Hike, bike, or skate a car-traffic-free five miles around Sail Bay in Mission Beach.

A decade's worth of improvements totaling millions of dollars have smoothed the way for pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters traveling along the curving shoreline of west Mission Bay and its upper extremity, Sail Bay. Generously wide sidewalks accompanying the traffic lanes on the widened Ingraham Street bridges, plus the extension of a smooth concrete path around Crown Point, have made attractive and safe the following traffic-free, five-mile loop for self-propelled travelers. Cyclists and skaters should note that there are two stairways plus a short piece of pavement to negotiate along the way.

Assuming you start this five-mile loop near Belmont Park, first find Bayside Walk (the sidewalk two short blocks east of Mission Boulevard) and head north. Bayside Walk differs enormously from the parallel Ocean Front Walk on the surf side of Mission Boulevard. Mostly absent are the erratic movements of cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians dodging each other and the egregious posturing of males and females. Bayside Walk lies in the shadow of wall-to-wall beach cottages and attracts a more sedate, mostly family-oriented crowd.

After about a mile you start curving east on newer and smoother slabs of concrete set low in the sand. You gently climb and descend for nearly a hundred yards over the Briarfield Cove bridge, spanning a tiny tidal slough at Sail Bay's north end. Some nearby property owners a few years ago had opposed the construction of the footbridge, claiming it would attract graffiti and lower property values. But eminent domain triumphed, and property values have soared, coincidentally or not.

Continue curving past a grassy mini-park on the left and farther into Riviera Shores. When you reach the Ingraham Street bridge ahead, climb the stairway to the left, up to Riviera Drive, and immediately swing right on Ingraham Street. Pass over the two bridges spanning Mission Bay, on sidewalk all the while. Beyond the second bridge, veer right toward Dana Landing, and use the curving concrete path along the water to reach the West Mission Bay Drive bridge over Mission Bay's main channel. After crossing that bridge, your starting point lies a short distance ahead.

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