Scenic Bike Rides in the Big Apple

By Richard Fox

You love to bike. You’re visiting Manhattan. Fahgettaboudit, start spreading the news, biking is a great way to see the sights, and work off all that NY pizza. Here are my picks for the best bikeways to take in the most iconic scenery, all of which can be connected.

Author on a Citi Bike e-bike that actually worked, on Governors Island

RENTALS

Check on line for the most up to date info on bike rental shops. Citi Bike bikeshare has stands all over Manhattan, but is geared more to get from points A to B rather than keeping it for a period of time for touring, where fees add up quickly, especially for their e-bikes. It’s your best bet if you want to stop and see various attractions on foot so you can dock the bike and not worry about theft. A day pass is more economical than starting your contract over each time. You can typically find their clunky cruisers at most of the stands. However, based on my recent experience, don’t count on finding a working e-bike when and where you want it, regardless of what their app indicates. The more riders in your group the less likelihood of e-bike success.

Although this view of the Empire State Building is from the walk-only High Line path, it can be seen from many vantage points around the city.

CENTRAL PARK

How iconic can it get? My favorite time to ride around Central Park is during the fall foliage season, usually mid November, if you can luck into a mild sunny day. The perimeter roadways form a roughly 6 mile loop and are closed to traffic, offering a great opportunity for sightseeing while getting a good workout. Download a map of the route to find all of the access points.

Cycling is one-way, counter-clockwise around the park, with no cycling allowed on pedestrian paths except where marked as a shared path such as the cross-over path above 95th Street. Bikes must observe a 20 mph speed limit, give peds the right of way, and obey traffic controls. When you see cyclists ignoring annoyances like red lights or speed limits they are probably New York area locals. Watch for speeding cyclists that pass on the right without warning who are avoiding pedestrians to your left.

You’ll mostly encounter the lovely horse drawn carriages below 72nd St, especially in the southeast corner of the park, but beware on dry days when horse dung can turn to dust and form an annoying cloud.

Pass some of the familiar landmarks like The Lake, The Reservoir, The Great Lawn, and Wollman Skating Rink. Museum Mile along 5th Avenue, centered around the East 90th Street park entrance, contains the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and El Museo del Barrio. Along the bike route behind The Met on the left (west) is Cleopatra’s Needle (an ancient obelisk) and an Alexander Hamilton statue. The formal and lush Conservatory Garden is accessed via a ped path to the east at 106th Street. With all that there is to explore in the park you may want to bike a non-stop loop or two and then take the time to see the highlights on foot. Download the Bloomberg Connects app for free guided tours of Central Park provided by the Central Park Conservancy, and other New York highlights. For pickleball players there’s friendly play at the handball courts, and the city even provides the balls.

The North Woods section at the north end with its steep hills can be bypassed by a 2-way crossover route at 104th/105th Streets in the east to 102nd Street in the west. The upper west side area is also fairly hilly.

The Lake in Central Park

Connect from Central Park to the Hudson River Greenway Path described below on several designated bike routes along 77th/78th Streets, 90/91st Streets, 106th Street and 110th Street.

MANHATTAN WATERFRONT GREENWAY

The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway is a 31 mile bicycle route around Manhattan Island, running mainly next to the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers. Download the map here. I have only cycled on the Hudson River Greenway that passes the Grecian Temple, the mighty George Washington Bridge, and the historic Little Red Lighthouse in its north end. The path is mostly level and next to the river except for the section north of the bridge that climbs to around 160 feet at Inspiration Point. In this area Fort Tyron Park has beautiful plantings, great vistas and the Cloisters art museum, accessed via a short steep hill from the bridge to the 181st Street crossover, then north on Cabrini Blvd.

The Greenway extends from Dyckman Street in the north to Battery Park in the south, mostly through Hudson River Park and Riverside Park. This path is used by commuters and recreation seekers and is one of the most heavily used bikeways in the country. Beware of speeding cyclists.

Path along Hudson in November
Historic Little Red Lighthouse next to the path under GW Bridge

Farther south it passes the Chelsea Piers athletic complex, Pier 57 Rooftop Park (“Roof Deck”) with awesome views, and the new (2021) Little Island park built in the river, a fascinating place to check out (and it has great new restrooms). The main path heads inland, skirting the 9/11 Memorial. An alternate more scenic but also more ped-challenged route follows the waterfront along Battery Park City, branching off north of Chambers Street, with a walk-bike section around the yacht basin. Both lead to Battery Park, with views of the Statue of Liberty and ferries to it, Staten Island and Governors Island.

A break from non stop cyclists on the Hudson River Greenway
Hudson path looking toward Freedom Tower. Note the sign that says “no e-bikes” in this section. I wonder if it’s enforced ? Every other bike was an e-bike. Bollards will hopefully prevent another terror attack like in 2017.
Hudson River Greenway section
Author at the new Little Island park along the west side pathway
View of Little Island and south Manhattan skyline from Pier 57 Rooftop Park (Photo courtesy of Lew F)

For an interesting side trip walk the 1.45-mile long High Line linear park, built on an abandoned elevated railway (no bikes). It is a popular and typically crowded public park lined with interesting landscaping with vistas of unique architecture. Dock your Citi Bike nearby or if you have your own or rented bike lock it like “Fort Knox.” High Line starts at Gansevoort St, inland and just south of Little Island near the Whitney Museum, and heads north to 34th Street.

High Line park pathway , typical section

The Hudson pathway continues around the south tip of Manhattan to the East River Greenway along the East Side from The Battery, northeast past South Street Seaport and the famed Brooklyn Bridge. The bike path across the bridge was moved to its center with minimal vistas, so it’s not a scenic ride. Best to dock your bike nearby and walk across it on the upper ped promenade, which has ultra scenic vistas from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty. Chinatown and Little Italy are accessible to the north from the west end of the bridge. A gap from 34th to 59th Streets in Midtown around United Nations Headquarters necessitates cyclists to use bike lanes on busy boulevards. In Harlem low traffic street connectors bridge another gap between 120th and 155th Streets.

Brooklyn Bridge
Walkers have a much better view now than bikers on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Harlem River Greenway then extends uninterrupted between 155th Street in Central Harlem north to Dyckman Street at the north end of the island. About 30 blocks of this Greenway are along the Harlem River, while the rest are inland. A bike lane on Dykman Street connects to the Hudson River Greenway at Inwood Hill Park.

GOVERNORS ISLAND

Cycling around the perimeter of historic Governors Island in New York Harbor is a visual treat. View the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Narrows and Brooklyn Bridges, and the fabled QE2. A public ped/bike ferry leaves seasonally from next to the Staten Island ferry in The Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan. It can easily be added to your Waterfront Greenway ride.

Ferry landing on Governors Island

The biking distance around the island is short, about 2 miles each loop, plus some exploration in the island interior, so it’s easy to add this on to a riverside cycle if you have your own bike. Bike share users may want to drop off a bike in Manhattan and pick up another one on the island. Governors Island offers both Blazing Saddles and Citi Bike rentals.

Statue of liberty seen from Governors island

The island played a role in military defense for many years, but was sold in 2003 to the National Park Service and Governors Island Trust, and has been open to the public seasonally since, with plans on tap to develop more features for the public to enjoy. Download the map. The island has some food concessions and restrooms available.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge
QE2
View of Staten Island Ferry, a cruise ship, and Jersey City, NJ
Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, East River

EXTRAS

For more adventures combine your outing with rides on the New York City Ferries. The $4 fare includes your bike, or you can dock it and pick up another one at the various locales. See the route map for the many options.

