BIKE TO SOCAL PICKLEBALL! BEST BICYCLE RIDES TO PUBLIC OUTDOOR COURTS

by Richard Fox

The only sport taking off faster than bicycling in Southern California is pickleball, that wacky, fun, addicting combination of tennis, badminton, racquetball and ping pong. While popular with all ages, it’s the senior citizens that are embracing it the most enthusiastically. With courts one quarter the size of tennis courts, it has a similar feel, but with less ground to cover, and the required underhand serve is much easier on the shoulder. It is more frenetic than tennis, however, and seniors have been getting injured fairly regularly, with pulled muscles and other injuries. That’s certainly not scaring too many away though, and pickleball courts are springing up everywhere to meet the demand.


Being able to combine your pickle with an easy scenic bicycle ride makes for the perfect day, especially if you bike to an al fresco lunch or brunch afterwards. It serves as a good cross training warm up for one’s muscles as well. Or, do what I do and bring your bike with you and use it as a starting point for your ride. If one of you wants to ride and the other wants to pickle, knowing which courts are close to bike rides is helpful.

Many communities with HOA’s, resorts, etc. have courts open to just their residents, but others are open to the public, some for free, some run by clubs that charge a membership or daily fee. This article highlights some of SoCal’s most popular public pickleball facilities with notable easy scenic bike rides nearby. These are mostly outdoor, although you can also find indoor courts in public recreation buildings in many cities.

The bike rides are referenced from my book enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides (2nd Ed 2017) and most of the pickleball facilities are plotted on the downloadable maps available to book owners at enCYCLEpedia.net.


The DESERTS
The Coachella Valley is overflowing with senior snowbirds starting late October, peaking in February-March-April, then fading into May through the hot summer. Year round residents still play in the hot seasons, but need to either start at the break of dawn, or try one of the several indoor public gym facilities.


Palm Springs (enCYCLEpedia Rides PS1,2,3): Demuth Park is the only game in town for outdoor play, with 12 permanent courts. It’s popular most mornings, especially Saturdays, and most late afternoons as well, making pickup games a cinch. It is located along Mesquite Blvd, east of El Cielo, along the Tahquitz Creek bike loop (PS3). In fact a new state of the art path, a CV Linker that will connect to the valley-wide CV Link path in the future, runs along the south perimeter of Demuth Park (photo). There are also indoor facilities in the Demuth Park Community Gym and in North Palm Springs, with two courts at the Desert Highland Unity Center.

A post-pickle ride near Demuth Park on the Tahquitz Creek Loop (PS3).


Rancho Mirage (Ride RM2): Two very nice new courts are located in Rancho Mirage Park along San Jacinto Dr north of The River center. This is more of a BYO situation with no set play times.

Great al fresco dining awaits at The River, a few blocks from the courts. How about a pickle, bike and brunch?


Palm Desert: Freedom Park is a public facility with 8 courts located along Country Club Drive west of Washington. In peak season it’s easy to get a pick up game here in the mornings. There’s no specific enCYCLEpedia rides here, but it is easily accessed from other rides such as RM1,2 or PD2 via the Country Club sidewalks or bike lanes. Palm Desert Community Center has a gym facility with indoor pickleball courts, available for a drop-in or modest annual fee. It is in Palm Desert Community Park, one of the highlights of Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert bike tours.

Riding around the Rancho/Mirage Palm Desert area gives you a choice of nicely landscaped sidewalk bike paths or boulevards with bike lanes.


La Quinta (Rides LQ1, 2, 3): The very popular and friendly Fritz Burns Park has 8 permanent courts located at the southeast corner of Eisenhower and 52nd, a few blocks south of Old Town La Quinta, and at the base of La Quinta Cove. Even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike and enjoy a cruise up the Bear Creek Trail afterwards, or to other La Quinta locales, with lots of Bike ‘n Brunch options available in Old Town.

Fritz Burns Park, permanent courts in La Quinta
Scenic Bear Creek Trail in adjacent La Quinta Cove.


Indian Wells (Ride IW1, LQ3, PD2): The world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden offers pickleball drop-in play several days a week ($5). Either ride in on the paths off of Warner Trail to the west entrance bike racks, or if that entrance is not available, such as during the National Pickleball Championships in November (participants only are allowed in that entrance), ride around on the north service road to the main entrance off of Washington to the bike racks in front of the box office.

Margaritaville National Pickleball Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

THE COAST
SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Coronado (Ride SD7): This is one of the ultimate bike ‘n pickle places, with scenic flat Coronado for great riding, and two pickleball options. The Coronado Marriott is gaining in popularity and has expanded its pickleball facilities. A $5 drop in fee gets you full access to the rec center, pool, gym, etc, with validated parking. The waterfront bike trail passes nearby as well, about ¼-mile south of the ferry landing from downtown San Diego, so even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike by all means. You can go for a short jaunt, a cruise down the Silver Strand rail trail, or book it all the way around the bay using the ferry to return. The other pickleball facility is at at 555 6th Avenue, with 8 crowded temporary courts put up twice a week ($4).

Bike/ped ferry connects the San Diego Waterfront with Coronado Island, near the Coronado Marriott.


Santee (Ride SD12): There’s a paucity of outdoor public pickleball in south San Diego County, so Big Rock Park gets packed when its 8 temporary outdoor courts are set up. From here you can easily ride to the east entrance of Mission Trails Regional Park, west on Mission Gorge Road, without having to ride up and over the big hill to the main entrance. Mountain bikes give you the most options here. There are also trailheads at Big Rock Park itself into another section of the park, mostly for hiking though.

A dedicated group sets up temporary nets several days a week at Big Rock Park.

Encinitas: Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle club (drop-in’s welcome ($5) has 12 courts featuring clinics, lessons and organized play. However, it is over a mile inland from the coastal route (SDC1) in south Encinitas, at 875 Santa Fe Dr, with a so-so busy class 2 road to access it by bike. You could always bring your bike, then afterwards drive to the coast for that very scenic ride. Or take your bike on the Coaster and ride to the club. https://www.bobbyriggs.net/

The Vista at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas near the junction of Santa Fe Drive.

Carlsbad: (Ride SDC1) Poinsettia Community Park in Carlsbad has 6 new open-play permanent courts with no fee. From South Carlsbad State Beach, ride east up Poinsettia Road. After I-5 turn left on Paseo Del Norte, right on Camino de las Ondas, left on Hidden Valley Rd to the park on the left at #6600. This route is hilly but bike-friendly.

