San Diego Section 8

Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach to Ocean Beach Pier

San Diego Section 8

Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach to Ocean Beach Pier

This short section of the CCT starts and ends on a beach and passes through the largest aquatic park on the west coast, 4600-acre Mission Bay Park with 27 miles of shoreline, 11 marinas, six hotels and two campgrounds. This huge park's amenities cover every kind of water sport from swimming and boating to water skiing and windsurfing, with park facilities ranging from picnicking to horseshoes and softball.

The glorious recreational opportunities of Mission Bay Park came with a price. The Spaniards found deep water embayment and called it False Bay because sailing ship captains occasionally confused it with San Diego Bay on the other side of Point Loma. The San Diego River flowed into San Diego Bay, making Point Loma almost an island at high tide. After California statehood in 1849, the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the river to empty into False Bay. The Corps then filled the old river mouth, allowing port facilities construction. The new river filled in False Bay with sediments and within 50 years it was a shallow marsh. In the 1940s the Corps began to dredge the bay and in following years the City of San Diego developed the Mission Bay facilities.

This section starts at the quaint Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach Park where a row of cottages line both sides of the pier. The motel built in 1927 offers moderately priced rooms. Occupants have been known to fish from the windows. Looking north from the pier offers an end-on look at the dramatic convoluted cliffs of La Jolla, while the view south surveys a nearly flat, extremely watery world.

From the pier walk south on the popular beach usually crowded with towel rats and a multitude of surfers catching the excellent waves. You can instead choose to walk the Ocean Front Walk in front of the row of beach houses. By ⅝ mile you continue along Mission Beach Park through the aqueous community of Mission Beach.

At 1⅝ miles you want to turn left to head inland at Belmont Park, easily identified by the big white wooden roller coaster not far ahead. Walk up Ventura Place to the left of the roller coaster and old-fashioned merry-go-round and cross busy Bayside Blvd. into Mission Bay Park. Stay to the right of West Mission Bay Drive and walk through the Bonita Cove Park area either on the grass, the concrete walkway or along the sandy shoreline. Cross the top of Mariners Point, then angle northeast to the West Mission Bay Drive bridge and follow the walkway across Mission Bay from 2¼ miles.

After you get off the bridge, turn right on Quivira Road at 2⅝ miles. Where the road promptly splits (the Hyatt Islandia is to the right) you want to head generally southeast. You can walk either the road's sidewalk, through the grassy area, or along the shore of the Quivira Basin marinas. At the east end Quivira Basin where Quivira Road swings right to head southwest, take the bike path on the left up to Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Cross the San Diego River on the Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Bridge around 3¼ miles, then turn right to follow the bike path west along the levee. The path passes athletic fields before coming to Dog Park and Dog Beach where dogs run free at 4⅜ miles. Cross the big expanse of sand to the ocean shoreline, then turn left and follow the tideline of Ocean Beach to the pier and the end of the section at 4⅞ miles.

SUGGESTED LOOPS AND ROUND TRIPS: Mission Bay's paved multi-use trail circles the bay, providing opportunity to explore this vast area on bike or foot.

Distance: 4⅞ miles (7.8 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers. Bicyclists on bike paths and streets.

Surface: Beach, sidewalk, bike path.

Access point: Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach.

How to get there: Exit Interstate 5 at Garnet Street and head west to Pacific Beach where Garnet Street ends at the pier.

Other access: Mission Bay, Ocean Beach Athletic Area, Dog Beach.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: Negligible.

Cautions: None.

Further information: For Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Mission Bay Park and Ocean Beach, contact the San Diego Coastline Parks Division (619)221-8900.

Facilities: Pacific Beach Park has restrooms, water, picnic tables and parking, with urban amenities nearby and along much of route.

Campgrounds: Private, expensive campgrounds at De Anza Harbor Resort (RVs only) and Campland on the Bay (RV and tent spaces).

Lodging: Abundant everywhere, including right beside the CCT where Crystal Pier Motel offers budget rooms and nearby Pacific Terrace Inn offers luxury. San Diego has two hostels, Point Loma (619)223-4778 and Downtown (619)525-1531.

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