Riverside – A SoCal Cycling Paradise

by: Richard Fox, Author of enCYCLEpedia Southern California

Most people think of Riverside as the home of the Mission Inn with its spectacular Mission Revival architecture, holiday festivities and Sunday brunch.  But we come to Riverside to experience something else: it’s great bicycling.

The Mission Inn is the centerpiece of a restored historic downtown district that includes a 3-block long pedestrian mall, giving it a European flavor. Mount Rubidoux is a prominent landmark north of downtown, next to classic mansions in historic districts, beyond which is the Santa Ana River. Fairmount Park is east of downtown, containing beautiful Lake Evans with a mountain backdrop.  All of these features can be handily explored by bike.

The upper segment of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) runs about 19 miles from near Norco to the west to San Bernardino to the northeast, with Riverside near its midpoint. With no speed limit or road crossings, and light pedestrian traffic, it is one of the premier paths in Southern California for a good off-roadway workout.  Even better, it is a scenic path, running alongside a wide natural section of the Santa Ana River drainage, with vistas of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains that are often snow-covered in winter and spring. A detour off of the path takes you to the downtown district, and a surprisingly doable climb up Mt. Rubidoux on a gradual paved path reaps rewards of a spectacular vista of the surrounding region. Another path off of the SART brings you to lovely Fairmount Park.

The best time to ride here is when the air is clear and temperatures reasonable, which can occur any time of the year, though less so during the heat of summer.  These rides are described in enCYCLEpedia as Ride R1, with options 1 through 4, including maps, route descriptions and particulars.  Also in Riverside, the historic Victoria Avenue corridor takes you back to the glory days of citrus gold.  That is a subject for a future post (enCYCLEpedia Ride R2).

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Mission Inn in downtown Riverside.
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Euro-style pedestrian mall with sidewalk cafes runs 3 blocks downtown, starting next to The Mission Inn. Signs now prohibit bike riding.  enCYCLEpedia wishes the city would paint a bike trail through it, with a 5 or 8 mph speed limit rather than banning riding altogether since it’s such an integral part of a bike tour of the city.
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The path up Mt Rubidoux and the World Peace Bridge. The very gradual incline makes a great bike ride, but be very courteous to peds on the downhill so that bikes are not banned!
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Beautiful mountain vistas on the path up Mt. Rubidoux.
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West of town, the SART follows gently rolling hills next to the beautiful vegetation of the river with mountain backdrops.
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Dramatic views of the San Gabriel Mountains near the west end of the SART.
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SART heading northeast out of Riverside, 10 miles to San Bernardino. It is fairly isolated and lightly used but scenic and uninterrupted.
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Some scenic mountain vistas on the trail northeast nearing San Bernardino. Find lots of dining options near trails end along Hospitality Lane.
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For the most unique lunch experience, visit Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside for good al fresco Mexican dining, and explore the grounds filled with statues made from recycled materials.
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A scenic pause at Lake Evans in Fairmount Park.
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The path between Fairmount Park and the SART with Mt Rubidoux beyond, all drenched in springtime greenery. This stretch burned after this photo was taken in Spring 2017, but hopefully the vegetation will return soon.
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