Also in Carlsbad, St. Michaels Church near town center has two popular drop in courts, 2 blocks from the ocean. Enter off Beech west of Carlsbad Blvd. $5.

St Michaels church in Carlsbad.
You don’t want to miss the biking along the north San Diego County coast. It’s on-road but to me it’s worth the “danger.”


Oceanside (Ride OC1): Melba Bishop Recreation Center in east Oceanside is a very popular facility, with 8 courts open most mornings ($4). It can be reached from the fabulous San Luis Rey River Trail at the College Ave crossing. It’s across the river, then back to the east on North River Road. Ride to the beach in 8 miles from here, and in the afternoon, the breeze will most likely be with you heading inland to the courts.

The Melba Bishop courts during a sanctioned tournament in November 2019.
The San Luis Rey River Trail is a 9-mile bike highway to the Oceanside beaches. Note the rare snow in the local mountains.


San Marcos : Innovation Park has 4 popular permanent courts at 1151 Armorlite Dr. (No fee). Courts are open daily but for drop in try the designated mornings. The Inland Rail Trail (Ride SMR2) runs near the park, and there is a Sprinter train station nearby, which runs between Oceanside and Escondido. The rail trail is accessible from bike routes around Cal State San Marcos and the city’s bike trail system (Ride SMR1).

Cycling around San Marcos needs to include the short loop round Discovery Lake.

ORANGE COUNTY
San Clemente (Rides DP1, SC1, 2, 3, SJ1): The very active San Clemente pickleball community plays at San Gorgonio Park, up a big hill, which is no biggee if you have an e-bike. From El Camino Real at the San Clemente – Dana Point border, head up Camino Capistrano, and make your way UP Vaquero and Calle Vista Torito to the park in less than a mile. Don’t miss out on bike riding here, though, as trails connect from San Clemente through Dana Point to eastern San Juan Capistrano.

Great viewpoint at the west end of Dana Point Harbor behind the Ocean Institute.


Laguna Niguel (near Rides SV1, 2, 3, 4): The Laguna Niguel Pickleball Club organizes very popular drop-in play at Community Roots School with 8 courts split roughly by ability, so all are welcome every morning. It’s located up a small hill off Crown Valley on Adelanto, and then a long walk behind baseball fields to the courts. Nearby, Laguna Niguel Regional Park has four permanent drop in courts, but no organized play. Ride SV2 connects that park with Salt Creek Beach via a hilly route. SV2 also connects to the Aliso Creek Regional Trail (SV1) and Aliso Woods Canyon road and mountain bike area (SV3,4). Perhaps drop off a non-pickling cyclist at the north end of SV1 (Aliso Creek Trail) at Cooks Corner and they can cruise all the way down to meet or join you.

The reward for tackling a few hills is the beautiful Salt Creek Beach below the Ritz Carlton.


Irvine (New Ride IR4): The new Portola Springs Park in the Great Park district of northeast Irvine has 6 pickleball courts with no fee. By bike take Portola Pkwy northeast from Sand Canyon (side trail or bike lane) to Pearblossom. Turn left on the road or take paths up to the park. This is a fairly hilly but not daunting route, though e-bikers will be happiest.

Portola Springs Park during a spring 2019 tournament.
Great bike riding abounds in Irvine. Paths in the Great Park are part of a nice loop mostly on bike trails that can include Portola Springs Park.

Tustin (Near Rides IR1, TU1): The active Tustin Pickleball Club plays at a school facility 3 days a week at 1302 Service Road. The closest enCYCLE ride of note is TU1-3, the Mountains to the Sea ride, and the connection to the courts is not the greatest. From Harvard in Irvine take Class II Edinger northwest, past the Metrolink Station. Turn right on Red Hill and a quick left on Service Road.

The Mountains to the Sea route ends up in scenic Irvine Regional Park.

Fountain Valley (Ride FV1): Pickleball is offered at the Fountain Valley Tennis Courts at the north end of Mile Square Park every day ($3). Also access the park via a one mile on-road connection from the the Santa Ana River Trail (SAR1) that begins at the Huntington Beach bike path (HB1).

Mile Square Park was home to the Western Regional Tournament in Sept 2019. I rode via the SART to the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach trails.
Santa Ana River Trail can be busy on weekend mornings. Take it between the beach and Mile Square Park.

Huntington Beach (RIdes, HB1, 2): Four free outdoor lighted permanent courts hosted by Surf City Pickleball are located at Worthy Community Park, 1801 Main Street (at 17th Street). From the fabulous Huntington Beach coastal trail (HB1), take the bike route up 17th Street for less than a mile to the park. The August annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament is located at Murdy Park on temporary courts set up for that purpose, and is not as good to combine with a cycle, although you can access the pleasant paths around Huntington Beach Central Park (Ride HB2) via road or sidewalk from there.

A great rest stop along the Huntington Beach path above the dog beach, north of the pier.


LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Hermosa Beach: Located a few blocks from the South Bay Beach trail, the four courts here are crowded and competitive. From The Strand (Ride LA2) take 8th or 10th Streets east toward the Kelly Courts off Valley Drive. Don’t come here to just pickle with one of the best, most scenic bike trails in the country a few blocks away.

The south half of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail along the LA County beaches spans the South Bay region.

Claremont (Ride CL1, PET): About 1 mile south of town and enCYCLE bike routes, locals play at Wheeler Park’s lighted courts. Check for play times, currently Saturday mornings and several late afternoons; $3. Find bike lanes south on College and west on San Jose.

The Pacific Electric rail trail starts in Claremont and runs about 21 miles through Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana ending in Rialto. It is serviced by Metrolink trains.


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Santa Barbara: The active Santa Barbara facility ($5 fee) is situated adjacent to the noisy 101 freeway. From the beach trail (Ride SB1) take Cabrillo Blvd east, under the freeway and just past the ramps (caution through here!) look for a short paved path across the road and before the traffic circle that cuts up to Old Coast Hwy. Ride left on the sidewalk (or bike lane) for a mile to the first left on Park Place to the courts.

Combine a pickle with a delightful pedal along the Beachway waterfront path, ride into town, or do a more extensive ride up or down the coast. Amtrak stops nearby.


SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Morro Bay (Ride MB1): Four very nice permanent courts ($1 fee) are located in Del Mar Park. From the north end of town, cross Hwy 1 either on Yerba Buena or Sycamore. Ride on Class II Main Street right or left (respectively) to Island Street. Ride UP the hill a couple blocks to road’s end and turn right to the park. Take the park path over to the courts on the right.

Biking around Morro Bay on a sunny day can be heavenly. You may want to pickle when it’s overcast and bike when it’s not!


