meters, so it’s a good challenge.
Keep going until you get to the top of Soledad Mountain Road and then turn right on La Jolla Scenic Drive which will take you to the National Veteran’s Memorial at the top of the hill. Get your camera out here for some great pictures.
When you’re finished take the ride back down the mountain the same way you came up. You can really pick up some speed coming down the hill so make sure your brakes are working well!
Route #2 – To Poway via SR56 Bike Trail Route – 82 kilometers
If you’re looking for a long quiet bike ride away from traffic, this is it. The SR56 Bike Trail is a nicely paved path with great scenery. It will take you almost all the way to Poway. This route totals 82 km, with 950 meters of climbing.
This cycling route starts in Mission Bay, goes over Mt Soledad, follows the coast north to Torrey Pines then cuts inland via McGonigle Rd and Carmel Valley Road to connect with the SR56 Bike Trail. The bike trail is a very gradual uphill climb towards Poway. Continue on the Bike Trail until you come to the intersection of Highway 15 where the bike trail ends. From here continue on Ted Williams Parkway until you hit Pomerado Rd. At the corner there is a shopping centre with a Starbucks. Take a break at the Starbucks before heading home.
When you’re ready to head back follow Pomerado Rd south all the way until it connects with Miramar Blvd. This is the only real “bike unfriendly” part of the ride. Miramar is a pretty busy street and there is no bike lane to speak of. Continue on Miramar and then continue on La Jolla Village Dr until you hit Gilman Dr. Go south on Gilman past Hwy 5 where you will be able to get on the Rose Canyon Bike Path.
The bike path will eventually turn into a small service road called Santa Fe St which you can take until you meet up with Garnet St. Turn right on Garnet and find your way back to the Rose Creek bike trail as described in the Soledad Route above. From here you can navigate back to Mission Bay
Best Cycling Routes In San Diego – Route #3 – To Rancho Santa Fe via Torrey Pines – 100 kilometers
Rancho Santa Fe is a great little town inland east of Solana Beach. It has a number of nice restaurants and cafes. On a cool day on the coast, Rancho Santa Fe can be a few degrees warmer than the coast, and makes for a nice place to go if the coast is cool and breezy for cycling. I recommend a stop at Caffe Positano in Rancho Santa Fe. This is about half way in your ride and you can grab some great baked goods with a coffee. On the way back home you’ll ride along the coast with some fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. The total distance for this ride is 100 kms and has over 1000 meters of climbing.
Follow the cycling route described in the Mt Soledad Route above. Once at the top of Mt Soledad descend along Via Capri (very steep) and then Hidden Valley Rd to the intersection. At the intersection take La Jolla Shores Dr north until it meets up with N Torrey Pines Rd. Enjoy the downhill section on N Torrey Pines Road with the fabulous view of Torrey Pines Beach and the view towards Del Mar. Continue on this road until you arrive in Del Mar.
In Del Mar turn off on Jimmy Durante Blvd and then right on Via de la Valle all the way to Rancho Santa Fe. Just before you arrive at Passeo Delicious (this is the main street) in Rancho Sante Fe take a right on Las Colinas and take the Las Colinas – El Vuelo loop which has some beautiful scenery and which will take you back to Passeo Delicias where you can turn left and head into Rancho Sante Fe for your break at Caffe Positano.
Once you’ve finished your coffee, head east on Passeo Delicias just out of town and then turn left on El Montevideo. Not long after turning, turn right on Lago Lindo and left on El Camino Del Norte. Stay on this road all the way to Olivenhain. Then turn right on Rancho Sante Fe Rd to Calle Barcelona and then take Leucadia Blvd or La Costa Ave to the coast. Once on the coast follow scenic Highway 101 back to Del Mar via Encinitas and Solana Beach, and then eventually back to Mission Bay.
Route #4 – Mission Bay Loop and Fiesta Island
If you are looking for an easier and flatter route, then this is the cycling route for you. This route follows a paved path around Mission Bay. You can also loop around Fiesta Island which is located in the Bay and provides great scenery.
Start on the Mission Bay multi purpose path on the west side of Mission Bay. Head east on the path around the point and then through Crown Point Park. The path will end just beyond the park. Continue on Crown Point Dr and then turn right on Pacific Beach Dr. Next continue on Pacific Beach Dr over the Rose Inlet bridge where Pacific Beach Dr becomes N Mission Bay Dr. Cycle along N Mission Bay Dr for a few minutes until you get to De Anza Cove Park. Here you can get back on the multi purpose path. The path will take you along the east side of Mission Bay. Continue until you arrive at Fiesta Island Rd. Here turn right and continue on Fiesta Island Road which will bring you in a loop around the island.
Fiesta Island is a popular location for charity walks and runs, bicycle races, time trials and other special events. Picnicking is also allowed on the island. If you enjoy flat, nearly car-free beachside biking, the Fiesta Island loop is a must-ride. The loop is four miles long, so depending on how many miles you want to ride, you can continue for multiple loops. Technically, there is no bike lane since cyclists are legally permitted to occupy the entire roadway. Also, the loop is one-way headed in a counterclockwise direction so you never have to worry about oncoming traffic.
When you’ve done your loops on Fiesta Island, return to your home base the way you came via the Mission Bay Path.
Best Cycling Routes In San Diego – Route #5 – Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument
This is another fairly flat route, with an option for a few hills if you are up for it. The bike ride goes south from Mission Bay towards Ocean Beach and then to Point Loma. This is a beautiful ride, especially when you hit Cabrillo Memorial Drive down to Point Loma. The scenery is beautiful, you can see the downtown area, the harbour, and Coronado Island from this area. Once you get into Cabrillo National Monument you have the option of going down the hill almost to the water. The total ride should be about 24 miles.
To start the ride in Mission Bay ride south along the Mission Bay path. Where the path ends get onto W Mission Bay Dr and cross the first bridge. You can also ride along Mariners Way for a while if you want to avoid W Mission Bay Dr before the bridge. After crossing the bridge, use the path that loops under the bridge to get onto Quivira Road. Continue on Quivira until you see the Sunset Cliffs Blvd bridge. Here take the small path to the left which will get you up to where you can cross the bridge.
Once over the bridge, you have two options depending on whether you want to ride up a fairly challenging steep hill. If you want flatter terrain take Option 1 and follow Nimitz Ave to Catalina Blvd, where you turn right. If you are up for the hill challenge, you can take option 2 and ride through the beautiful community of Ocean Beach. After the bridge stay on Sunsets Cliff Blvd and continue for a while until you get to Hill St. At Hill St turn left and head up the challenging hill. After climbing the hill you will turn right on Catalina Blvd.
Now the two options merge back together. Continue on Catalina until it turns into Cabrillo Memorial Dr. Next continue on this road until it brings you to the gate for Cabrillo National Monument. Here you have a few choices. If you want to ride the hill down towards the ocean (and back up again!) you may have to pay the $10 park entry fee. If you are here early in the morning and no one is at the gate you can ride through. If you are not interested in riding the hill head back home the same way you came.
For those that are keen for a hill ride turn right on Cabrillo Rd after passing the park gate. This will provide you with a great view as you roll down the hill. At the bottom check out the scenery (and the tide pools if you want) and then climb back up the hill. Repeat the hill climb if you are really keen. When tired, head back home via the same route. Enjoy!
If you’re interested in reading about another city that has some great cycling, read my Best Cycling Routes in Scottsdale post.
Now that you have experience with the Best Cycling Routes in San Diego, find some other great things to do in San Diego, see our One Week San Diego Itinerary.