And finally, what about biking the GW? The bike path along the George Washington Bridge is heavily used and narrow, with plans to improve it afoot. I’ve walked it in the past, but never biked it. It is the only way to bike across the Hudson in the NYC area and affords great vistas of the city to the south. Here’s a link for bridge access info and construction schedules. Once in Fort Lee cyclists have several options, including eating at one of the many Asian restaurants there. Fort Lee Historic Park with rich Revolutionary War history is just to the south of the bridge on Hudson Terrace. From this park Henry Hudson Drive (aka River Road) is a low speed limit park road open to cars and bikes that heads north, under the bridge, and extends over 8 miles through scenic but very hilly Palisades Park. The round trip is about 1,700 ft of climbing. Road route 9W north to Piermont is popular with local bikers.

Many thanks to locals Lew F & Elaine G for so much info, guidance and tips on NYC biking!

Cycling Cathedral City Civic Center & Cove

Cathedral City reportedly got its name from Colonel Henry Washington, who during a survey of the Colorado Desert in 1855 stood in Cathedral Canyon and observed that certain rock formations resembled cathedrals. It’s not a name that resonates with tourists as one of the must see places of the Coachella Valley, but its Civic Center Plaza in its Arts and Entertainment District is one of the most unique spots in the area, definitely worth a visit. The centerpiece is the expansive Fountain of Life in Town Square Park, a unique, fun, and whimsical piece, popular on hot days with people splashing around in its “sprayground.” The park is a good place to meet up for a ride around the area, with shaded benches and public art such as sculptures of musicians.

Fountain of Life

The fountain is surrounded by the interesting Spanish architecture of City Hall, the Mary Pickford movie theatre (our personal area favorite), and the Bell Tower. Also in this downtown district are the Coachella Valley Repertory theatre, several restaurants, and the expansive new Agua Caliente Casino. Across Hwy 111 is the new Jurassic Wonders, a vacant lot filled with metal life size dinosaur sculptures by Ricardo Breceda. The Civic Center’s large festival lawn hosts November’s Hot Air Balloon Festival featuring a Saturday evening food truck corral and Balloon Glow event, where the balloons are lit up, set to music. The Taste of Jalisco festival, a celebration of its sister city in Jalisco, Mexico is in February, and March brings LGBT Days, California’s earliest Pride event.

November’s Balloon Glow during Balloon Fest

Except during the festivals, the district is enjoyable to pedal around and explore. It’s not a long enough ride on its own, but can be a destination via a detour from other rides featured in enCYCLEpedia, like Palm Springs’ Tahquitz Creek Loop via the Jenkins Trail, and sidepaths along Hwy 111 or Gerald Ford from the Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert rides.

Cathedral City Hall
Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, father of Chicano music and former Cat City resident.
The Bell Tower
Pickford Theatres
Jurassic Wonders
Danger!
Rainbow crosswalk indicative of the LGBT-friendly city.

You can also add to the ride with a hilly excursion in the Cathedral City Cove neighborhood across Hwy 111 to the south. The Cove is another of the Valley’s un-gated communities that makes for a nice place to ride without being on sidewalks or busy boulevards. However, it is very hilly so probably of most interest to the e-bikers in the easy cycling realm. Acoustic bikers enjoy the workout from the 400-foot elevation gain within 1.75 miles. You can get in several miles of enjoyable biking by making your own way around or enCYCLEpedia readers can follow the suggested route map on its website. Properties tend to get nicer farther up into the Cove. The Cove is surrounded by Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument land, and two trailheads are located at the top of the Cove as indicated. The one to the east starts as wide double track, while the one to the west is narrow sandy singletrack.

From top of the Cove enjoy vistas back down across the Valley.
Scenic section of the Jenkins Trail that connects to Tahquitz Creek Loop in Palm Springs
Most of the Jenkins Trail leaves something to be desired, but it beats riding on the highways.

Touring the Best of San Diego With Its New Cycle Tracks

SANDAG’s Go By Bike initiative continues to expand bikeways throughout San Diego. An interactive map depicts current and future bike lanes, protected Cycle Tracks and bike paths in the region.

Some of the most interesting places to bike in downtown San Diego are along the vibrant waterfront path and up in Balboa Park. Previously, to connect the two areas, cyclists had to contend with on-street bike routes, commingling with traffic. Now cyclists can get between these areas on Class IV Cycle Tracks. Cycle Tracks are bike lanes adjacent to streets with physical barriers from traffic and can be one-way or two-way. SANDAG also went the extra mile by installing bike traffic signals and where appropriate red no-turn arrows for vehicles when the bike signals are green to prevent hook type crashes.

The new 5th Ave one-way northbound Cycle Track features bike signals. There are no crossing buttons for cyclists, but appear to be cameras to sense their presence.

The multi-use paths along the San Diego waterfront are visually spectacular, although portions tend to get crowded with tourists, best visited at off-peak times. The interesting vistas and points of interest make it worthwhile though, including the Maritime Museum, Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, cruise ships, and many other highlights.

Maritime Museum and cruise ship in port.
The “Victory Kiss” statue in front of the Midway museum.

Cyclists need to detour around, or walk bikes through the popular Seaport Village complex, and in the future expect a major redevelopment project there. The harbor bike tour can be staged in many places. We’ve used Shelter and Harbor Islands in the past, but now prefer the new diverse massive Liberty Station complex (parks, restaurants, museums, grocery, etc) located up an inlet of San Diego Bay. A bike path goes under Harbor Drive and connects with the harborfont path. The harbor tour ride is described in enCYCLEpedia as ride SD4.

Waterfront path along a bay inlet, along the Liberty Station complex, a good staging spot.
San Diego view from the harborfront pathway.

Currently, protected Cycle Tracks cut across downtown San Diego east-west on Beech and J streets. You can get to Beech St from the harbor path by crossing at the light at Ash St and cutting through the park to the left.

Start of the two-way Beech St E-W Cycle Track just past Kettner Blvd

After the Cycle Track starts past Kettner Blvd the next block is India St (one-way north). The main part of the Little Italy district is to the left (north) here where you can find lots of sidewalk dining and the ped-only Piazza della Famiglia at Date St (below). We walked our bikes through here to get to Columbia St, which is one-way south, back to Beech. Grape St is another option.

On another occasion we biked here for “slices” and enjoyed some at Mr. Moto’s Pizza across from the Piazza:

The Beech St Cycle Track intersects the Cycle Track on 4th Ave (one way south) which extends south to B St but just ends there, so is not recommended from here. Next, the 5th Ave Track that starts at B St a few blocks south of here heads one way to the north. The Beech Track ends at 6th Ave, where a 2-way Track heads to the south only.

To do a loop up to Balboa Park/Zoo and the hip Hillcrest district, take the new 5th Ave Cycle Track north (1st photo, above). E-bikes have an edge here since it is an uphill journey. Once you near the top of the hill, next to Balboa Park, you’ll cross under the San Diego airport landing pattern, close overhead. To visit Balboa Park, take Laurel St to the right. It becomes El Prado past 6th Ave and crosses over a tall concrete bridge with the 163 freeway far below.

Tour around on the park roads. Our favorite route around the park is described in enCYCLEpedia’s ride SD6. The San Diego Zoo is adjacent to the north. If you’re a local, consider becoming a zoo member so you can just pop in whenever you want and visit your favorite animals.

Exit the park the same way, but look for a bike path to the right before reaching Balboa Dr and 6th Ave. It ends at Upas St. Cross 6th Ave and return to the 5th Ave Cycle Track heading north if you want to explore or dine in Hillcrest, or else go to 4th Ave and head south in its Cycle Track. There certainly are plenty of great dining options in Hillcrest, many along the Cycle Tracks.