Cambria (Ride CA1): Cambria’s six excellent courts are at the Old Cambria Grammar School, 1350 Main St, between the east and west villages on the west side of the road. The venue is popular with upper-level players but all are welcome. (No fee).

Cambria’s pickleball facility.
Don’t miss out on cycling around Cambria if you come to pickle. This is the Moonstone area.

IRVINE, CA – BIKING THE GREAT PARK AND JEFFREY OPEN SPACE

Irvine is still expanding in leaps and bounds, and with that new development comes lots of new bicycling infrastructure that the city is famous for. In June 2019 the new Bosque trail system officially opened, part of the master development of the Orange County Great Park, formerly Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The Jeffrey Open Space Trail project has been underway over the last decade, and the 2.4-mile portion north of I-5 is now opened. When completed to its full 5-mile length it will connect all the way to the San Diego Creek Trail (enCYCLE ride IR1) and the Quail Hill area (enCYCLE ride IR2). Currently that connection can be made via the side path along Sand Canyon Rd.

It’s fun to explore the huge Orange County Great Park, which is a work in progress, but with lots of completed sections containing athletic fields, some paved bike paths, and a giant orange tethered balloon that you can ride 400 feet into the air. With the Cypress Village Trail, the Portola Side Trail, and the Round Canyon Trail cyclists can now do a very scenic 11-12 mile loop bike ride, which encompasses enCYCLEpedia’s new ride IR4, downloadable on its website.

The Bosque trail system on Great Park lands had its grand opening featuring a “High-Five Chain” across its length on June 15, 2019.
Upper Bee and Bosque open space and trails sign.
The Bosque open space area with trails.
Exploring the Great Park, shown here on a former runway.
A pleasant bike path system on the west side of the Great Park connects to the Bosque trails.
A tunnel under a roadway along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
Colorful tile plaques describing the agricultural history of the area are found along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
A roadway overpass along the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
The Portola Side Path that connects potions of the loop ride is very well constructed.
A new path through Round Canyon in the developing Portola Springs area connects Portola with Modjeska.

Coachella Valley Safer Bike Route Alternatives at Locales of Fatal Bike Accidents

by Richard Fox Author, enCYCLEpedia Southern California

While bike lanes are always welcome on roadways, they don’t guarantee cyclists’ safety, especially on high-speed boulevards where they are not sufficiently separated from traffic lanes. All too often distracted or impaired motorists swerve into the lanes and collide with cyclists with disastrous consequences. In the Coachella Valley of the Southern California desert, cyclists that have the need for speed have no good off road options compared to other metro areas, and are relegated to ride on these dangerous byways.  The CV Link regional trail, when completed, will help improve that situation.

More casual cyclists, like those who ride our enCYCLEpedia offerings, can enjoy a much safer alternative in this region. Many of the valley’s sidewalks have been designated as bike paths and are a delight to ride on, with beautiful landscaping, and in the areas with large gated communities, long uninterrupted stretches. There’s no reason for a casual cyclist to risk being hit by a speeding car on the 55-mph boulevards when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk bike path adjacent. However, bike paths come with their own set of hazards, and cyclists must ride defensively, using extreme care at every crossing of a road or driveway. Attention to obstacles is also important, especially in unfamiliar territory, and although sprinklers can be refreshing on a hot day, they can also make the path slippery in places. Helmets are also still highly recommended on any bike path.

I just added a new ride, RM3, to the enCYCLEpedia family of rides, comprised of 10+ miles of beautifully landscaped sidewalk loops around the Mission Hills Country Club area of north Rancho Mirage. Along that route alone there have been 3 fatal bicycle accidents in the adjacent roadways in recent years. That inspired me to look up other fatal bike accidents to see whether there were alternate off-road paths adjacent or safer routes nearby. Not to say that the victims would have selected to ride on sidewalk paths versus the roadways, but it illustrates that for the casual cyclist, safer options are available. I hope and pray that no additional incidents occur in the future; enough is enough. Following are some of the reported fatal accidents since 2007 where safer alternatives exist:

Too many ghost bikes have been installed around the valley, like this one for William Campbell.

March 25, 2019:  Alberta snowbird Paul Jackson, 67, riding along the Hwy 111 shoulder near Cook in Indian Wells, crashed into a parked minivan. What resembles a bike lane is actually just a wide shoulder with parking allowed. Sidewalk bike trails run along both sides of Hwy 111 (enCYCLE ride IW1). Bike riding on the sidewalk paths are “functionally allowed” in Indian wells (i.e. cops will not hassle well behaved cyclists). The city removed the Bike Route signs along the south sidewalk path a few years ago, most likely for liability reasons. Extending the CV Link regional path through Indian Wells would get a lot of cyclists off both the roads and sidewalks, but the city has banned CV Link within its boundaries.

Indian Wells Hwy 111 south sidewalk path was formerly a signed bike trail, as shown below, but the city un-designated it. The shoulder along Hwy 111 is not a designated bike lane and parking is allowed.

March 23, 2019: This is not the Coachella Valley, but is a nearby Riverside County enCYCLE  ride used as illustration:  Family man and outdoorsman Brian Sabel, 52, was the victim of an early morning hit-and-run in an ample bike lane along beautiful and historic Victoria Avenue in Riverside. This road is very popular with road cyclists and seems like a safe place to ride.  However, enCYCLE ride R2 uses the adjacent paved Rosanna Scott Bike Trail instead, which is much safer.

The bike lanes along Riverside’s historic Victoria Ave are very popular with cyclists.
The lesser-used Rosanna Scott Bike Trail adjacent is a safer alternative.

December 13, 2018:  William Campbell, 32, a local avid cyclist, was struck in the Ramon Road bike lane near Rattler in Rancho Mirage. New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along a wide sidewalk path adjacent to the bike lane, although the path does not continue east past Los Alamos.

William’s memorial is adjacent to the Ramon Rd bike lane he was hit in. A nice sidewalk path makes a safer alternative through here.

May 14, 2018: Diana Lynn Young, 61, was struck in the bike lane of Country Club Drive in front of the Marriott Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert where she worked. enCYCLE rides RM1, RM2 and PD1 all use the beautifully landscaped sidewalk bike paths available on both sides of Country Club through there.  They continue for miles in both directions.  I sometimes rode in the bike lanes through here to get a good sprint going, until this incident.

The beautiful sidewalk paths surrounding and into Desert Willow Golf Course (shown here) make a safer more scenic alternative to riding along Country Club.

