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Coastal rail-trail experiences don't get much better than this—a long, smooth, palm-tree-lined trail with stunning views of the Pacific, San Diego Bay and the downtown skyline, plus easy access to parks, tot play areas and chic cafes.
Before you start, note that the coastal leg of this bikeway can be windy, especially in the afternoon. If you want the wind mostly at your back, ride the trail from north to south. Paved portions of trail are wheelchair accessible, but a section near 10th Street and Glorietta Boulevard is an on-street bike lane and not a separate trail. Also, the route of the Bayshore Bikeway on the east side of the bay is predominantly on-street bike lanes.
The Bayshore Bikeway sets out from Coronado Ferry Landing and the Ferry Landing Shops & Restaurants. Bring your bike over on the San Diego–Coronado Ferry or rent one at the Bikes & Beyond shop. Head south along the palm tree-lined path past some upscale restaurants and trailside cafes. You can take in wonderful views of the downtown San Diego skyline as you skirt Tidelands Park, with its grassy fields and playground.
Bike underneath the beautiful arching Coronado Bridge, and keep your head up as you roll past the Coronado Golf Course, a public course with million-dollar views. As you wind around the perimeter of the golf course, the separated bike path ends; cross over to the right side of Glorietta Boulevard into the on-road bike lane for a short distance. At 10th Street and Glorietta Boulevard, cross Glorietta and pick up the off-street path again. A sign marking the trail here indicates BAYSHORE BIKEWAY & IMPERIAL BEACH.
To your right you might recognize the signature red roof of the historic Hotel del Coronado. Marilyn Monroe fans may recognize the 1888 hotel as the location for the Miami Beach scenes in "Some Like it Hot." Cutting south from the hotel, the pathway follows the Silver Strand, the narrow spit of land separating San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, where the Coronado branch of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad once traveled. The railroad began construction under prominent San Diego resident John D. Spreckels in 1906 and was completed in 1919. It was built to link San Diego to the Southern Pacific Railroad in El Centro, CA. In 1932, Spreckel's heirs sold their share of the railroad to Southern Pacific, and in 1933, it became the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway.
On the left is the Coronado Community Center and a beautiful bayside park that's perfect for an afternoon picnic. Following the narrow, blustery corridor, with shorelines and sand dunes on both sides of the rail-trail. You'll pass the large U.S. Naval Amphibious Base (where Navy SEALs train), and then a 0.5-mile nature path with observation decks and interpretive signs. At Silver Strand State Beach, pedestrian tunnels beneath State Route 75 offer access to the bigger surf on the ocean side, or the calmer, warmer waters on the bay side.
Beyond the state beach is the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which was dedicated in June 1999 and contains the majority of the remaining wetlands, mudflats and eelgrass beds in San Diego Bay. The 3,940-acre refuge supports many endangered and threatened species of flora and fauna, which makes it an important stop on the Pacific Flyway, a north–south migratory bird route along the Americas. Visitors can bird watch from various points along the bike path.
The continuous, paved portion of the rail-trail ends at the south end of San Diego Bay at Main Street in Chula Vista. Bike lanes along streets with light traffic connect to another short portion of trail near the S. Bay Freeway (SR 54) and over the Sweetwater River, connecting to the Sweetwater Bikeway. To complete the 24-mile loop around the bay, the rail-trail links with well-marked on-street bike lanes and bike routes through Chula Vista, National City and downtown San Diego and on to the San Diego-Coronado Ferry.
To reach the Coronado trailhead from downtown San Diego, take Interstate 5 to the SR 75 Exit. Cross the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and follow SR 75, which becomes Fourth Street, to Orange Avenue. Turn right (east) onto First Street. A shopping center and the ferry terminal are just south of Orange Avenue and First Street. Park in the shopping center lot or on the street.
To reach the Imperial Beach trailhead, from the terminus of I-5 in Chula Vista, take SR 75/Palm Avenue east to 13th Street and turn right (north) to the trailhead parking lot.
Just a word of caution, don't miss the sharp left turn near the start that runs you parallel with 5. We missed it and rode about 3 miles in the wrong direction. The turn off sign was spray painted with graffiti, And it led right onto another trail so easy to miss especially if you are from out of town. But overall it was awesome and I would highly recommend. Just not on a beach cruiser from a hotel!!