We stopped for brunch along the 5th Ave path at Snooze, and although no tables were available on the patio, they let us bring our expensive e-bikes inside so we could be seated immediately.

The 5th Ave Cycle Track ends at Washington. The connection along Washington to the 4th Ave Cycle Track to head south was awkward, it needs work. You may want to cross over before Washington. The one-way southbound 4th Ave route is part Cycle Track and part buffered bike lane. Warning, you may want to stop at Babycakes bakery en route. We encountered a one-block detour onto the roadway in March 2022.

Returning to Beech St, head left on the Track to 6th Ave, then cross it and turn right onto the 2-way Cycle Track.

This is a busy section of downtown, so expect lots of stops at lights, but thankfully they are all equipped with bike signals coordinated with “no turn” signals for vehicles. This Cycle Track skirts the Gaslamp Quarter, passes the east-west track on J St (an option to return to the waterfront) and ends at L Street. Cross L and make your way to a plaza to the right to reach 5th Ave. Use the 5th Ave signal to cross the tracks, the MLK rail trail, and Harbor Dr. Go left in the Harbor Dr bike lane to the first light at Park Blvd. Cross Park and take the sidewalk on the right that leads to the waterfront path next to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

Wind sculptures next to the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Petco Park (Padres) beyond, Convention Center to the left.

From here complete the loop along the harborfront paths (~20 miles staged from Liberty Station). Check out the new state of the art Rady Shell venue at Jacobs Park, Embarcadero Marina Park South across from the Convention Center. Bike to the summer concert series by the San Diego Philharmonic, and others.

The passenger/bike ferry to Coronado also leaves from this area (next to Joe’s Crab Shack) but that’s the subject of another post (and enCYCLEpedia Ride SD7). Either take the ferry and ride over there, then take the ferry back, or do a ~24 mile loop around the bay via Imperial Beach and other cities.

Harbor pedestrian ferry allows bikes for no extra$. Boats leave to Coronado Ferry Landing from the Convention Center area or for a longer ride on a larger boat for the same price, the downtown waterfront.

VANCOUVER BC – THE ULTIMATE URBAN WATERFRONT CYCLE

By Richard Fox

When the weather cooperates, this urban ride is virtually unsurpassed. Paved flat trails meander around and through beautiful Stanley Park and along the Vancouver waterfront along seawalls that surround the downtown core on three sides. On a clear day, mountains tower over the Vancouver skyline. Pleasure boats, freighters, cruise ships, water taxis and float planes plow the waterways, while pedestrians stroll, and beachcombers frolic. The Vancouver skyline is ever present from many angles as the bike trails curve hither and thither, each time offering a different spectacular vista. Make sure your camera’s battery is charged up for this ride, as you may spend a lot of time clicking photos, especially if it is your first time. Besides Stanley Park, many of Vancouver’s attractions are along this route. Most people will concentrate on Granville Island, however, one of the prime dining and shopping locales in the city. There are three parts to the ride; the 9-km one-way (counter-clockwise) Stanley Park loop, the 19 km False Creek ride using a bridge or water taxi, and the 4km excursion to Canada Place along the seawall. Of these, the actual trail is most scenic around Stanley Park, but some of our favorite vistas are from the south side of the False Creek trails looking north toward Vancouver and the mountains. Ultra novice cyclists should stick with the Stanley Park section. Those wanting some extra kilometers may want to cycle all the way out to the University of British Columbia at Point Grey. Needless to say, options for a Bike n’ Brunch abound, including numerous cafés along the bike trails.

Beginning of Stanley Park loop. Photos from September, 2011.
Path passes under Lions Gate Bridge. You can also ride across the
bridge on the sidewalk, very high up.
Scenic section west end of Stanley Park.
Typical path section , Stanley Park.
Path enters West End of Vancouver along English Bay.
Along English Bay.
Newer trails along the north side of False Creek.
Passing the former Monk’s restaurant along False Creek.
Newer False Creek path.
Vancouver vista, False Creek.
Science World dome and GM Place as seen from newer trail along south side of False Creek.
Steve Janice and Robin along the Vanier Park trail, Kitsilano.
And finally the author as well, Vanier Park..
Nautical vista from Kitsilano area.
View from Burard Bridge, returning to downtown.
Cycling near Canada Place, north side of Vancouver.
Canada Place, showing cycle path and float plane.
Path through Canada Place cruise ship area.

CLARKDALE – TUZIGOOT – SYCAMORE CANYON TOUR IN northern ARIZONA’s VERDE VALLEY

By Richard Fox

We enjoyed a 17.3 mile Camp ‘n Ride on a warm September day in the Clarkdale area of Northern Arizona. Clarkdale is near the towns of Cottonwood and Jerome, about 20 miles west of Sedona. We staged from the Rain Spirit RV Park, situated along the main road of Broadway on the southeast edge of town. The ride encompassed historic Clarkdale, Tuzigoot National Monument, and the paved first 5 miles of scenic Sycamore Canyon Road along the Verde River. On another day we continued on the dirt road for a few more miles.

Clarkdale is known to most northern Arizona visitors as the place to catch the scenic Verde Canyon Railroad ride. We experienced that excursion once in late November, a good time of year with fall foliage usually peaking in the area. The depot is accessed off a side road from Broadway near downtown, over a narrow bridge.

The small historic town of Clarkdale founded in 1912 was originally a company smelter town created by William A. Clark for his copper mine in nearby Jerome. The photos below show Jerome in the hills above, a smelter, a slag pile next to the Verde River, and a facility that recovers and repurposes the slag.

Clarkdale was an early example of a planned community, with telephone, telegraph, electrical, sewer and spring water services, making it very modern for its day, and the central part of town is on the National Register of Historic Places. The mine and smelter closed in 1953, and the town fell on hard times, though a Portland Cement company revitalized the economy somewhat.

Currently there are not many dining options in Clarkdale in contrast to booming Old Town Cottonwood and historic Jerome, each just a few miles away. An exception is Violette’s Bakery Cafe, in the center of Clarkdale in an old railway car serving delicious French-style breakfast and lunch on their outdoor patio, which made for a wonderful bike and brunch for us. Across the street is Arizona Copper Art Museum in the old High School building, and around the corner the central Clarkdale Park featuring a circa 1915 bandstand.

Adjacent to the southeast of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot (which means “Crooked Waters”) National Monument, a well preserved pueblo on a limestone hilltop built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400 CE, overlooking an extinct oxbow in the Verde River. Admission is charged to walk around the ruins, but there is a free paved path with interpretive signs leading to a view deck near the oxbow, which is now an important wetland.

The Verde River flows through Clarkdale year round, and Sycamore Canyon Road, accessed off of the Tuzigoot access road, follows the river and leads to access points where many people set in with their river kayaks to float downstream to the south. The road is little used except for warm weekends by people driving to the river accesses, and on weekdays with some trucks that use a facility midway. There is one substantial hill en route and a few gradual hills. E-bikers will be happy to have some options on those, as we did with our Class I Townie Go’s. We stopped at the end of the paved section in about 5 miles at a cattle guard.

On another day we continued onto the unpaved Forest Service road past the cattle guard, which is not a 4WD road, but was still bumpy for our e-bikes. We found good paths though and it worked out fine. We felt like we were in the old west, with just chaparral and red rock cliffs beyond. We turned around in about 2.5 miles, but you can ride much farther and also explore scenic side roads.

Connecting the Tuzigoot access road and central Clarkdale is Broadway, the town’s main thoroughfare with bike lanes and an ample paved sidewalk/bike trail alongside it. In the other direction, toward Old Town Cottonwood, the sidewalk and bike lanes disappear for 0.8 mile.