April 2, 2018:  BC Snowbird Peter Harvey, 74, was hit in the bike lane on Bob Hope Drive near Ginger Rogers in Rancho Mirage.  New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along the pretty designated bike/golf cart path along the west side of Bob Hope between Gerald Ford and Dinah Shore.

A typical sidewalk bike path in this area. This is actually around the corner on Gerald Ford.

June 26, 2017:  Larry Lee Ortner, 81, hit a parked landscaping truck when gliding down the Avenida Bermudas hill in La Quinta Cove.  While this seems to be a safe road to ride on, always watch out for what is in front of you, even in a bike lane. We prefer to ride both up and down the paved Bear Creek Trail (enCYCLE ride LQ1) in The Cove instead to avoid vehicular traffic and enjoy the great scenery in both directions.

Scenic Bear Creek Trail in La Quinta Cove.

February 7, 2015: Todd Barajas, 52, was struck while riding late at night on Hovley Lane near Corporate Way, where there is no bike lane. However, there is an ample sidewalk path along the north side of the road. This is an alternate route to Country Club when riding enCYCLE ride RM2.

January 6, 2015:  Rose Peters, 73, a cycling enthusiast who’d ridden cross country several times and was using a hand-cycle because of hip replacements, was broadsided while riding in the Hwy 74 bike lane in Palm Desert by a vehicle turning left onto Mesa View, which is one of the routes to The Living Desert.  enCYCLE’s ride in that area (RM2) uses Hwy 74’s frontage road and corresponding paths rather than busy Hwy 74, but that still involves side street crossings that require extra caution because of turning vehicles.

There are a lot of less-busy options than Hwy 74 to ride to Palm Desert’s Living Desert.

November 30, 2012: Corey Holley, 38, was struck along South Palm Canyon at Palmera (near Stein Mart). This road is not safe.  Much better alternatives now exist along South Belardo Rd to the west between downtown and South Palm Springs, or through the Deepwell District (enCYCLE rides PS1, PS2).

Paths like the new CV Linker near Demuth Park and other new infrastructure provide more and more options to stay off dangerous roadways in Palm Springs.

June 2, 2012: Gerald Weiss, 52, a well respected physician and family man, was hit on very dangerous Fred Waring Drive west of Eldorado, in traffic lanes after dark. Indian Wells lost a lawsuit because the road was determined to be unsafe, and as a result erected signs banning bikes along there. It’s not an enCYCLE recommended stretch because the sidewalk alongside Fred Waring between Eldorado and Cook is narrow, though it still is rideable. We detour south, down Class II Eldorado to the 111 sidewalk paths, and back up on the Cook sidewalk path to avoid this stretch that CV Link would otherwise bridge if not banned in Indian Wells (rides IW1, RM2).

From the Eldorado Bridge, showing where CV Link would be an alternative to the dangerous stretch of Fred Waring Dr where bikes are banned, in the background.

April 8, 2012:  Donald McCluskey, 49, was on Da Vall waiting at the red light to cross south past Ramon in Rancho Mirage when a minivan heading north blew through the red light, was hit by a westbound vehicle on Ramon, and overturned onto McCluskey and the vehicle next to him.  Our new ride RM3 uses the east sidewalk of Da Vall at that location on both sides of Ramon, which would have been out of the line of fire in this case. However, in situations with sudden catastrophic vehicle crashes, cars can just as easily end up on a sidewalk or bike path, so vigilance at all times can’t hurt.

Da Vall sidewalk path near Ramon.

December 4, 2010:  Joseph P. Szymanski, 56, was the victim of a hit-and-run midday while riding westbound in the ample bike lane on 54th between Madison and Jefferson in La Quinta.  It would seem like a safe road to ride on, but I guess not.  We use the pretty landscaped sidewalk along the south side of 54th for enCYCLE ride LQ2, and pay careful attention if sprinklers make the sidewalk wet and slippery.  

Many La Quinta boulevards have ample bike lanes, but we opt for the sidewalk paths alongside them when riding between Old Town and Lake Cahuilla Regional Park, its RV park shown here.

March 7, 2007:  Athlete Kim Raney, 26, on vacation from Washington, fell off her bike and was hit by a truck while riding on Hwy 111 in Cathedral City.  enCYCLE feels Hwy 111 is too dangerous to ride on.  All of our rides that encounter Hwy 111 are either on sidewalk bike trails alongside it, or via alternate routes.  This includes PS1 – PS4, CC1, RM1, and RM2. The CV Link path will add some great alternatives to riding along Hwy 111 for all cyclists, although it is hindered by its boycott by the cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.

The completed 3-mile section of CV Link in Palm Springs/Cathedral City is a model of things to come.

Palm Springs Stars’ Homes of Yesteryear – A Fun Bike ‘n Brunch

by Richard Fox

Palm Springs is one of the most interesting and fun towns to ride around in Southern California, especially when the weather is picture-perfect from fall through early spring.  A stunning mountain backdrop, frequently capped with snow, contrasts to the modified desert landscape of palms, cacti and colorful flowering shrubs. Whereas much of the Coachella Valley is hidden behind walled communities, most of Palm Springs’ communities are available to explore by bike. Architecture ranges from Palm Springs modern to Spanish colonial, and a vibrant downtown is bursting with inviting restaurants, many of which are al fresco and perfect to combine with your ride.

In the mid 20th Century, Palm Springs was the playground of the Hollywood elite, with many of the biggest stars spending time here in a myriad of homes, whether rented or owned. Although they came here to escape the pressure and scrutiny of Hollywood, they created their own melodrama here in the valley.  Details on who lived where is more reliable for some stars’ homes than others’, but the scavenger hunt through history makes this cycle down memory lanes a rewarding exercise. Pictured above is the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, which he and Priscilla rented in the 60’s.   

I recently led 10 enthusiastic friends on enCYCLEpedia Southern California Ride PS1, “Palm Springs Vintage Star Tour – Where YOU Are the Star,” except instead of having them recite movie lines or sing songs of the various stars as outlined in the book, I played audio clips from movies or their songbook to bring history alive, and had them guess the former occupants based on those, while also regaling tales of yesteryear.  The stops came in clusters, with welcome cycling mileage in between as we explored the Old Las Palmas, Deep Well and Movie Colony Districts in a ride of 14 miles.  I actually added to what is in the book, which may have been a mistake, since the 40-odd stops ended up taking 4 hours, and we didn’t make it to lunch until 2:15, a delicious repast on the El Mirasol (North) patio.  Next time I’ll reduce the stops or plan the lunch for mid-ride.

PS1Kaufman
The Kaufmann house, once occupied by Barry Manilow, has been sold as an art piece.

