Silver Strand State Beach, named for the silvery shells often found there, is midway along the Silver Strand, a seven-mile-long, windswept sand spit that shelters San Diego Bay from the Pacific. It’s just across the bay from downtown San Diego, yet feels remote. People come here to swim, sunbathe, surf, fish, kiteboard, and picnic. The state park’s shoreline stretches 2.4 miles along the ocean and half a mile along the bay; the bayside section can be reached via three pedestrian tunnels under Highway 75, which divides the park down the middle. You can borrow one of four beach wheelchairs (two motorized, two manual) to get out onto the sand.
On the ocean side, a small café is between lots 2 and 3; nearby, a concrete platform overlooks the beach, but a 32-inch-high brick wall may obstruct views from a wheelchair. Numerous shaded accessible picnic areas are on both sides of the park. On the bay side, paved roads and sidewalks provide accessible paths of travel throughout, as private vehicles are not allowed and there is little traffic. A short paved trail follows the shore of Crown Cove.
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.
Trailhead: On bay side of park, just north of Crown Cove Aquatic Center; from the ocean side, take pedestrian tunnel 3 (short 10 percent slopes at entrance and exit to tunnel)
Expansive views of the San Diego skyline across the bay are a highlight of a broad, paved path that follows the shore of Crown Cove north from the Aquatic Center, passing accessible shaded picnic areas along the way. You may see sailboats skimming along or swimmers taking a dip in the warm, calm waters of the cove. The north end of the trail borders a nature reserve with sage, lemonadeberry, and other coastal strand plants. This is a good place to bird- and bunny-watch; on my brief visit in late September, I saw what seemed like hundreds of brown rabbits. If the trail is dry you may be able to extend your hike a short distance into the nature reserve along a wide dirt trail that takes off at the end of the pavement, but sand soon blocks the way; or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can turn left at the end of the paved trail and follow a narrow, uneven old boardwalk into the brush, but here too sand will shortly put an end to your exploration.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Four beach wheelchairs, two power and two manual, on first-come, first-served basis; ask at lifeguard headquarters (tall tower)
At oceanside parking lots 1 and 3. Several restroom buildings on both ocean and bay sides of the park have separate, single unisex stalls that met our accessibility criteria, but during my September visit some were padlocked and appeared to be out of service. There are also stalls signed as accessible within the main restrooms, but none of these met all of our criteria. You may need to visit more than one of the restroom buildings to find an open accessible stall.
The Aquatic Center provides the best accessible bayside restroom facilities (open 9 am-6 pm); there are several other restrooms with separate fully accessible stalls, but during my September visit some were locked.
Several accessible, shaded picnic sites are scattered throughout the ocean and bay sides of the park.
Other Things of Interest
Accessible dressing rooms and outside rinsing showers are available on both the ocean and bay sides of the park. Those on the bay side are at the Crown Cove Aquatic Center, which provides classes in boating, surfing, and water safety to the general public, as well as year-round programs for area school children. The center’s programs are administered by Southwestern College; call (619) 575-6176 for more information. For eight weeks each summer, nonprofit Camp Able offers an aquatic day camp at Crown Cove for disabled children and adults, with such activities as sailing, swimming, boogie boarding, arts and crafts, and nature hikes; call (858) 627-9498 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearby Silver Strand Bikeway offers eight miles of level trail along the western shore of San Diego Bay.
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.