A GRAND CANYON E-BIKING ODYSSEY – A Heavenly week during the pandemic from hell

By Richard Fox

During the Covid-19 summer of 2020, the Grand Canyon trams weren’t running. These free trams run throughout the park, including along the main 7-mile scenic Hermit Road that is closed to cars, transporting hordes of tourists from around the world to Hermits Rest, stopping at all of the famous spectacular lookout spots, including Maricopa Point, Hopi Pt, Mojave Pt, and others. The tourists swarm the viewpoints, jockeying for position to take photos, then fan out to hike between them. We cyclists can still find some solitude along the route, but rarely close to tram stops. The Hermit Rd bike ride is a spectacular opportunity to experience some of the most scenic portions of the Grand Canyon on a closed road, a 14 mile round trip piece of paradise. Due to some hills it’s not the easiest ride when combined with the ~7,000 ft elevation, but most acclimated to the altitude should be able to handle it with a multi-geared bike. When the trams go by, about every 15 minutes, cyclists are required to pull off the road and let them pass, which doesn’t happen all that often on a typical ride, but is a pain when it does. The bike-carrying trams can come in handy for cyclists though, in case they get tired or suffer a mechanical problem, which could result in a long walk back to the village otherwise. Also, the first hill up Hermit Rd from Grand Canyon Village can be daunting for those on non-electric bikes not used to the altitude, and a lift up with the tram can remedy that. The roadway eventually descends downhill to its terminus at Hermits Rest, so if cyclists are not up for the ride back over the hill they can hop on a tram with their bike.

Me on my TownieGo 8D at a Hermit Rd viewpoint.

With no trams running during our visit in late August, ending before Labor Day weekend, the road was only open to bikers and hikers, so the farther down Hermit Rd we went, the fewer of either we encountered, especially hikers.

Most cyclists rent their bikes at Bright Angel Bicycles, a well-respected concession located at the main Visitors Center complex, about 5 miles from Hermit Rd via the Greenway Trail system, which allows bikes. When they began operations in 2010 it was a game changer, turning Grand Canyon National Park into a biking destination. They currently rent 7-speed cruiser style bikes, but National Parks prohibits them from renting e-bikes. They also offer guided tours. In past years, tourists from all over the world rented bikes from them resulting in hordes of cyclists on wide Hermit Road, which could easily accommodate them. This summer there were still quite a few cyclists, always great to see, but with so few foreigners, the numbers were significantly less, and in the mornings and late afternoons, the road was virtually deserted, how wonderful for us.

This was our first time riding Hermit Rd with e-bikes; we had done the ride many times over the years on regular geared bikes, most recently our 21 speed Townie comfort bikes. We now have Class I TownieGo pedal-assist models; Steve rides the 7D and me the 8D, and we both love them. The first substantial hill up Hermit Rd required significant pedaling, but it wasn’t a taxing experience at all on our senior bones and muscles. The rest of the route is hilly as well, but more gradual, which is a piece of cake for pedal-assist bikes, even at this altitude. We had spent the rest of the summer in Big Bear Lake, California, at 7,000 feet, so we were already acclimated.

E-bikes are allowed in Grand Canyon National Park as follows per the NPS website:

E-Bikes: The term “e-bike” means a two-or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.).
E-bikes are allowed in Grand Canyon National Park where traditional bicycles are allowed.
E-bikes are prohibited where traditional bicycles are prohibited.
Except where the use of motor vehicles by the public is allowed, using the electric motor to move an e-bike without pedaling is prohibited.

Steve on his TownieGo 7D at a Hermit Rd viewpoint.

The biggest difference this year was that most of the famous viewpoints were empty, we had them to ourselves! It was like having our own private National Park, shared with a few friendly cyclists, and hikers along the first few miles. Private picnics on shaded benches overlooking the canyon were easy to accomplish, and we enjoyed many moments of Zen contemplating the amazing sequence of geological events that created the canyon. Our rides were like something out of a biking fantasy, a once in a lifetime opportunity ironically created by the most horrible of pandemics. Most of the other cyclists were smiling widely as well, save for a few on rental bikes struggling up the hills.

One of the busiest moments at a viewpoint during our stay. During most of our stops at Hopi Pt we had it all to ourselves.

Of the main Hermit Rd viewpoints, our favorite is the wide ranging Hopi Point, where you can see the Colorado River in five places. We had it to ourselves most of the times we stopped there, or other times with just a few cyclists. Besides the main viewpoints, several pullouts offer equally classic views of the canyon, some all the way down to the Colorado River. Those tend to be less crowded than the main viewpoints when the trams run.

About 2.7 miles before Hermit’s Rest is an isolated 1.7-mile section of Greenway Trail where bikes are allowed. The trail runs on the rim side of the road through a mixed piñon forest, and offers several idyllic pullouts with shaded benches overlooking the canyon. It’s a bit hillier than Hermit Rd through here, but a worthwhile option. We selected one for a picnic on Steve’s birthday ride; what a way to spend a birthday.

Piñon milieu from a bench along the Greenway Trail parallel to Hermit Rd.

On our last day I did a last minute solo ride in the late afternoon. I was virtually alone on Hermit Rd, a bit risky if I had a breakdown but well worth it. I had the place to myself, an amazing solo experience in the Grand Canyon. I would stop at many of the viewpoints and pullouts, and just gaze, mesmerized. That was my fourth time riding Hermit Road that week. Steve had joined me the first three times, and was equally enthralled with it.

We stayed at Trailer Village RV park near the center of the developed area of the park, in the forest about a mile from the rim. It’s nothing special, except for the location accessed by the Greenway Trail system and the fact that elk wander through it, which all campers love seeing, although during the fall rut one needs to be careful of the rowdy bulls. The campground was full, which made sense given the popularity of Covid-safe RV-ing during the pandemic. Mather Campground, which caters to tenters, was not open yet.

The Greenway bike trail system runs mostly through the forest passing both campgrounds, so that visitors can hop on their bikes and ride to the nearby Market Plaza with its general store in a few minutes, or to Grand Canyon Village, the hub of the park with its hotels and restaurants including the historic El Tovar hotel and restaurant. It was open but we don’t like the idea of indoor dining during the pandemic. The tourist train from Williams stops there, and the rim along this section is the most crowded with tourists. From the campgrounds and Yavapai Lodge area it’s about a 3 mile, or 20 minute ride gradually downhill to the village. When trams are running there is one that can take you and your bike back up to the campgrounds, but not this year during the pandemic. Hermit Road begins at the west end of Grand Canyon Village and rises to the west.

Heading east from the campgrounds on the Greenway trail system leads through the forest to the main Visitors Center in a couple of miles, where the bike rental concession is located. There’s plenty of car parking there if you need to rent a bike.

Typical Greenway Trail through the woods. Good directional signs help navigate.

The trail veers off and reaches the rim east of Mather Point. Bikes are not allowed on the typically crowded Rim Trail to the west of there, all the way to the Village, and adjacent to Hermit Road except the one section of Greenway Trail near Hermits Rest mentioned above. However, heading to the east from this point on the rim begins a section of Greenway Trail that bikes are indeed allowed, making it one of the most scenic two miles of bike trail anywhere. It darts between low forest and rim-side panoramas. Since it’s only about a 15 minute easy cycle from the campground to the rim at this point, we rode it at least once a day to be able to gaze at the canyon in different lights.

Next to the Greenway Trail east of Mather Pt.
Scenic cycling at its best – the flat rim-side Greenway Trail is open to bikes between the Visitors Center and the S Kaibab Trailhead.