PS1LiberaceMailboxAlone
Casa Liberace is one of several of his homes on this tour. Check out the piano mailbox.

PS1GroupRobolights2018
The bizarre seasonal Robolights installation in the Movie Colony. Go inside to see rows of art pieces made out of toilet seats or microwaves.

PS1RiversideGroup2018
The 1-mile scenic Riverside bike trail near Deep Well is a rarity in Palm Springs, so we rode it back and forth on the ride between districts.

PS1DesertScene
Enjoy beautiful desert landscapes with dramatic mountain backdrops while cycling through Palm Springs.

 

PS1
Paused in front of Clark Gable/Carole Lomard’s Casa Del Carazon.  Theirs was a tragic tale. (This photo was from an earlier ride).

PS1GroupLunch2018
Our just reward, lunch at the El Mirasol (north) patio in the Movie Colony near the ride start/end.

South San Diego Camp ‘n Ride – Sweetwater Hills to the Sea

by Richard Fox

Here’s a fun Camp ‘n Ride, or an option if you are cycling around San Diego Bay (enCYCLEpedia Ride SD7 Option 2) and want to explore some new territory.

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is located east of the southern San Diego suburb of Chula Vista.  This San Diego County Park has a large spacious campground on top of a hill with RV hookups, adjacent to the Sweetwater Reservoir, which is not accessible to the public.  A series of packed sand trails meander through the park, and down to a pedestrian bridge over the SR 125 toll freeway.  This is the only hill involved in the route, and the return back up to the summit campground may be strenuous for some.  The bridge leads to wide packed sand paths popular with cyclists, strollers, and equestrians, running adjacent to Bonita Golf Course and Chula Vista Golf Course, and past the town of Bonita where there are lots of restaurants. There is only one street crossing along the entire path to the sea.  Road bikers stick to the main roadway, Bonita Road.

After crossing under Willow Street the path veers away from civilization and becomes a bit narrower and more isolated but also more scenic with riparian riverbottom vegetation, and resting benches. At about mile 5 this “Sweetwater Riverbottom Trail” meets a paved path.  To the left leads to Bonita Road, and straight ahead continues to San Diego Bay.  It emerges at Plaza Bonita Road in front of the Plaza Bonita Mall with several restaurants, where it becomes a painted path on a wide sidewalk. It veers off onto the Sweetwater Bikeway that follows the channelized Sweetwater River for 2.5 miles to San Diego Bay at National City’s Pier 32 Marina, crossing under several roadways en route including I-805 and I-5.

Near the end it crosses and becomes part of the 26-mile Bayshore Bikeway route that encircles San Diego Bay by way of the San Diego-Coronado ped/bike ferry, discussed in another blog post. The Waterfront Grill at the marina is a popular spot for cyclists with its large patio, open for lunch and weekend breakfast.  At this point you’ve cycled a little under 9 miles.

Safety note: Except for the section between the campground and Bonita, this seems to be a “ride with a friend” trail because of the isolated sections in the thick brush, and homeless encampments as you get closer to Plaza Bonita.  The path along the Sweetwater River has a lot of graffiti and abandoned shopping carts, and the section between the freeway and the river has no exit options.  I rode it solo on a summer Saturday morning with no issues.

 

CA_SD7SwtWtrReservoir
Sweetwater Reservoir, adjacent to Sweetwater Summit campground. It dams the Sweetwater River that starts in the mountains at Cuyamaca State Park.

CA_SD7SwtWtrSummitBrdg
Dirt paths meander around Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Ride right from the campsites, across the bike bridge over SR125 to continue through Bonita on dirt paths. Road bikers use the roadways and connect to the Sweetwater Bikeway near the Plaza Bonita Mall.

CA_SD7SwtWtrDirtPath
Dirt paths past golf courses and riparian areas through Bonita connect Sweetwater Summit Regional Park with the Sweetwater Bikeway to the bay.

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Sweetwater Bikeway runs 2.5 miles between the Plaza Bonita (Westfield) Mall to National City’s Pier 32 Marina and joins the Bayshore Bikeway that circumnavigates the bay. The river here has a natural bottom, and is tidal, attracting bird life. The last 2 miles are between the SR54 Freeway and the river, with no exit until Hoover Ave, just before I-5.

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Sweetwater Bikeway rounds a bend to reach the Pier 32 Marina in National City. This section is part of the Bayshore Bikeway.

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End of the ride at Pier 32 Marina and the Waterfront Cafe for an al fresco lunch. The one-way ride is under 9 miles. Of course you have the option of adding the 26 mile Bayshore Bikeway loop around San Diego Bay, which requires a ferry ride between downtown San Diego and Coronado.

 

 

A Eurostyle Bicycle and Train Holiday Along the Southern California Coast

by Richard Fox

Europe is known for it’s extended bike trail systems like EuroVelo 6 through lovely villages, pastoral countryside, and medieval cities. The routes along  pretty rivers such as the Danube attract thousands of cyclists, and easy access to rail enables hopping from place to place.  Although Southern California does not offer the same wealth of cycling infrastructure, it does have its fair share of bike trails and pleasant bike routes that are conducive to touring the region on two wheels. Using its bike friendly rail system, cyclists can experience a Euro-style holiday, particularly along its spectacular coastal region that attracts visitors from the world over to its beautiful beaches and charming towns, many with Spanish-influenced architecture. A trip can last a weekend or a month, depending on schedule and budget.  If being away from your car is too inconvenient, you can still use the trains to cover more ground on day trips. 

EncyclePedia_022014_FCID.inddMy guidebook enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides (2nd Ed, 2017) contains detailed ride descriptions through the most scenic areas, and these are referenced throughout this article. enCYCLEpedia‘s rides are geared for the average cyclist who prefers to stay away from traffic whenever possible, and avoid high speed, dangerous, or very hilly roads.

The goal of this journey is to use the train to access the most desirable areas, and skip over the parts that are overly difficult, dangerous, or uninteresting. Based on our experiences, the zen of taking a bike on the train adds to the excitement of it all. Options are also mentioned for more advanced riders who may prefer to ride through some of those areas anyway rather than taking the train past them.  

You’ll find lots of accommodation options in the featured locales, and if you prefer bike camping, many of the coastal State Parks have reservable tent sites, but they fill fast at peak times, so advance planning is required. A few also have non reservable bike-in campsites, although spaces are not guaranteed, especially on summer weekends.