Grateful I had a riding companion. Heading south from Coronado to Main Street is beautifully paved and marked. From there you are on the rough road. Some sections have no signage at all. We had to stop several times to figure out directions for ourselves. The road along the shipyards and 32nd Street is in very poor condition. Add traffic and a very narrow "bike lane" and it is just plain dangerous. Lots of room for improvement on the San Diego side.
The Coronado leg is very scenic. However as you ride along the San Diego side, the bike path gets discontineous. I took the wrong streets twice and had to rely on my google maps to get back on the path. I also accidently entered the Wildlife Refuge Park through the exit road and the gate closed behind me and waited till a car exited in order get back on the road. There are chemical smell in the air as you pass by factories. All in all I enjoyed the experience and rode about 32 miles to return to my car at the Spanish Landing park.
This round trip ride is only about 24 to 25 miles. Very nice, but very short. To make the ride longer, add a side trip north on Harbor Blvd in San Diego to Seaport Village or also include Harbor Island. I like 13th Street in Imperial Beach as a starting point.
If this is your first trip, I suggest taking the round trip in the CCW direction, doing the San Diego part of the trip first. The trail marking on the San Diego side are C-rap. But I think going in a counter-clokcwise direction would make the navigation more intuitive.
If you do make the CCW trip, when you get off the ferry, navigate to the Starbucks on Orange and then go to the bike trail. Because, the end of the bikeway close to the ferry port is crowded with people and kidlets and dogs on 30 ft leashes wandering back and forth acorss the path making it difficult to get past without incident.
Very nice trail, completely paved, and mostly off of the roads.
Navy base side of the loop not so nice, ocean side really great, good bird watching at many locations...humming birds and avocets, how cool is that!!
We started our ride at Pier 32 (32nd street, south of the USN shipyard)... and road the entire loop clockwise... caught the Coronado Ferry and completed the lap back to our Expedition.
The good news:
Lots of parking at Pier 32 & pretty easy to find. The initial part of the ride near I-5 was noisy, but quickly faded as we went by the salt ponds and out to the Silver Strand. The strand is very nice. Prior reviews which mention that you'll face a headwind going north in the afternoon are absolutely correct. Even with the headwind, it was a terrific ride to the Coronado Ferry!
The bad news:
Our truck was at Pier 32... and this was a terrible!! ride from the Ferry Dock south. Past Seaport village is industrial. The "trail" is on beat-up or "under construction" streets with lots of heavy traffic and big trucks. While there is a marked bike lane, it is unsafe and poorly maintained.
Ride over/down to the Coronado Ferry dock from downtown; buy a round trip ferry boat ticket ($8.50) and ride out and back to the salt ponds.. you will LOVE it!
... and this part is a "5 star" rating.
Rented bikes from Bikes & Beyond, Ferry Landing, Coronado. Rode to Imperial Beach and returned most of the way. One of the rental bikes developed a flat tire, so had to walk it a couple miles to Holland's Bicycles. Folks at Bikes & Beyond and Holland's are connected. They didn't charge for the bike rental because of the issues with the bike. Nice morning some breeze. Trail in good condition, flat and wide. Not the most scenic. Does pass along Wildlife Refuge so some birds to watch. A number of other cyclists on the trail and a number offered to help with flat tire.
The extension of the trail from 13TH Street in Imperial Beach to the foot of Main Street in Chula Vista is now open adding over a mile of trail with beautiful views of soutern San Diego Bay and the salt flats.
"If you’re anywhere near Imperial Beach, I highly recommend checking out the segment of this trail that extends from 13th Street to Route 75. Ample parking is available at the northern end of 13th Street and it’s a quiet and scenic walk, bike ride, or in-line skate trip to Route 75.
This trail segment is constructed mostly on an abandoned railroad right-of-way and unlike the trail segment from Silver Strand State Beach to Coronado, doesn’t run immediately adjacent to a very busy and noisy highway.
The trail surface here is nicely paved with protective fencing and/or guard rails in place as appropriate. Downtown San Diego’s skyline is visible along most of the route. Other views are of the nearby bay, and a wildlife sanctuary.
Don’t miss this gem if you’re visiting the area. Feel free to e-mail me for further information.
"This trail is a great place for a slow, scenic ride, or a fast training ride. It's ALWAYS windy, usually cross winds off of the Pacific.
The trail is very safe and has a clean surface, plus there are great views. Trail users can use the restroom and lunch tables at Silver Strand State Park which has direct access to the trail."
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