The Greenway Trail along the rim here skirts a couple of road pullouts where car parking is allowed, so peds are sometimes milling about at those spots, but besides that it’s pure biking heaven. As it bends around along the rim to the north, different angles of the canyon come into view with a choice of rim-side viewpoints. We’ve frequently encountered elk along this section of trail as well.

The path winds around the rim some more until reaching the restricted parking lot for the South Kaibab Trailhead, my personal favorite trail into the canyon. I’ve hiked down a mile or two many times, and in my earlier foolish years all the way to the river and back. In recent years I’ve kept to the rim on my bike instead, being satisfied with the past memories.

From the S. Kaibab trailhead parking lot, where there is a water fill station and restrooms, you can turn right down the access road, then turn left on the closed-to-cars road to scenic Yaki Point to get in an extra mile each way. Typically a tram brings hikers to the South Kaibab trailhead, and also up to Yaki Point, but not this summer. This ride to the east is much easier than the Hermit Rd ride, as there is very minimal topographical change. From the campgrounds to Yaki point is about 4 miles each way.

We left on the Friday before Labor Day, and watched cars streaming into the park. Trams were set to resume the next day, but only at 1/4 capacity, and only servicing the closed roadways of Hermit Rd and the South Kaibab/Yaki Pt. route. Expect to see more people at the viewpoints with the trams running, but most likely a fraction of the usual for this peak season of summer/fall, due to the absence of foreign visitors.

We never tired of cycling along the rim this past week, around 140 miles total. The weather was fantastic, even with afternoon monsoons the first couple of days, which freshened the air. Temperatures began to rise during the week, but the skies and canyon became clearer as well. Once we arrived, we didn’t need our vehicle at all, it was all about the bikes.

All in all, this was one of our most memorable and enjoyable weeks in recent years.

TOUR D’OL’ BLUE EYES – A SINATRA DESERT BIKE TOUR

by Richard Fox

Frank Sinatra was my mom’s heartthrob as a teen. Not mine! Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, listening to The Beatles, The Stones, Aretha and other greats on the radio, I would cringe when Strangers in the Night would interrupt the magic of the contemporary sound. Although I still cringe when I hear Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo, I’ve gained an appreciation of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ craft over the years, and some of my favorite songs to listen to are Summer Wind, New York New York, Luck Be a Lady, Fly Me to the Moon, The Girl from Ipanema, and even That’s Life.

I’ve also enjoyed watching him on TCM in some of his classic film roles like his Oscar winning From Here to Eternity, The Detective, The Manchurian Candidate, Guys and Dolls, Pal Joey, Can-Can, Anchors Aweigh, Robin and the 7 Hoods, and even Tony Rome.

 

 

 

From the 1940’s until a few years before he passed away in 1998, Sinatra was an integral part of the fabric of the Coachella Valley, a very special place for him. He had four wives, three homes and many of Hollywood’s elite surrounding him while here. Although known for his legendary temper, he was also a philanthropist, contributing to local charities, and performing benefit concerts with friends such as Jerry Lewis and Bing Crosby. His “Rat Pack” friends also spent time in homes in the area, including Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Dean Martin, although an infamous 1962 kerfuffle over a JFK visit created a rift between Sinatra and Lawford, who Frank blamed for JFK’s decision to stay at Bing Crosby’s place instead, after Sinatra had made elaborate preparations.

Many of the sites of Frank Sinatra’s points of interest lie along enCYCLEpedia Southern California safe(r) bike routes, so fans of the crooner can do a two-wheeled scavenger hunt to visit them. Clusters of sites are found in Palm Springs, where he first lived, and Rancho Mirage where he spent his later four decades. A bike ride combining all of these sites is about 33 miles long. Those not up for that distance can transport their bikes in between and do it in two separate rides of about 8 to 15 miles each depending on route. Route maps are posted on the enCYCLEpedia.net website Bonus Materials page for book owners, but you can of course find your own routes. Some outlying Sinatra features are not part of the tour, including his private Villa Maggio compound way up the Palms to Pines Highway in Mountain Center, and a couple of churches he was known to have visited in the valley.

Palm Springs

Let’s start spreading the news in downtown Palm Springs where you can find Sinatra’s star on the expansive Walk of the Stars along the main drag of Palm Canyon Drive. Frank’s is located at 135 N. Palm Canyon Dr. The star was awarded for his many achievements in a ceremony on January 15, 1994 that was attended by 2,000 people. It truly was his kind of town that day. You can find other stars listed on this website or i phone users can check out this special app.

Heading north on the side streets of the Old Las Palmas neighborhood you can ride past some of his fellow rat packers’ former homes including Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford.

At the northeast corner of Vista Chino and Indian Canyon is the Margaritaville Resort — formerly the Riviera Resort and Spa (1600 N Indian Canyon Dr), the site of charity shows Sinatra organized featuring buddies such as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. But, the best is yet to come…

From the Riviera Resort’s website.

 

Riding south like a Summer Wind into the Movie Colony where so many Hollywood stars kept homes, we visit Sinatra’s first valley residence. Twin Palms was designed by E. Stewart Williams and built in 1947 at 1145 Via Colusa (formerly addressed as 1148 E Alejo Rd). Frank lived here with his first wife Nancy, until their divorce in 1951, and then second wife Ava Gardner until their tumultuous split a few years later. The 4-bedroom, 7 bath, 4,500 square foot home features a pool shaped like a grand piano. This was indeed a party house with Hollywood’s A-list celebs frequenting its grounds. It was later sold, went into disrepair, was refurbished, and is currently available for rent. According to its website “Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate is available to rent for a variety of events including private vacations, corporate events, retreats and functions, private events and dinner parties. Commercial uses include photo, film, television, magazine and movie opportunities.”

From the sinatrahouse.com website.
View from 1145 Via Colusa

Frank was known to frequent many of the area’s bars and restaurants, but only a handful remain. You can ride by two of them in Palm Springs. Make your way south, perhaps on the Sunrise Way side path, to Hwy 111. Make sure to stick to the side paths along dangerous Hwy 111. A block east of Sunrise check out the Purple Room in Club Trinidad, now known for its popular Judy Garland impersonator show. Previously, as its website states, “The Purple Room is where Frank, Sammy, Dean, and their pals cavorted on and off the stage in the swinging 60s.”

From the Purple Room’s website

Next head west and then north through the Deepwell Estates district where former homes of Jerry Lewis, William Holden, and others are located. Exit via the Riverside Drive bike path and up to Baristo. At the northwest corner of Baristo and Ramon is Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge at The Ingleside Inn, 200 W. Ramon Rd, a hangout for Frank and buddies Jilly Rizzo, Patty Henry and Danny Schwartz, who’d sit at the bar and drink whisky. He also held his pre-wedding dinner to Barbara Marx here in 1976.

Melvyn’s as seen from Ramon Rd at Baristo.
From Melvyn’s website.

You’re now close to completing a Palm Springs loop of 9 or 10 miles. Check out other enCYCLEpedia rides to explore other areas and aspects of Palm Springs including a more comprehensive Vintage Star Tour.

The next set of stops is in Rancho Mirage, which lies east past Cathedral City, about 7 miles away. To connect the two areas you can use Tahquitz Creek Loop, then make your way to the Coachella Valley bikeway, aka the Whitewater River trail. In the future, the CV Link regional pathway will be a great option to get through Palm Springs and Cathedral City. You’ll wind up on the sidewalk along Hwy 111 or along Gerald Ford Dr, and end up at Wolfson Park, our starting point for the Rancho Mirage loop.