The northern part of our trip (San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles) is serviced primarily by the bike-friendly Amtrak Surfliner line that runs from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, stopping at many of the lovely locales described. To travel on the Surfliner, you will need some advance planning, since a free reservation is required to bring your bike along. The good news is it doesn’t have to be boxed like on other Amtrak lines. From LA’s Union Station and south, lots of options open up for less expensive and more bike-friendly commuter lines.

 

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Amtrak Surfliner on rebuilt “trestles” next to San Clemente’s famous Trestles surf beach (SC3).

Whistlestop 1:  San Luis Obispo (SLO)

Taking the Amtrak Surfliner north from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, or SLO Town, is a world class spectacular ride, with California coastal scenery on display between Ventura and Pismo Beach, much of which is not even accessible to the public past Santa Barbara. If you arrive in SLO from the north via Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train, it is also scenic but is not along the coast, as that would mean it would be along the Big Sur coast, which can barely handle a roadway. The Coast Starlight (between LA and Seattle) is not as bike friendly, since bikes need to be boxed and incur baggage and box fees.

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View of the Santa Barbara County coastline from the Surfliner. 

SLO Town is a charming university city about 13 miles inland from the coastal town of Morro Bay. While SLO Town does not have much in the way of bike trails, it does have bike friendly streets and plenty of desirable places to sleep and eat in the vital downtown sector west of the train depot.  It is a good place to spend some time to explore, provision and get oriented. You can try a wine country tour, or a popular bike route to the coast at Los Osos/Morro Bay via Los Osos Valley Road.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, downtown SLO

At the coast you can explore Morro Bay, which offers some delightful coastal riding (enCYCLE Ride MB1), and lots of accommodations (reserve for best selection in summer) and popular waterfront seafood restaurants.  To its south is Montana de Oro State Park (Ride MB2), a coastal gem with a couple of great easy rides on packed dirt, some more challenging mountain biking, and spectacular hiking trails.  Bike-in or reservable tent camping is available at Morro Bay, Morro Strand, and Montana de Oro State Parks.

The existing short and sweet Harborwalk path leading to Morro Rock.
Bike path to Morro Rock in Morro Bay (MB1)

Whistlestop 2:  Grover Beach/Pismo Beach

Pubic passage south down the coast from Morro Bay is blocked by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant property, so you’ll need to ride back to SLO. Continuing south from SLO you can either ride along Class II roads adjacent to Hwy 101 (or a steep route over the hills on dirt roads) or take the Surfliner to the next stop in Grover Beach/Pismo Beach.  If you cycle, your next destination can be the small, quaint beach community of Avila Beach, with the last few miles along the lovely creekside Bob Jones Trail, that will someday connect to SLO, making that a must-do stretch by bike (Ride AV1).  Continue riding south to the Pismo station from Avila Beach. You can also reach Avila Beach on a scenic coastal Class II bike route north from the Pismo station if you choose that option.

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Avila Beach Pier  (AV1)

Pismo Beach is the southern end of our recommended exploration in SLO County, and the train station is just south of town in Grover Beach.  There’s no bike trails in town, yet, so hop on the bike lanes along Hwy 1 and head north into town (Ride PB2), past several public campgrounds, and the spot where the Monarch butterflies congregate in winter. The delightful downtown has a bunch of restaurants and accommodations.  At lower tides, you can ride on the compact sands of the wide beautiful beach here, our only recommended SoCal beach ride (Ride PB1).  The route north of downtown (Ride PB3) is on Class 2 lanes of a fairly busy roadway, but the ocean vistas are  spectacular in places.  If you chose to ride all the way south from SLO, you’ll be southbound on that route toward downtown and the Pismo station.  And now, back to the Surfliner for our next destination. 

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Riding the compact sands of Pismo Beach  (PB1)

Whistlestop 3:  Surf Beach/Lompoc, Santa Barbara County

An optional stop, Surf Beach is the loneliest Amtrak stop along the coast, located in a beach parking lot adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base. You can walk for miles along the beautiful beach, but signs warn against swimming here due to two fatal shark attacks.  Amtrak doesn’t stop here often, so schedule carefully. 

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The lonely Surf Amtrak Station, 9 miles west of Lompoc  (LOM1)

From here you can easily ride to pretty Ocean Beach County Park at the delta of the Santa Ynez River.  For grub and overnight accommodations, including hotels, B&B’s, and camping (River Park), the city of Lompoc awaits (Ride LOM1).  The City of Arts and Flowers with murals on its downtown buildings is reached via a flat 9 mile ride along Class II Ocean Ave (55 mph speed), an interesting stretch when the fields of cultivated flowers are in bloom in spring and summer. Lompoc is not as appealing as some of the other coastal towns, but is a good place to restock and refresh.

Those in tip top condition may consider a road trip over substantial and steep hills and windy rural roads, to isolated Jalama County Beach, where there is a beach campground and general store and grill.  If you took the Surfliner northbound you would’ve gone right by it. This would make an epic weekend trip on its own from the big city.

Another option, though risky logistically, is to take the Wine Country Express bus from Lompoc to the Danish tourist village of Solvang, and explore the beautiful Santa Barbara Wine Country in Los Olivos and Santa Ynez by bike (Ride SO1). Buses have bike racks, but can take only a couple at a time.  You could also leave your bikes at your Lompoc accommodation, take the bus, and rent bikes in Solvang.

Whistlestops 4, 5, 6, 7:  Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura

The ride between Lompoc and Santa Barbara is very hilly and/or along the 101 Freeway, only for the most advanced riders. So, all aboard the Surfliner at Surf!  The corridor between the next stops of Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Ventura is rideable by most cyclists, so you can pick and choose where you’d like to explore, how far to ride, and when to use the Surfliner to help you out.

From the Goleta Station, ride to the coast and explore the beautiful paths along the University of California at Santa Barbara (Ride SB2).

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Paths around the UCSB Lagoon (SB2)

Class I and II routes connect to the downtown and waterfront district of Santa Barbara (Ride SB1).  A scenic beachfront path passes a multitude of restaurants and accommodations there, although there is no bike camping in town.  The Amtrak station is in the center of town, so if you disembark there, you can easily explore the extensive Spanish-influenced downtown and beautiful waterfront.

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Cabrillo Beachway, Santa Barbara Waterfront (SB1)

A Class II route leads through the tony community of Montecito, then Summerland, to the lovely low-key beach town of Carpinteria, and the next Amtrak station (Ride SB1, Option 2).  Find lots of great restaurants and choice of accommodations from B&B’s to bike-in and reservable campsites at Carpinteria State Beach.

