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Mission Bay

Mission Bay Park, just north of San Diego International Airport, is the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States, sprawling across 4,235 acres, 46 percent of which are land and 54 percent water. It encompasses 27 miles of shoreline—including 19 miles of sandy beach with eight official swimming areas—a network of channels and islands with marinas and...
Mission Bay Park, just north of San Diego International Airport, is the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States, sprawling across 4,235 acres, 46 percent of which are land and 54 percent water. It encompasses 27 miles of shoreline—including 19 miles of sandy beach with eight official swimming areas—a network of channels and islands with marinas and boat launches, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, a model yacht pond, hotels, an RV resort, and almost 14 miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths meandering through tree-shaded lawns. People come here from all around the San Diego area to boat, swim, jet-ski and water-ski, kiteboard, jog, fly kites, picnic, play, and laze about in the sunshine.

Mission Bay Park was created by dredging and filling a tidal marsh that early mariners had named False Bay, mistaking it for San Diego Bay to the south. Before the San Diego River flood control channel was built, the rivermouth used to shift between False Bay and San Diego Bay. The marsh was dredged in the 1940s and 50s, and recreational facilities developed in the 60s. Today’s landscape is almost entirely man-made, but bits of wetland survive at the bay’s northern end and at Famosa Slough, south of the San Diego River channel (outside park boundaries). The area still has important nesting and feeding spots for many species of birds, including osprey, herons, stilts, terns, mallards, pintails, shovelers, and Belding’s savannah sparrows.

Mission Bay’s network of broad bicycle and pedestrian paths provide ample opportunities for accessible recreation, whether you’re looking for a workout or a leisurely stroll. On a six-mile round-trip along the park’s east shore you can watch windsurfers and kiteboarders galore, or stop for a picnic at a shaded pavilion. A broad, sandy beach and views of the San Diego skyline are among the highlights of a shorter excursion around the north shore’s Crown Point peninsula.

Visitor center: Located on the east Mission Bay shoreline, just south of De Anza Cove, this visitor center provides information about tourist attractions, lodging, and restaurants for the greater San Diego area (not specifically for Mission Bay Park). 

Trail/Pathway Details

East Mission Bay

Trailhead: Southern end: Rose Marie Starns South Shores Park, off Sea World Drive. Northern end: De Anza Cove, off North Mission Bay Drive.

Length: Over 4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard

Description

Starting from the southern trailhead, at Rose Marie Starns South Shores Park just east of Sea World, a broad concrete promenade bordered by native plants and palm trees follows the shore of Pacific Passage, a narrow channel separating Fiesta Island from the mainland. The mostly undeveloped island is a launch spot for jet skiers, kiteboarders, and other water...
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Crown Point

Trailhead: Crown Point Park parking area, 3700 Crown Point Drive

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard

Description

Crown Point is a large peninsula that juts into northern Mission Bay, creating Sail Bay to the west and Fiesta Bay to the east. Crown Point Park, with a large sandy beach and manicured lawns, stretches along the peninsula’s eastern side. Enter the bicycle path from any of its parking areas. Traveling through grassy parklands with trees and...
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Accessibility Details

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

Plentiful free lots with accessible spaces (some van-accessible) throughout Mission Bay, including at each of the trailheads mentioned. Lots typically fill early on summer weekends (there were many open spaces on my visit in September). At Rose Marie Starns South Shore Park and De Anza Cove  East Mission Bay: At shaded pavilions near Rose Marie Starns South Shore Park, Tecolote Shores, Playa Pacifica (accessible from parking lot but not from the trail), and De Anza Cove.
Crown Point: Near the northeast corner of the first parking lot at Crown Point Park.
Kiteboarders off Fiesta Island
Kiteboarders off Fiesta Island (Eileen Ecklund)

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Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/regional/missionbay/
Managing Agency: City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department
Nearest City: San Diego
Phone: (619) 235-1169
Reservations: (619) 235-1169
Hours: Daily, 4 am-2 am
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
Leashed dogs are allowed in the park before 9 am and after 6 pm (April 1-Oct. 31; after 4 pm Nov. 1-March 31). Fiesta Island has an off-leash dog area.
Public Transportation: San Diego Metro Transit District
Reviewed by Eileen Ecklund, September 15, 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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Accessible Wheelchair Icon looks like a wheelchair with balloon wheelsBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing
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