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Silver Strand Bikeway

San Diego’s Silver Strand is a seven-mile-long sand spit that extends south from Coronado to Imperial Beach and divides San Diego Bay from the ocean. The Silver Strand Bikeway, which runs the length of the Strand, is a broad paved multi-use path, popular with bicyclists, joggers, inline skaters, hikers and strollers. It provides a long, level workout while enjoying great views of the bay and the city skyline beyond, the Coronado Bridge, and the ocean. The bike trail, which follows a former rail corridor built in 1888 by the Coronado Railroad Company, takes you past the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Silver Strand State Beach, the Coronado Cays development, and the South Bay Unit of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Separated from automobile traffic on busy Silver Strand Boulevard (Highway 75), the bikeway is windy and exposed, with little shade and few easily accessible facilities, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and water.

The Silver Strand Bikeway is part of the San Diego Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile trail circling the bay. As of early 2010, 13 miles of the bikeway were dedicated bicycle trail, while 11 miles, mostly along the east bay shore from Chula Vista to downtown San Diego, were on-street bicycle lanes.

Trail/Pathway Details

Silver Strand Bikeway

Trailhead: North end: The dedicated offstreet bicycle path begins at the intersection of Pomona and Glorietta, not far from the Hotel del Coronado, but if you want a longer outing you can begin at the Coronado ferry landing and follow the dedicated bicycle path through Coronado Tidelands Park, under the Coronado Bridge, and beside the municipal golf course, then cross Glorietta (which can be busy and has no traffic controls here) and ride on the sidewalk to the bikeway entry at Pomona. This will add two miles to your trip each way. South end: At the foot of 13th Street, near Cypress Avenue, Imperial Beach.

Length: Over 4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard


Entering the bicycle path at the intersection of Glorietta and Pomona, you travel past the Coronado Yacht Club, then curve left onto the Silver Strand; on your right as you round the curve is the rambling, red-roofed Hotel Del Coronado, built in 1888 (on your return north, you get a full-on view of the hotel, which seems to lie directly in your path). On your right is Highway 75 (Silver Strand Boulevard); beyond it, blocking views of the ocean, are highrise condominium towers. On the bay side, to your left, you pass the Coronado Boat House, Glorietta Bay Marina, City Hall, and the community center. At about .75 miles from the trailhead you come to pretty little Glorietta Bay Park, where paved walkways meander through shaded lawns and you can look out over the bay to the Coronado Bridge in the near distance. Just past the park, the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base begins; all was quiet here on my southbound trip one September morning, but when I returned north in the afternoon, it was a hive of activity, with cars and trucks constantly coming and going and a platoon of trainees double-timing down Strand Way, a small street next to the bicycle path.

Leaving Coronado behind, the trail opens up, with views of the bay on the left and beach (and glimpses of ocean) to the right. The northern end of the Strand lies within the boundaries of the amphibious base, and portions of it are also a reserve for the endangered California least tern. Periodically you can detour off the bikeway onto short boardwalks and paths that take you closer to the bayshore (though a tall chain-link fence protecting the reserve somewhat obscures the views), or pull off onto an observation deck to look out over the marsh and water. You may not see least terns, but you’re likely to see egrets, herons, many types of shorebirds, and even an osprey. Interpretive signs explain least tern breeding and nesting habits, and their migratory routes. Views to the northeast, of the Coronado Bridge and downtown San Diego, are particularly striking.

About three miles from the trailhead you pass Fiddler’s Cove Marina and military housing before coming to Silver Strand State Beach, which is split into bay and ocean sides by Highway 75; pedestrian tunnels below the highway allow travel between the two sides. The park entrance is at Coronado Cays Boulevard, about 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Here a pedestrian crosswalk allows you to cross the highway, but you must then negotiate a short stretch where windblown sand impedes passage before reaching the sidewalk on the other side; past the entry kiosk, the sidewalk ends and you must travel in the park road to reach the main recreational areas. Wheelchair riders may find it easier to make a separate excursion to this park by car.

Continuing south on the bikeway, you travel between the busy highway, here backed by fence and dunes, and a soundwall protecting the bayside Coronado Cays development, before the bay vista opens up again and the trail curves eastward. You can see mountain peaks beyond the eastern shore, and on my visit, flocks of cormorants and avocets swooped low over the water, which sparkled in the morning light. This end of the bay is the South Bay Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, consisting of 3,940 acres set aside in 1999 to preserve the bay’s remaining mudflats, salt marshes, and eelgrass beds for the many sea- and shorebirds that depend on them. It supports numerous threatened or endangered plant and animal species. About six miles from the trailhead you come to a pullout for the South Bay Marine Biology Study Area, with a deck, benches, and parking area. This is a good place to stop, enjoy the views, and spot birds. As you continue south and east along the bay, leaving the ocean behind, you will see additional places to pull out and watch birds, though unfortunately I didn’t find one near a berm that juts out into the water and on my visit was dense with pelicans. An egret waded right alongside me as I crossed a little causeway.

Now you travel due east along the southern end of the bay, leaving the highway behind and passing apartments, homes, and a variety of public buildings as you approach the 13th Avenue trailhead in Imperial Beach. In places you can see old railroad tracks, and according to an interpretive sign in the little park at the trailhead, the wood railroad bridges that have been restored along this part of the bikeway date to 1919. When I visited, the park had recently been restored with native plants by students at Imperial Beach Elementary School; it also has benches and some metal sculptures of seabirds. From this park you can extend your trip east on the bikeway for another mile to Main Street and Bay Boulevard in Chula Vista, passing some working salt ponds, or return the way you came.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Accessible Parking: Yes

Location: Northern trailhead: Street parking only by trailhead at Pomona and Glorietta. Along Strand Way, blue spaces are scattered in lots at Glorietta Bay Marina, City Hall, Coronado Community Center, and Glorietta Bay Park; from these, enter bikeway via curb cuts at nearest intersection. Southern trailhead: The small lot at Imperial Beach trail entrance has one van-accessible blue space; plentiful street parking nearby.

Accessible Restroom: Limited Accessibility

At Glorietta Bay Park. The sink is too low to roll under, the stall entry may be a tight fit, and there is no turnaround space.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

The restrooms at Silver Strand State Beach are the most accessible I found along this long trail, but entering the park from the bikeway in a wheelchair is difficult; see trail description above. For more information on these restrooms, see Silver Strand State Beach
Avocets skim the waters of San Diego Bay
Avocets skim the waters of San Diego Bay (Eileen Ecklund)

Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • hiking

Additional Information

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Managing Agency: San Diego Association of Governments
Phone: (619) 699-1900
Hours: Always open
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
Public Transportation: Metro Transit System 
Reviewed on September 25, 2009
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

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Wheelchairs Available
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