Someday there will be a bike path connecting Carpinteria to the new path to Ventura, but for now there is only a 3-mile fairly hilly on-road route.  If you are willing to tackle that, the reward is the new waterfront bike path adjacent to the 101 Freeway that leads to the north end of Ventura (Ride VE4).  You could also access it if you take the train directly to Ventura and ride north.

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Rincon Bike Path along US 101 between Carpinteria and Ventura (VE4)

The bike path ends on the Old Rincon Hwy, a popular bike route that leads to the Ventura waterfront trail system (Ride VE1).  Via that path you can access the historic downtown center, enjoy the beautiful coastline and pier, and find all sorts of restaurants and accommodations.  The depot is downtown between the beach and Main Street. Bike-in and reservable camping are available at McGrath State Beach nearby in Oxnard.

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Path through San Buenaventura State Beach near downtown Ventura (VE1)

From Ventura consider riding up a scenic rail trail about 16 miles inland to the lovely spa resort town of Ojai, either as a day trip and lunch stop or an overnight destination (Rides VE2 and 3).  Camping is available at two county parks near the route.

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Rail trail through the Ojai Valley  (VE3)

Ventura is the last stop for the northern part of our adventure. Cycling south from Ventura is only for very experienced cyclists.  The subsequent 50-mile coastal route first passes through the city of Oxnard, while the last 35 miles is along the busy, hilly, speedy, Coast Highway to and through Malibu. The reward is that it ends up on the fabulous 22-mile Los Angeles beach trail. But you can also access that path by taking local rail from downtown, along our rail route. So, most of you will want to hop on the Surfliner in Ventura and head to downtown LA. Or, make your way across town to Oxnard and take the more bike friendly Metrolink commuter train from that route’s western terminus (weekdays only).

Whistlestop 8:  Los Angeles Union Station

Historic Union Station is an attraction in itself, but riding in downtown LA is not for the faint of heart, except perhaps early on a Sunday morning.  However, if you can very securely lock up your bike and belongings, or find an accommodation nearby, it is a worthwhile area to spend some time exploring on foot, with attractions such as the touristy Olvera Street, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, Chinatown, and lots more.

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Historic Olvera Street near LA’s Union Station

From Union Station you have a choice, depending on your timing and preferences. Logistically, the easiest thing to do is hop on Metrolink’s Orange County Line, and head south to our next stop, San Juan Capistrano.  Or, if you would like to experience LA and Orange County’s  best and most fabulous coastal trails, joining up with the train route further south, make the following extra trip using local Metro Rail:

Extra Trip: The Urban LA and OC Coastal Paths

LA’s world renowned beach trail runs some 22 miles through Santa Monica and Venice, Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beaches (Rides LA1 and 2). Metro Rail’s new Exposition Line can get you there: Take the Red or Purple lines from Union Station to meet the Expo Line, and get off at its terminus in Santa Monica. There’s no tent camping along the coast, so you’ll need hotel accommodations near the beach communities, preferably as close to the beach as possible to avoid some dicey areas and possibly dangerous street riding

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North end of  LA coastal bike trail aka Martin Braude Trail (LA1)

Believe me you don’t want to ride between the LA beach trail through the industrial districts to Long Beach, so head back to a Metro Rail train, either the Expo Line in Santa Monica or the Green Line accessible further south.  Connect to the Blue Line southbound and get off in downtown Long Beach, a bike-friendly city. Explore the world class rejuvenated waterfront area and visit the Queen Mary or Aquarium of the Pacific (Ride LO1). There’s no tent camping but find oodles of accommodations, dining and shopping.

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Bike path through Long Beach’s Shoreline Village restaurant area  (LO1)

A state of the art bike trail runs along the beach to the Belmont Shore district, a great place to stroll and dine.  Explore the canals of Italian-inspired Naples Island (Ride LO2), and ride across the San Gabriel River and into Orange County and the delightful beach community of Seal Beach (Ride SE1).  Carefully navigate a couple miles on the Class II Coast Highway into the community of Sunset Beach, taking the parallel residential street when able, that leads to the fabulous 8 mile Huntington Beach coastal trail (Ride HB1). Camping along here is only for self contained RV’s, so find accommodations and restaurants in Sunset Beach or halfway down the trail in the revitalized downtown core near the pier.

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Huntington Beach path near the pier (HB1).

From the south end of the beach path connect via residential streets to the Newport Beach coastal trail that runs along the Balboa Peninsula, where you’ll find plenty of accommodations and food (Ride NB1). Take the cute 3-car ferry across to Balboa Island to continue the ride south.  An expensive tent-camping option is at Newport Dunes resort in the Back Bay, a great place to get some fun riding in (Ride NB2).

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Newport Beach’s oceanfront path.

Only very experienced cyclists should do the through-ride south along the coast from here. It is indeed a scenic journey, however, perhaps warranting an up-and-back ride for the first few miles. It starts with the Corona del Mar waterfront, connecting to the spectacular Crystal Cove State Park with its blufftop oceanview bike path (Ride NB3) and option to stop at the historic Crystal Cove district for lunch on the beach. Mountain bikers may be able to access a primitive campsite in the inland section of the park. The hilly coastal highway into Laguna Beach is a busy 4 lane road. Once in town, alternate routes are available through most of it (Ride LB2), but in South Laguna there are no good options to get off of the highway until you reach Dana Point, where bike lanes widen as you pass beautiful Salt Creek Beach Park, the Ritz Carlton, and the main business district. From Dana Point you can access bike trails to the San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente train stations.

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Laguna Beach is the jewel of Orange County, with its rocky coves, sandy beaches, and lovely downtown right on the beach, but it can be a bitch to bike through (LB2).

Those who prefer bike paths to busy roadways should skip the route through Laguna Beach and follow the excellent paths along Newport Back Bay (Ride NB2) connecting to the San Diego Creek path inland through Irvine (Ride IR1) and end up at either the Tustin (Ride TU1) or Irvine train stations.  From either station, take the Metrolink train south to San Juan Capistrano, joining those who skipped the urban coastal section and took the train directly there from Union Station, or braved the ride through Laguna Beach.

Whistlestop 9:  San Juan Capistrano

The Santa Fe Depot is in the center of the restored historic Spanish downtown that includes the popular and beautiful San Juan Capistrano Mission and the Del Rio district, the oldest neighborhood in California (Ride SJ1). Bike paths lead one way into horse country, and the other way to the sea at Dana Point, another area to explore at its harbor (Ride DP1).  A coastal bike trail connects to San Clemente, and coastal tent camping is available in Dana Point at Doheny State Beach and at San Clemente State Beach, atop a bluff at the south end of its lovely beach trail (Ride SC1).

