The Best Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Trails and More in San Diego
Our go-to guide for where to hike, bike, run, swim, and get outside in San Diego. Plus: gear, clubs, classes, and more.
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Top 10 San Diego Bike Paths
Biking to Cabrillo National Monument | Photo by John Trice
1. Bayshore Bikeway
This route offers breathtaking views of downtown, the Silver Strand, and everything in between. Much of it is a dedicated path, but it’s primarily city streets through downtown and National City. Overall, you’ll experience a fun, flat ride, with plenty of opportunity to work on speed.
START HERE: Embarcadero
2. Fiesta Island
Ride about five miles of paved path along the water with a breeze that can help you build wind tolerance. Be careful of walkers, strollers, and pet traffic, especially on weekends.
START HERE:Dirt parking lot just off East Mission Bay Drive
3. La Jolla to Oceanside via PCH
Oh, the views from the Pacific Coast Highway! The out-and-back route includes some challenging hills and plenty of flat, fast surfaces. Watch out for the heavy car and cyclist traffic that shares this route.
START HERE: North Torrey Pines Road
4. Cabrillo National Monument
We suggest the route to Cabrillo National Monument Park beginning at Collier Park north of Voltaire Street in Ocean Beach. Cruise toward Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, turn inland at Ladera Street, and weave your way to Catalina Boulevard. Continue to Cabrillo National Monument Park, where we highly recommend you sacrifice a couple of bucks for the entrance fee.
5. Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve
Elfin Forest is definitely not for beginners, as it includes some super-challenging climbs (but great scenery). Starting in Del Mar, go north to Leucadia and take La Costa Avenue east. Follow it to Rancho Santa Fe Road, turn right on San Elijo Road, and right on Elfin Forest Road. For an added challenge, stay on Elfin Forest Road until it changes to Harmony Grove Road. From there, follow West Valley Parkway south to Solana Beach. Watch for areas with thin (or no) bike lanes.
START HERE: Pacific Coast Highway, Del Mar
Biking in Balboa Park | Photo by John Trice
6. Rancho Santa Fe Loop
We hear this route is a popular one for the San Diego Bicycle Club each Saturday, but you can always try it on your own. Start at UC Cyclery in La Jolla, take I-5 north, then go through Sorrento Valley and back to El Camino Real. Weave your way through Rancho Santa Fe, then back to PCH and head south. Be prepared for a few climbs and narrow roads with lots of car traffic.
START HERE: UC Cyclery, La Jolla
7. Noble Canyon
Noble Canyon in Cleveland National Forest is a favorite among advanced mountain bikers. Start the trek at Red Tail Roost (Laguna Mountain Visitor Center) and weave your way through to Noble Canyon Connector before finishing up at Pine Creek Picnic Area. Bring plenty of water and $5 for parking.
START HERE: Laguna Mountain Visitor Center
8. Mt. Soledad
No matter what route you take to the top of Mt. Soledad, you’ll have to work for it. Start at the Cove for a scenic, easy warm-up along the La Jolla coast before turning left on Nautilus Street, which you’ll follow all the way to the top. The views at the top are worth every inch of the climb. Warning: If you go down steep Via Capri, you'll need good brakes.
START HERE: La Jolla Cove
9.Tierrasanta to Scripps to Lakeside Loop
This route offers a few aggressive hills and fun downhills, starting with a gradual climb to warm up on Kearny Villa Road northbound. Once you turn right onto Pomerado Road, the climbing starts. Follow Pomerado to Scripps Poway Parkway, veering slightly onto Kirkham Way, and then all the way to Highway 67. Next, a long, fast downhill takes you into Lakeside, then toward Santee to Highway 52. Finish up by going back over the hill into Tierrasanta.
START HERE: Santo Road and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Tierrasanta
10. Highway 56
A favorite of cyclists and walkers, Highway 56 is a great, protected bike path for beginners or experienced riders who want to work on speed. We suggest parking at the intersection of Clews Ranch Road and Carmel Country Road to the west, giving you a primarily uphill ride to start and downhill on the way back. To avoid the inland heat, try this route in the early morning or during cooler months.
START HERE: Clews Ranch Road and Carmel Country Road
Tiny Goals, Big Rewards
Ironman Julie Moss learns to take it slow (for once)
Julie Moss | Photo by Robert Benson
Where do you go when you’ve climbed your personal Everest? Where does inspiration come from after you have achieved your biggest dreams?