Rancho Mirage

Located south of the T-intersection of Da Vall Drive and Frank Sinatra Drive, the small but beautiful Wolfson Park was donated by Sinatra himself to the city, and allowed it to be named for Rancho Mirage politician Michael S. Wolfson. Several parking spots are available on the adjacent street. If these are full you can start the ride a couple miles east up Frank Sinatra Dr. Turn left at the first light on Thompson Rd and park after the “No Parking” signs cease.

Near the beginning of the sidewalk that is lined with Brail Trail interpretive signs, look for a pedestal with a button on top. When you push it, Frank’s voice resounds from a speaker next to the shrubbery, talking about this park and surroundings. Also find a fountain, a drinking fountain, benches and picnic tables, but no public restrooms here.

Frank Sinatra’s intro message is found here.
Blooming giant ocotillo in Wolfson Park.


Enjoy pretty vistas throughout Wolfson Park.

The ~1-mile Butler-Abrams bike trail heads south from Wolfson Park along the Whitewater levee. It dips down into the usually dry Whitewater River channel (closed during and after flows) and up the other side, ending at Country Club Drive.

The west portion of the Butler-Abrams trail is more pastoral.
If the Whitewater River is flowing, use Morningside Dr instead of the Butler-Abrams trail. The Frank Sinatra Dr bike path across the river will also be closed.

To the right up Country Club, across Highway 111, is Lord Fletcher’s restaurant, 70385 Highway 111, where Frank dined for 30 years in the peaceful upscale atmosphere, and held his 70th birthday party here in 1985. There’s no need to cross Hwy 111 since you’re probably not going to be eating at this dinner-only establishment during the ride. Update August 2020: Lord Fletcher’s is closed and for sale.

Interior of Lord Fletcher’s from their website.

Our next site is Frank’s final resting place, at Desert Memorial Park, 31705 Da Vall Drive at Ramon Rd, at the north end of Rancho Mirage, but just over the border in Cathedral City. Enter off Da Vall if the Ramon gate is closed. It is closed weekends, so there’s no reason to ride up there then except for the joy of the ride itself. By cutting this out, your ride will be about 8 miles instead of 15. There’s several options to get there (see enCYCLEpedia); the most direct is back up Da Vall Dr. Sinatra passed away in 1998, and his plain headstone pictured below read “The Best Is Yet to Come,” but was recently replaced with “Sleep Warm, Poppa.” North from Ramon Rd a couple of pedals look to the right between markers B-8 and B-9. Frank’s and widow Barbara’s (d. 2017) graves are 4 and 5 stones up from the road. Fans leave mementos such as bottles of Jack Daniels or dimes on Frank’s grave at times in tribute.

Also buried around here are his prizefighter father Anthony Sinatra, his mom Natalie Sinatra who was killed in a plane crash en route to seeing Frank perform in Las Vegas, Frank’s buddy Jilly Rizzo, and composer of some of his standards Jimmy Van Heusen. Famed composer Frederick Loewe (My Fair Lady, Gigi) is also here. At the north end of the cemetery near a pretty monument garden is former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono’s stone, “And the Beat Goes On.”  If you’re out of water there are water fountains near the office, and possibly restrooms if open.  

Head back south on sidewalk paths that circumvent Mission Hills Country Club to reach a rare un-gated upscale community accessed via Los Alamos south of Gerald Ford Dr. Before the traffic light was installed this intersection was the site of the tragic end of Frank’s close buddy, night club owner Jilly Rizzo, who burned in his car after being hit by a drunk driver who fled the scene. Jilly lived in this neighborhood, which you can explore.

Many of the homes in the south portion of this area are along fairways of Tamarisk Country Club, including Frank Sinatra’s compound, coming up in the next section. Frank was a loyal member of this club for four decades, which opened in February 1952. Its website mentions that it welcomes “diversity,” alluding to the fact that four of the Marx Brothers and George Burns who were Jewish, helped found this club where other clubs such as Thunderbird were anti-semitic and banned Jews. A group of 65 movers and shakers started this all-inclusive club and never turned back. You can catch a nice glimpse of the course from the south end of Palm View Road.

If you’re interested in checking out historic homes and examples of mid century modern architecture in this area, here is a list. One outstanding example of a unique Tamarisk fairway home is the Val Powelson-designed home at 70551 Tamarisk Lane circa 1960:

Off of Tamarisk Lane is a cul de sac named “Andrews Circle.”  The Andrews Sisters owned the homes at the end of the block.  Exit this area via the thru streets such as Tamarisk Ln or Sunny Ln that lead back to Thompson Rd and Frank Sinatra Drive. Turn right on Frank Sinatra. Those comfortable riding on busy roads can cycle in the bike lane, since this will make it easier to find our last point of interest. Others can cross the street at the light and ride carefully in the winding sidewalk/bike path. In a half mile notice the gated entrance to a compound on the right at 70588 Frank Sinatra Drive. Those on the sidewalk will need to carefully walk across the boulevard to check it out after the Morningside gated entry, or just look at the photo of it below, and get a better glimpse of the property from the higher elevation. The plaque explains that Old Blue Eyes lived here from 1957 to 1995. The compound, not visible from the road, consists of a series of cottages named for his songs, a main 8,000 sf house, pool, a cottage with model trains, and other features. You can tour the property via this Huell Howser 1-hour PBS documentary. It is now owned by Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison, used for corporate meetings and retreats, but not open to the public.

The compound is along the westbound side of Frank Sinatra Dr, a half mile west of Morningside Dr.

Wolfson Park is just down the road, the starting point for this loop.

An option: The magnificent Sunnylands property is located nearby. Also known as the Annenberg estate, the home, grounds, and private golf course was developed by the Readers Digest magnate in 1966. It has seen an endless stream of dignitaries and celebrities over the years, including Frank Sinatra, who married Barbara Marx, his last wife, here in July 1976. The estate is open for tours (fee) with advance reservations. There is also a free facility consisting of a wonderful visitors center and elaborate gardens open to the public seasonally. Access by bike requires riding in the bike lane along busy Bob Hope Dr, where the un-signaled entrance is located halfway between Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford Drives.

Sunnylands Visitors Center, gardens and cafe, open to the public several days a week in season.

If you’ve combined the ride with the Palm Springs loop, make your way back via the sidewalk along the northeast side of 111, reaching the Coachella Valley Bikeway off of the Date Palm bridge over the Whitewater channel. Another good connector is the continuous south sidewalk/bike path of Dinah Shore Dr, but just after the bridge over Whitewater channel you’ll need to make your way down a dirt path to 34th Ave to connect to Tahquitz Creek Loop. In Jan 2022 this path was not a good option due to grading at the bottom. It is slated to be paved in the future. Or, do it “your way”! Just stay safe, please.

The film Sinatra in Palm Springs documents his life and times in the valley. Available on YouTube or rent on Amazon Prime.

Fun Pandemic Biking on Palm Desert’s Closed Desert Willow Golf Course

By Richard Fox

The horrible Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to people around the world, while Mother Earth has been able to breath a sigh of relief as our skies and waters have been the cleanest in years.

Southern Californians have been sheltering in place since late March 2020 to avoid overwhelming hospitals with Covid-19 cases, but have been allowed to exercise out of doors in small groups. Along the coast beaches have been closed because of dangerous overcrowding conditions. Out in the desert however crowds are much lower, as the snowbirds have fled, festivals and all tourist activities cancelled, and hotels and B&B’s shuttered. For a while the golf courses were closed as well, but they were eventually re-opened with safety precautions in place.

While the golf courses were closed, many of them allowed local residents to use them as parks for strolling and biking. I rode the cart paths in the golf community where I live for the first time in my 9 years of living here, and that was pleasant. However another nearby course called Desert Willow is the most beautiful in the desert, with rolling hills of native vegetation, lakes, waterfalls, expansive lush fairways, and being the high point in the Coachella Valley, panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. The colorful desert fauna, blue skies, and fresh mountain snows from an unusually heavy April snowstorm combined to make this as beautiful a place as any. Perhaps you were able to cycle or stroll on a closed nearby golf course as well?

