This is one of our favorite rides. Every time we travel south to San Diego, we make a point of riding this trail. We've only ridden it on summer weekdays, so bike and pedestrian traffic wasn't an issue (unless you decide to combine this with the Mission Beach-Pacific Beach Boardwalk which we always do). This path is outstanding for its wide concrete trail, amazing views, cool ocean breeze, flatness (except for a couple of bridges), and for being a loop!
We don't follow the Rails-To-Trails Mission Bay Bike Path map to the letter. We think our customized route is better, so consider trying our directions. Unless we're staying in a Mission Beach rental home, we like to park at the north end of Mission Bay at De Anza Cove Park, then hop on the trail there and proceed in a clockwise manner. As we approach South Shores Parkway, near Sea World, we continue across it and stay on the path which hugs and encircles the Sea World parking lot. Eventually you'll head north on Ingraham Street to the first bridge which goes over the bay to Vacation Isle. Just stay on the bridge's sidewalk so you don't have to worry about a couple of tons of metal running you down. You'll have to go over one more short bridge over Fisherman's Channel, then you hop back on the Mission Bay trail heading west. This is my favorite part since you're totally away from roads and there is very little bike or pedestrian traffic. Plus it's the prettiest part of the loop! Million dollar homes and million dollar views of Mission Bay! Stay on this path and you'll eventually curve south along the bay.
When you get to West Mission Bay Drive, continue across it through Bonita Cove Park on a bike/pedestrian trail that will lead you past more beautiful bay front homes down to Mission Point Park. This is a great spot to find a bench, take in the incredible views, have a snacky, and perhaps use the restroom.
After you've had your fill of gorgeous scenery, head west on San Diego Place and then North Jetty Road. You'll soon discover the trailhead for the Ocean Front Walk, or Mission Beach-Pacific Beach Boardwalk. It's quiet and lovely down at that end as you ride between multi-million dollar homes and the sand. Eventually it will become somewhat congested with pedestrians as you encounter the restaurants, businesses, and tourist attractions, but that's OK. Just take it slow and enjoy the culture of Mission Beach!
Once you get past the pier it will open up a bit. Toward the end of the boardwalk, go up a short incline to a bluff and Palisades Park. What a great photo op as you look back down the coast toward the jetty where you started northward.
After your moment of zen, head back down the boardwalk, and when you reach San Rafael Place cut through all of the homes between the ocean and bay to get back on the Mission Bay Bike Path.
Now you can continue your loop, eventually passing Crown Point Park and a wildlife preserve on your way back to De Anza Cove Park.
This has to be one of the all-time great southern California beach rides. It's meant to be taken slowly, so relax and savor it. Don't forget your sunscreen!