For the past two years, I set my sights on major back-to-back goals. In 2012, former rival Kathleen McCartney invited me to celebrate 30 years in triathlon racing by competing in the Ironman as teammates. Three decades earlier, Kathleen had passed me just feet from the finish to create an iconic “Agony of Defeat” moment that put the Ironman on the map. Our reunion lasted well past the finish line, leading to a business partnership as Iron Icons motivational speakers.
In 2013, I opted for the Half-Ironman World Championships, half the distance but double the intensity.
But now, without a comparable goal for 2014, I have a new challenge—to make the ordinary feel extraordinary. What are the small everyday moments that put a smile on my face? I organize them into three categories: trying something new, mentoring, and testing my comfort zone.
Trying new things helps you grow. So far in 2014, I’ve enjoyed beginning the new year with my brother, doing 108 consecutive sun salutations at Encinitas CorePower Yoga, hiking with my son to the top of Mt. Woodson to see Potato Chip Rock, and taking a stand-up paddle (SUP) yoga class with a group of dynamic women on Mission Bay. It was fun combining a lifetime love for the water with a new passion for yoga.
I’m also trying mentorship. When a good friend got ready to return to running for fitness and weight loss, our early-morning runs felt more like a gift than an obligation. We’ll celebrate her progress by crossing the finish line together at the La Jolla Half Marathon this month.
You can make every day memorable by stretching beyond your comfort zone. I tell people a mental workout can be as simple as not procrastinating on a blog post, or cleaning up your LinkedIn page. Test your physical limits by eating raw foods for a week or committing to 200 sit-ups a day. Push your emotional limits by reaching out to a friend in need. You are always capable of more than you think you are. I’m finding that I am, too.
2014 Specialized Tarmac SL4 Sport, $2,100, bikebling.com
1. KEEP LIMBS WARM
These Pearl Izumi sleeves will be the best $30 you ever spend. They are easy to put on, comfortable, and keep you warm on morning rides. When it warms up, they’re super easy to remove. Pearl Izumi sleeves, $32, shop.pearlizumi.com
2. clock your speed
The CatEye Wireless computer is one of the best tools to measure distance, and current and average speed. It easily mounts to handlebars. If you’re looking for more data—including GPS—try the Garmin Edge, but be prepared to part with more cash. CatEye Wireless, $45-150, cateye.com
3. repair equipment
A good multi-tool has the versatility to repair or maintain your pedals, chains, and everything in between. This one by Spin Doctor is lightweight and even comes with a Neoprene storage pouch. Spin Doctor Rescue 16 Multi-Tool, $20, performancebike.com
4. PUMP THOSE TIRES
Although it’s always good to have a hand pump attached to your bike for emergencies, a CO2 system like Spin Doctor offers much quicker relief from a flat. With one shot, you’ll be back on the road. Spin Doctor Quickshot Pro CO2 Inflation System, $25, performancebike.com
5. STAY DRY
Got rain? Polaris’ lightweight jacket has waterproof zippers and packs up tight. Stuff it into a jersey pocket or fold it into your seat bag when you’re not using it. Polaris Aqualite Extreme Waterproof Jacket, $54, chainreactioncycles.com
6. REFUEL YOUR BOD
Better than a bloc or chew with weirdo ingredients. Go USDA Organic with Mamma Chia, founded in San Diego. Plus, the individual packets lie pretty flat. Our personal fave is Blackberry Bliss! Mamma Chia Organic Squeeze Vitality Snacks, pack of 16 for $28, shopmammachia.com
7. PROTECT THE NOGGIN
Invest in a quality, safe helmet like the Giro Aeon Road Helmet and your head will thank you if you ever take a tumble. Giro Aeon Road Helmet, $250, giro.com
8. FLEX THE HAMSTRINGS
You want pedals you can clip into and easily disengage from, especially if you’re new to cycling. They allow you to utilize more of your hamstring muscle while you’re pedaling, which can make you more efficient (and faster). Shimano Ultegra Road Pedals, $200, bike.shimano.com
9. LIGHT THE WAY
There are cheaper options, but the NiteRider Lumina 700 is bright enough to help you see your surroundings instead of just allowing people to see you, which comes in handy on early-morning or evening rides. NiteRider Lumina 700 front light and mount, $140, bikebling.com
10. PACK IT UP
This bag will fit all of your essentials without weighing you down. Fill it with nutrition, extra inner tubes in case of a flat, a multi-tool, and CO2 kit. Transit Medium Ultra Wedge Seat Bag, $20, performancebike.com