Desert Willow is a Palm Desert municipal course that contains two 18-hole courses, the original Mountain View course and the newer spectacular Firecliff course. Golf cart paths meander around both courses, resulting in a 12-mile paved bike trail when the course was closed. Although it became a fairly popular place to walk, there were only a handful of bikes taking advantage of it and the walkers were spread out nicely on the paths or fairways and did not create much of a hindrance to cyclists.

I rode the paths 8 days straight from when I learned about the possibility to when the course sadly (for me) re-opened. It was akin to having a fantasy bike park nearby, and I rode up to 20 miles at a time, taking in the vistas and watching the wildlife including road runners, a coyote (not chasing a road runner thankfully), colorful birds like the Vermillion Flycatcher and Scott’s Oriole, California Quail, giant lizards, and lots of bunnies. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience I shall never forget. Here are some photos from the experience.

View over the Mountain View course from the 1/2-mile entry road bike trail that is always open to us. (Part of enCYCLEpedia rides PD1 and RM1 and 2).
Heavy April snows in the surrounding mountains as seen from the Firecliff course.
Steve at Hole 18 of Firecliff.
We saw numerous road runners. This one was cooing and bragging about his lunch, possibly to a female.
Great White Egrets roosting along the Firecliff Course.
Vermillion Flycatcher.
Very bloomy prickly pear near a Firecliff tee.
Ocotillo mixed in with other trees.
Big lizard!
Steve on a typical Firecliff cart path.
Paths meandering around the Mountain View course.
Firecliff course.
Giant ocotillo from the Mountain View Course cart path. The wild lands surrounding the course are available for a hiking loop of about 1 mile when the course is open.
Beautiful Firecliff Course from the cart path.
Native vegetation along the entry road, always open.

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

by Richard Fox

Updated January 2023.

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, 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.

Pickleball courts are springing up everywhere as the demand from the public increases, and many parks now have at least courts with temporary nets available, with many permanent courts built as well. Most are free except where clubs have been established that collect membership dues or day use fees for visitors. Many community HOA’s have private courts not open to the public. Country clubs and resorts will either have courts open exclusively to members, or offer day use for a fee. This article highlights some of SoCal’s most popular pickleball facilities available to the public with notable easy scenic bike rides nearby. The courts 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 (3rd Ed 2021) and many 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 Mesquite between El Cielo and Demuth Park, then adjacent to Demuth’s south perimeter (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 a CV Link section of 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 player situation with no set open 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 an excellent public facility with 8 courts located along Country Club Dr 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 via the Country Club sidewalks or bike lanes. Across Country Club is Palm Desert Resorter, a private club that is the largest pickleball community in the desert, most popular with higher level players, but all levels are represented. Visitors are usually welcome for a fee. 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 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. One day in peak winter season it was so crowded I went for a 20 minute bike ride while waiting for my paddle to come up, and still had to wait 5 minutes.

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 ($10). 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 special events, ride around on the north service road to the main entrance off of Washington to the bike racks across from the box office. The National Pickleball Championships are held in November and the BNP Paribas tennis classic is in March.

Margaritaville National Pickleball Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

THE MOUNTAINS

Big Bear Lake (Ride BB1, BB3) SoCal’s four season playground in the San Bernardino Mountains is the home of Snow Summit, the largest ski area in SoCal, which converts to a mountain bike park in summer. Winter brings cold weather and snow, and summer boasts beautiful sunny weather, a welcome respite from the heat of the lowlands. Monsoons with thunderstorms develop periodically, but they usually wait until after morning pickleball sessions. Spring and fall can bring the mixed bag that the 7,000 foot elevation dictates. Alpine Pedal Path is a beautiful 2.5-mile paved path along the lake’s northeast shore connecting most of the area’s campgrounds and RV resorts. It connects to new bike paths across the Stanfield Cutoff, and along Big Bear Blvd to Sandalwood (behind the Vons). Other on-road bike routes on side streets are marked around town, and in the future the Rathbun Creek corridor will contain a path from the lake to near Bear Mtn Ski area — a 1-mile section is completed from behind the Sizzler to near the new zoo location.

Along the Alpine Pedal Path, north shore of Big Bear Lake.
New path along Stanfield Cutoff is very scenic.

The active and friendly Big Bear Pickleball Club plays outdoors seasonally Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings at Erwin Ranch Recreation Center, located on Hwy 38 on the way out of town, east of the Sugarloaf neighborhood ($3 visitor fee, $20 membership). A bike route weaves through the east side of Big Bear, requiring a short stint on a dirt road, past the famous wild burros, to reach it from the main part of town. Another venue is Meadows Park, located along the southeast shore of the lake, easily accessible via pleasant bike routes. The city built four permanent courts on a tennis court here, and club members play here on their alternate days, with no fees for visitors. I have enjoyed many fabulous days combining pickleball at Meadows Park with a cycle along the lake on the Alpine Pedal Path in perfect summer weather.

At Meadows Park are four new (2021) permanent pickleball courts next to the lake. Afternoons can be breezy here.
Taking the backroads bike route to Erwin Ranch leads to a 1/4 mile of dirt paths where you may just meet some local residents!

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 has six good permanent courts and two temporary courts. Check for open play mornings ($6), frequently Monday and Thursday. Otherwise it’s open to be booked by the court for $24. Fees include 2-hour 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 (aka Bayshore Bikeway), or book it all the way around the bay using the ferry to return. The other facility consists of 8 courts in Coronado Cays Park, located along the Bayshore Bikeway across from Silver Strand State Beach, just south of Loews resort. The city converts 2 tennis courts to 8 pickleball courts with temporary lines. Open play fees are $9 ($6 residents) Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can join an organization that is lobbying for permanent courts in Coronado.

Bike/ped ferry connects the San Diego Waterfront with Coronado Island, near the Coronado Marriott.
Bayshore Bikeway south of Coronado Cays


Santee (Ride SD12): There’s a paucity of outdoor public pickleball in south San Diego County, so Big Rock Park‘s 8 permanent courts can get crowded at peak times. 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. Although not along bike routes, 8 popular new courts at Mackenzie Creek Park in east Chula Vista is only a few miles from Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, which is accessible via paved and dirt trails from San Diego Bay at National City.

Big Rock Park (when courts were temporary).

Encinitas: Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle Club (drop-in’s welcome ($7) 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.

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 state of the art 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. Very crowded on weekends.

Poinsettia Park in Carlsbad

Also in Carlsbad, St. Michaels by-the-Sea Church near town center has two popular drop in courts, 2 blocks from the ocean. Enter off Beech west of Carlsbad Blvd. $4 donation ($2 members, $30/year). Open play days/times or reservations, see website. Along Ride SDC-1.

St Michaels church courts 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 11 courts used by members Mon-Sat mornings ($3 guests). It’s free to the public at other times. 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.

San Diego Come on San Diego, you should be included in this list already. A stalwart advocacy group has been fighting to get permanent courts somewhere in the city, with the most likely candidate now being on or near the tennis courts at Robb Field in Ocean Beach, along the San Diego River bike path (Ride SD3) with easy access to the Mission Bay loop ride (SD1). Currently San Diego Pickleball sets up 8 courts at Pacific Beach Tennis Club for foursomes ($32/court) with reservations, no drop in. It is located adjacent to the northeast corner of the Mission Bay loop ride (SD1).

ORANGE COUNTY

San Clemente (Rides DP1, SC1, 2, 3, SJ1): The 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.

San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point (Ride SJ1) At the northeast end of the San Juan Creek bike path at Ortega Hwy and Antonio Pkwy are the four permanent courts at Sendero Field, operated by the Rancho Mission Viejo HOA. The public is invited to play Saturday mornings and other times as described. You can park here, play some games, then ride all the way to the beach at Dana Point and San Clemente on a paved path. Or continue on to the public courts at San Gorgonio Park. Along the San Juan Creek Trail (photo) in Dana Point is Del Obispo Park which has several temporary courts near the Senior Center.

San Juan Creek bike path from Doheny State Beach to Sendero Field.

Laguna Beach (Ride LB1) Alta Laguna Park in the Top of the World district has 3 permanent courts, plus additional temporary courts. Bike around this area with fabulous views of the ocean and Aliso & Wood Canyons Park. Make a tricky connection to the Arch Beach Heights District along an ultra scenic but hilly fire road. Lang Park down on PCH and Wesley near the Montage resort has temporary courts available. I don’t bike on PCH in Laguna.

View from the Fire Road between Top of the World & Arch Beach Heights


Laguna Niguel (near Rides SV1, 2, 3, 4): 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 & Wood Canyons 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. Many of the more advanced players in this area have joined the Nellie Gail pickleball club, not near our bike rides.

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


Irvine (New Ride IR3): The new Portola Springs Community Park in the Great Park district of northeast Irvine has 6 lighted 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. There are also nine hybrid tennis and pickleball courts in Irvine located at at Heritage, Knollcrest, Los Olivos, San Carlo, and University Community Parks, most near Irvine bike routes.

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 ($75/year membership) plays on 10 courts at a school facility Mon-Sat 7-10 am at 1302 Service Road. At other times the courts are open to the public with no fee. The closest enCYCLE ride of note is TU1-3, the Mountains to the Sea ride, but 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 by Agape Pickleball at the north end of Mile Square Park every day ($fees vary). 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. The newest facility is at Golden West College, with 24 lighted courts, morning or evening sessions ($5 drop in fee or memberships available), however it is only accessible via several miles of bike lanes on Golden West Blvd from the beach.

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, competitive, and subject to prior reservation by city residents. 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.

Los Angeles There are no stellar pickle/bike combos in LA. Here is a summary of where courts are. Pending are fee-based courts at Balboa Sports Complex, along our Sepulveda Dam Rec Area paths ride (LA5). In Burbank, the four Maxam Park Courts at Hollywood Way and Pacific Ave (open play every day) are 1.5 miles north of the Chandler Bikeway (LA7).

Long Beach and Seal Beach Some of the best easy scenic cycling is around Long Beach and you can combine it with a pickle at the three waterfront Bayshore courts at 54th Place and Ocean Blvd during open play 8am-12pm Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun. It is at the junction of rides LO1 along the beach to downtown and the Queen Mary and LO2 through Naples Island to Seal Beach. Also, From the San Gabriel River Trail (SGR1) you can take the south Spring St sidewalk across the river to El Dorado Tennis Center for open play Tues & Thur 8-11am and Fri 6-9pm ($5). Or, from the Belmont Shore area (LO2) ride north from Marine Stadium to Billy Jean King Tennis Center with drop in play Sat & Sun 2-6pm ($5).

Lots of scenic treats riding the paths of Long Beach, that can lead to the Bayshore pickleball courts.

In Seal Beach (Ride SE1) four new permanent courts are in Marina Park open all the time for free open play. It is located at the corner of Marina Dr and 1st St, a block from the San Gabriel River Trail (SGR1) and the bridge to Long Beach (LO2). Seal Beach is actually in Orange County.

Santa Clarita: The main pickleball facility is at Bouquet Canyon Park, located about 2.75 miles northeast from the Santa Clara River bike path (up Class II Bouquet Canyon to Urbandale). It is always available for open play with no fee.

VENTURA COUNTY

Ventura and Ojai: Ventura is one of the best places for SoCal easy scenic cycling between its beach paths (VE1, VE4) and its rail trails inland to Ojai (VE2, VE3). There’s not a lot to pickle about yet, but Harry A. Lyon Park offers Sat 9am-12pm and Thurs 3:30pm-dusk open play and is located a few blocks off of the Ventura River rail trail (VE3). Juanamaria Park, that has Sun & Thurs afternoons available is not near the bike paths.

Ventura waterfront path (VE1) with an easy connection to Ventura River Rail Trail (VE3)

Ojai has four dedicated courts located near City Hall a block south of the rail trail (VE3) via Ventura St. It is all open play with no fee and morning and afternoon sessions, but “green zone” quiet paddles are required, and the city has some for lend. You can bike up from Ventura on the rail trails, play some games if you arrive at the right time, have lunch since the courts are closed mid-day anyway, and enjoy a mostly downhill cruise on the way back.

Simi Valley: The Arroyo Simi Bike Path aka Greenway extends along the wash about 6.5 miles between Madera Rd (south of Easy St) east to Cochran Ave (between Fig and Ralston Streets). Of the three public pickleball facilities, only Duck Park at Rancho Simi Community Park is located near the path at 1765 Royal Ave at Erringer Rd, with six dedicated courts available every day. The other locations with dedicated courts are farther away in the city; Lemon Park at Rancho Tapo Community Park, 3700 Avenida Simi (4 permanent, 2 shared, open everyday) and Sinaloa Middle School, 301 Royal Ave, with 12 permanent courts available Sat & Sun.

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 across the road) for a mile to the first left on Park Place to the 12 dedicated 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
Pismo Beach (Ride PB3): Palisades Tennis Courts at 3990 Shell Beach Rd in Shell Beach/Pismo Beach has four popular free pickleball courts with an ocean view. Along the Class II / Class I scenic north Pismo Beach bike routes near Avila Beach. E-bikers will enjoy the routes that go back and forth to the cliffside coastline. Private Pismo Beach Athletic Club near downtown and all PB rides has four courts and offers a $10 day pass.

View of Pirates Cove from walkway in the Shell Beach district of Pismo Beach.

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 ($3 guest fee in AM, free in PM, memberships available).

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

San Luis Obispo: Although not on a best featured ride, bike paths run through French Park, where the city’s permanent courts are located, then through nearby neighborhood greenbelts and Islay Park. Temporary courts are set up at Meadow Park, which has bike paths and an on-road connection to the rail trail that starts at the Amtrak station.

INLAND EMPIRE

Claremont (Ride CL1, PET): The Pacific Electric rail trail starts in Claremont and runs about 21 miles east through Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana ending in Rialto. It is serviced by Metrolink trains. About 1 mile south of town and the enCYCLE bike routes, locals play at Wheeler Park’s 5 lighted courts with permanent nets, open every day, morning through evening. Find bike lanes south on College and west on San Jose.

Rancho Cucamonga (Ride PET) Red Hill Park has three new permanent courts. From the Pacific Electric Trail exit onto Vineyard and take it a few blocks north to the park. There’s also temporary courts at Rancho Cucamonga Sports Center, located on Rochester 1.5 miles south of the PET.

Pacific Electric Trail, Rancho Cucamonga

Riverside (Ride R2) From the historic Victoria Ave citrus country bike ride, Riverside Pickleball hosts play at Shamel Courts with established play times, 1 mile north on Mary St then Brockton St under CA91; and at Viegas Community Center, 3091 Esperanza St, temporary courts, a half mile to the north of Victoria Ave via Madison St then east.

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.

The easy scenic cycling adventures of Richard Fox, author of the 2014 (2nd Ed 2017, 3rd Ed 2021) guidebook "enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides."