Oceanside – North San Diego County’s Cycling Gem

Of the places that I cycled while doing the research for enCYCLEpedia, Oceanside was one of the biggest surprises.  In fact, for an easy scenic cycling destination, it had enough great features to earn the highest 4 star rating.  The highlight is the 9-mile San Luis Rey River Trail that mostly follows a levee along its banks. Reach it from Pacific Street just southeast of Oceanside Harbor, or from the northwest end of Cleveland Street (west on Neptune) downtown. Like most SoCal rivers you won’t see much water in the San Luis Rey most of the year, but it traverses a lovely riparian corridor through a low density residential valley.

San Luis Rey River Trail, looking north.
San Luis Rey River Trail, looking north

There’s no speed limit on the trail, so you can get a great workout as long you’re careful around pedestrians.  On-shore breezes can make your return strenuous, typically more towards afternoon.  A highlight about halfway along the path is the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, the largest in California, accessed via a detour south on Douglas Drive.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Guajome County Park, just past the east end of the trail, has camping, dirt trails, lakes, and facilities. Mance Buchanan Park at College contains the only other facilities.

Guajome County Park.
Guajome County Park

The delta near the southwest trailhead is a beautiful tidal region with plenty of shore birds to watch.

Delta of the San Luis Rey River.
Delta of the San Luis Rey River

Oceanside Harbor and its enticing nautical village is a great place to stop for a meal on your ride, and then perhaps cycle the 1.5 mile road around the harbor.

Oceanside Harbor.
Oceanside Harbor

Saving the best for last, you can take Class II Pacific Street south, and make a right on Breakwater that leads to The Strand along Oceanside’s beautiful beach and pier.

The Strand, north end.
The Strand, north end

The 2-mile ride along the beach is best done when not crowded because of the odd mix of one way slow vehicle traffic and two-way bike lanes.  On a beautiful day, though, the cruise is worthwhile, along the wide sandy beach, and under the pier.

The Strand bike lane, south end.
The Strand bike lane, south end

From the beach you can take Surfrider or Seagaze up the hill to Pacific Street to access the downtown core with its restaurants centered around Tremont and Mission.  Another important facet of Oceanside is its transit center, located downtown south of Seagaze.  Four rail lines converge here – Amtrak’s Surfliner, LA’s Metrolink, and San Diego County’s Coaster and Sprinter, creating great opportunities for one way rides north to San Clemente or south along the San Diego County coast.

A unique downtown bike-ped rail underpass.
A unique downtown bike-ped rail underpass.

A popular cycling event in Oceanside is Bike the Coast – Taste the Coast with 100-50-25-15-7 mile options, held in early October.

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