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San Juan Capistrano’s historic Los Rios District next to the train depot (SJ1).

Most cyclists will want to hop on the Metrolink at San Clemente’s North Beach Station for the scenic oceanfront trip south to Oceanside.  More adventurous cyclists may enjoy the ride past classic surfing beaches like Trestles (Ride SC3) and perhaps ride into San Diego County through Camp Pendleton (register in advance, subject to closure) all the way to Oceanside.  Tent camping is available near the north end of the route at San Onofre State Beach’s inland San Mateo or summer-only coastal Bluffs campgrounds.

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Elevated portion of San Clemente’s Beach Trail (SC1).

Whistlestop 10: Oceanside

Oceanside is a transit hub, where LA’s Metrolink ends and San Diego’s Coaster and Sprinter train lines begin. Amtrak’s Surfliner also stops here. You can ride inland on the 9 mile San Luis Rey River Trail, visit California’s largest mission en route, and access camping at Guajome Regional Park at trail’s end. Oceanside’s waterfront has a bike lane along its beach promenade, a pier, and a revitalized downtown core.

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Oceanside Harbor, a great place to stop for a meal after the ride through Camp Pendleton from San Clemente (SC3) or just riding around town (OC1).

Those who prefer to stay off of busy roadways should continue on the Coaster train to the San Diego stations.  Otherwise, make your way down the very scenic Class II coastal highway through the lovely beach cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas and Solana Beach. We do this ride frequently, it’s one of our exceptions of road riding since it’s so much fun (Ride SDC1). Tent camping is available at South Carlsbad and San Elijo State Beaches. Advance reservations are needed at both, and they do not have bike-in sites.

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A typical view heading south along the north San Diego County coastal highway (SDC1).

Whistlestop 11: Solana Beach

I recommend for those who rode down the coast to hop on the southbound Coaster train in Solana Beach.  After Solana Beach the train bipasses the next city, Del Mar, then heads inland.  If you choose to cycle to San Diego, the route becomes extremely hilly past Del Mar, recommended for experienced and top-shape riders, who can make their way through La Jolla and reach the Mission Bay area.

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A Coaster station in north San Diego County

Whistlestop 12:  San Diego Old Town

This major transit center is adjacent to San Diego Old Town State Historic Park, a restored settlement and mega tourist attraction with lots of museums and Mexican restaurants in and around it.  You’ll need to lock up and walk or wheel your bike through here, but it’s worthwhile to do so.  From here, you can connect to the fabulous bike trails around Mission Bay and the boardwalk along Mission Beach/Pacific Beach, and also access Sea World by bike (Ride SD1).  Tent camping is available at private Campland-on-the-Bay.

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Scenic north end of Ocean Front Walk in Pacific Beach (SD1)

From the Mission Bay area you can ride to ritzy La Jolla (Ride SD2) and laid back Ocean Beach (Ride SD3).  A Class II route leads to the stimulating bike trail along San Diego Harbor (Ride SD4). From there, a bike/ped ferry accesses the beautiful bike riding on the Coronado peninsula (Ride SD7: Cover photo – Hotel del Coronado). And, on-road bike routes lead up to the very European Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo (Ride SD6).

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The amazing San Diego Zoo (SD6).

Whistlestop 13:  Downtown San Diego Santa Fe Depot

The historic downtown depot, just a couple of blocks from the harborfront trail, is our final stop, and the best station to access the harbor ride (SD4), Coronado via the ferry (SD7) and Balboa Park/Zoo (SD6).  More advanced riders can continue UP the hill to the spine of the Point Loma Peninsula to visit the spectacular Cabrillo National Monument at its tip (Ride SD5).

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A moving bike statue along Coronado’s scenic waterfront path (SD7)

Return to your origin from downtown San Diego, either taking the Coaster, transfering to the Metrolink in Oceanside, or Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner the entire way.

 

Casual Cycling at Big Bear Lake, CA

Big Bear Lake sits ~7,000 feet above the urban valley floor in the spectacular San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Long known as a year round recreation playground with winter ski resorts and summer lake activities, cycling has mostly been of the hard-core variety, with little to offer to the more casual cyclist… until now.

The long-established Alpine Pedal Path runs ~2.4 miles along the northeast shore of Big Bear Lake, connecting campgrounds to the Stanfield Cutoff that leads to town.  It’s not flat, but it is easy enough, with plenty of gorgeous lake views and forest scenery.  In summer 2017 it was widened during a re-paving project making it much better for bikes and peds to coexist. Still, weekdays are much preferred in that regard. Meanwhile, the City of Big Bear Lake has developed a system of bike routes through serene residential streets, leading to the quaint Village, the hub of dining and tourist shopping. There’s even a new bike path that parallels Pine Knot Ave.

Plans are in the works to make a better connection between Alpine Pedal Path and the rest of the city bike routes, but for now cyclists can carefully cross Stanfield Cutoff and hop on a sidewalk for a half mile to make the connection. Future plans also include a bike path from the Bear Mountain ski area all the way down to the lake and connecting to the existing bike routes, as well as bike lanes along treacherous Big Bear Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through the area.  Several agencies, including the US Forest Service, CALTRANS, Riverside County and the City have been coordinating all of these projects.

The other option for casual cyclists with fat tires is the Sky Chair lift at Snow Summit ski resort that leads to a choice of a fire road or the new Skyline Trail east down the mountain, as well as other options, depending on ability.  Unfortunately the lift cost has doubled in the last few years; still not too bad if you use it the whole day but the single ride cost is out of step.

We spent a month camped near the lake in July 2017, and enjoyed near perfect weather (high 70’s – low 80’s, sunny, with an occasional fun thunderstorm) while the valley below was baking. We rarely needed our truck; we just hopped on our bikes to explore the paths and new routes, which I mapped out for enCYCLEpedia’s 2nd Edition.  We look forward to experiencing the great cycling here again when more of the master bike route plan has been completed.

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Newly paved and widened Alpine Pedal Path, north shore.

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Steve relaxing at the west end of the Alpine Pedal Path along the lake. The Solar Observatory in the background offers free tours to small groups weekly in summer.

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Rich pausing along the bike routes on the south shore near town.

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Steve on Pine Knot, the main Village street, with horse and buggy going by.

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The Towne Trail is a fairly hilly forest path, an alternate route to taking the city streets from the Snow Summit lifts west to The Village.  It also serves as a feeder for MTB’ers who descended the west side of the mountain, returning to the lifts.  

 

 

 

The easy scenic cycling adventures of Richard Fox, author of the 2014 (2nd Ed 2017) guidebook "enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides."