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.
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.
My 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
Some of the most interesting and imaginative bridges in the western US and Canada are of the bike/pedestrian variety. Many have become showpieces and even tourist attractions. It’s a great way for a municipality to both foster recreation opportunities for residents and visitors, and to bolster its reputation as a destination and a forward thinking community.
The prime example is Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge spanning the Sacramento River in Redding, Northern California. This cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge actually forms a sundial, and its opaque decking is illuminated at night. It has become the centerpiece and main attraction of Redding, known to cyclists for its 35 miles of bike trails along the Sacramento River, and has generated millions of dollars of tourist revenue. We witnessed the Bandaloop acrobats perform on the bridge for its 10th anniversary.
Bandaloop acrobats on bridge.
Also spanning the Sacramento River along its bike trail system is this unique stress-ribbon bridge. Another stress-ribbon bridge in this region, that we have yet to visit, spans the Rogue River in Grants Pass Oregon.
Stress-ribbon bridge over Sacramento River below Shasta Dam in Redding, CA
The David Keitzer Lake Hodges Bike & Pedestrian bridge is 990 feet long, the longest stress- ribbon bridge in the world. Lake Hodges is one of the prime easy-scenic mountain bike areas in San Diego County. These photos show a difference in the area during a wet and dry year.
Lake Hodges bridge in a dry year.
The lovely Wagon Creek Bridge over the Wagon Creek inlet to Lake Siskiyou near Mt. Shasta City completed a trail system around the entire lake.
The best example of incorporating art into a bike/ped bridge is in Tacoma, Washington. The city’s rising star is reflected in its waterfront reconstruction and commitment to improving bicycling infrastructure. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot-long bridge linking the Museum of Glass to downtown Tacoma and its cultural corridor. While more practical for peds, bikes are allowed on it as part of a fabulous tour of the Tacoma waterfront. For those interested in glass art, the walls and ceilings full of glass sculptures and free-standing pieces make this a world class attraction.
Works by some of the best glass artists on display along the bridge.
The ceiling is a seascape.
A railroad trestle is a mainstay along many a rail trail, and the wooden Kinsol Trestle near Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia was restored beyond its original glory as part of the Cowichan Valley Trail. At 144 ft high and 617 ft long, it is the one of the largest structures of its type in the world. Also in BC, the Myra Canyon trestles (not shown) near Kelowna are part of an iconic bike ride along the Kettle Valley Railroad rail trail.
The Pacific Electric regional rail trail in SoCal’s Inland Empire parallels historic Route 66, and the designers took full advantage of that fact by refurbishing this former railroad bridge with Route 66 designs. Cities from Claremont to Rialto have joined in to make this 21-mile path a successful regional feature.
Another refurbished railroad bridge in Folsom, CA, that connects to the American River regional trail, evokes the old-west heritage of the town.
The Phoenix area is criss-crossed by canals and other aquatic infrastructure, and the municipalities have been generous about constructing bike trails along them. Shown here are the new Tempe Town Lake Bike and Pedestrian Bridge, and an interesting bridge at the “Scottsdale Waterfront” that spans a canal. Paved paths along the Scottsdale Greenbelt, Tempe Town Lake and several canals enable fun fabulous off-road cycles in this area.
Recently constructed bike ped bridge over the west end of Tempe Town Lake.
Riding across Tempe Town Lake.
Interesting bike ped bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront near Old Town Scottsdale.
This fabulous bike bridge along the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho is a highlight of the spectacular 72-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes, that follows the former route of the old silver mining trains.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This former railway bridge now carries bikes ‘n pipes across the Columbia River as part of the scenic Wenatchee bike trail system that spans both sides of the river.
And finally, the construction of the sleek Mike Gotch Memorial Bridge over Rose Creek Inlet in San Diego in 2012 was literally a life saving project, taking hordes of cyclists off of a dangerous road and onto less crowded streets and pathways around Mission Bay.
Enjoying a meal al fresco on a perfectly sunny desert day is a sublime experience, but incorporating it into a bike ride adds beneficial exercise and fun. enCYCLEpedia presents our favorite combinations of easy scenic bicycle rides and al fresco dining experiences in the Coachella Valley. Bike routes that include these restaurants as destinations are described in the book “enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides” (2nd edition Oct ’17). Don’t be ashamed to ride on the pretty landscaped valley sidewalks when it’s a safer option, but be extra careful anytime you cross a driveway or street. More info: enCYCLE’s website (Palm Springs area is Chapter 9). Banner photo: Escena Lounge & Grill (courtesy of Sunrise Golf).
What to wear? Most places mentioned are super casual. For the more upscale establishments like Spencer’s or those along El Paseo perhaps bring or wear a more appropriate frock. Golf course establishments typically require a collared shirt. Personally I carry a light Hawaiian shirt to wear over my tee!
1. Downtown Palm Springs
Palm Springs is THE place in the Coachella Valley to cycle on a beautiful winter’s day and find a delightful patio to savor a well deserved meal. Most of the patio restaurants are along South Palm Canyon Drive between Tamarisk and Baristo, but there are plenty others a block or two farther afield. Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon now have sharrows (bike symbols) in their left lanes between Alejo and Ramon. You can also cycle on parallel roads to the west that comprise the city’s bike routes, and just ride a block or two east to Palm Canyon to get to your patio restaurant of choice, including Cheeky’s for imaginative breakfasts, Blue Coyote or Las Casuelas Terraza for a festive al fresco Mexican experience, Lulu’s with varied menu and people-watching patio (photo), or Ruby’s family style diner, to name just a few. Or, you can pedal west on Baristo Road a few blocks to experience the fabulous outdoor patio of upscale Spencer’s. Along Indian Canyon Drive, at La Plaza are Bill’s, a pizza favorite (photo), Tyler’s, a burger favorite, and Farm for French breakfast/lunch. Wang’s Chinese restaurant’s popular Zen Patio is north of Ramon. Thai Smile for lunch and Oscar’s Cafe for breakfast/lunch are al fresco at Tahquitz Canyon, with Sherman’s Deli’s large patio another block to the east. Tropicale’s patio is fun for an upscale brunch, located east on Amado. [enCYCLE ride: PS1,3]
Gary & Elizabeth on Lulu’s patio.
Colin and Richard at Bill’s Pizza.
Steve cycles by Tahquitz Golf Course.
2. The River at Rancho Mirage
Reached via the sidewalk bike trails along Hwy 111 or Bob Hope, the refreshing pools of The River complex are not a mirage, but will revive you on a warm day, and the choice for eats here are stellar. The fabulous waterfront patio of Acqua California Bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Other choices for lunch and dinner include franchises of Cheesecake Factory, Babe’s BBQ, PF Chang’s, and The Yard House, each offering an al fresco option. [enCYCLE ride: RM2]
3. Old Town La Quinta
Granted it’s a newly-built old town, but it charms nonetheless. Access it south from Hwy 111 on Washington, right on Eisenhower, left on Tampico, and right on Bermudas one block. La Quinta prefers you to ride in bike lanes or specifically marked sidewalk trails, but if you ride courteously on the unmarked sidewalk paths you will rarely if ever be hassled by the authorities. We particularly like the patio of Stuft Pizza, where they have happy hour food prices from 3 to 6 pm. I love their Napa Valley Pizza (photo). For breakfast, Old Town Coffee is popular with cyclists where tables are set out on the square (photo). A few more options can be found around Old Town including The Grill on Main and Old Town Tavern. From Old Town you can ride uphill several miles on the scenic Bear Creek bike trail (photo), with some optional easy dirt paths at the top of La Quinta Cove. [enCYCLE rides: LQ1,2,3]
The Bear Creek Trail leads from just west of Old Town, parallel to the La Quinta Cove neighborhood, gradually rising 350 feet up to the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains. It’s perhaps the best Class I bike trail in the valley, even though it’s only 2 miles long. Ride LQ1 includes this trail and an exploration of Old Town, with some options.
My personal favorite Bike ‘n Brunch reward is the Napa Pizza on the Stuft Pizza patio.
Old Town Coffee, a cyclists’ handoout.
4. Escena Golf Club, Palm Springs
A stand-alone destination, Escena Lounge & Grill at the Escena Golf Club is a popular Bike ‘n Brunch choice with delicious food served on an expansive patio with fabulous mountain views (photo below and banner photo). From the bike path along the west side of Gene Autry next to the airport (photo), pedal east on the south sidewalk of Vista Chino to the community entrance on the right, then ride another half mile to the golf club. Then try the first 2.3-mile section of the regional CV Link trail just beyond the Escena entrance along Whitewater Channel between Vista Chino and Ramon. There are also several casual restaurants with patios at Ramon and Gene Autry, including Panera Bread and Dickey’s BBQ. [enCYCLE rides: PS4, PS3]
Very scenic delicious dining at Escena. (Photo courtesy of Escena).
Gene Autry bike path next to Aviation Museum
5. South Palm Springs
This very popular district is fun to cycle around on its residential streets lined with classic Palm Springs homes. Your brunching options are the scenic patio at South Course Restaurant of Indian Canyons Golf Club along Murray Canyon, or try some choices along Hwy 111 east of Sunrise. Manhattan In the Desert (east of Barona) has a delectably huge deli menu that spans all three meals, and a tempting bakery counter. A detour north up South Palm Canyon from Belardo/East Palm Canyon brings you to popular El Mirasol for Mexican food. Koffi is a local hangout for coffee and light fare at El Camino Real and 111. [enCYCLE ride: PS2]
6. El Paseo, Palm Desert
Cycle here either via Indian Wells Hwy 111 shoulder or sidewalk, or from the bike-friendly sidewalks in Palm Desert. From the north, Monterey, Portola and Cook intersect El Paseo. As in downtown Palm Springs, it’s best to ride on the less crowded parallel streets to the south and hop into the town for grub. Some popular patios in this area are California Pizza Kitchen, Daily Grill, Pacifica Seafood, Tommy Bahama’s, Café Des Beaux-Artes, or Wilma & Frieda in The Gardens. Palm Desert’s Manhattan in the Desert is tucked away at the east end of El Paseo. To the west of Monterey, Westfield Mall offers Stuft Pizza and Bobby Mao’s Chinese kitchen, each with a large mountain-view patio. Louise’s Pantry for breakfast/lunch is along the 111 frontage road across from Palm Desert’s new location of Bill’s Pizza, for fabulous pizza on a patio.[enCYCLE ride: RM2]
Uncrowded very early morning.
The median of El Paseo is adorned with modern sculptures.
7. Desert Willow Golf Course, Palm Desert
The beautiful half-mile long sidewalk trail leading up the hill from the Desert Springs (ie Ralph’s) Shopping Center northwest of Cook and Country Club leads to the clubhouse of Desert Willow Country Club, an upscale city-owned golf course. Its Lakeview Terrace has a wonderful outdoor view patio and serves delicious food, perfect for your mid-ride meal. If you hanker for Chinese food, the patio at City Wok in the Ralph’s center is popular. [enCYCLE rides: PD1, RM1,2]
Along the path to the clubhouse restaurant.
Beautiful paths at a high point in the valley overlook pretty Desert Willow Golf Course and mountains in all directions.
8. Restaurant Row, Rancho Mirage
Cycle the bike sidewalk along Hwy 111 between Frank Sinatra or Country Club, or from Palm Desert, head west on either of those boulevards to the end. Las Casuelas Nuevas has a very popular patio for Mexican cuisine and an elaborate Sunday brunch, and Fisherman’s is the spot for an al fresco fish lunch or Sunday breakfast. We love to go to The Palms Cafe II for al fresco breakfast, especially when we sub a giant banana nut pancake for toast. [enCYCLE rides: RM1,2]
9. Highway 111, La Quinta – Indio
A sidewalk path is now continuous along the south side of Hwy 111 from Indian Wells all the way through La Quinta to the Indio border so that you can extend your rides in La Quinta or Indian Wells to access plenty of al fresco dining options. Most are actually on the north side of the road, where the sidewalk has a couple of breaks. Choices start with Broken Yolk for breakfast and festive Las Casuelas Quinta at Washington. Across from In ‘n Out Burger at Simon is Pokehana for a healthy poke fix, Panera Bread, Chipotle and Habit Burger past Adams, and Pho Vu Vietnamese and IHOP after Dune Palms. Mimi’s Cafe at the Costco entrance road has a small outside patio. For one of the finest garden patios in the desert follow the north sidewalk past Jefferson to Jackalope Ranch. [enCYCLE rides: LQ3, IW1]
10. Indian Wells
If you ride on Indian Wells’ sidewalk path (once a designated bike path as shown in the photo) west adjacent to the south side of Hwy 111 toward the towering mountains you will reach Cook Street, across which is Eureka! Their semi-covered and fanned patio is the perfect stop along your bicycle exploration to enjoy fabulous gourmet burgers like the Fresno Fig (photo, below, shown next to enCYCLEpedia), salads and crafted brews. Continuing a bit farther west leads to El Paseo (#6 above). There are also lots of restaurants, some with patios, along Hwy 111 in the El Paseo area that you can access via frontage roads. And those up for something more upscale can venture into some of Indian Wells’ resorts along the route, including Vue Grille at Indian Wells Golf Resort featuring a Sunday brunch splurge.[enCYCLE rides: IW1, RM2]
The pretty Indian Wells bike trail along Hwy 111 is a great connector between Palm Desert and La Quinta.
Cycling Grand Canyon’s South Rim area used to be our little secret, but thanks to Bright Angel Bicycles rental bikes, there are now scores of cyclists along the roads and trails; most seemingly international visitors based on their languages. Even with the added traffic it still is uncrowded, and the thrill of cycling with Grand Canyon views is unparalleled. West Rim Drive is closed to most vehicles (except handicapped, trams, and a few tour buses) during March – November, giving you an ultra wide and fabulous bike path that extends 7 miles from Grand Canyon Village west to Hermits Rest. You can access all of the famous vista points, and have some all to yourself along the route as well. If you get tired, hop on a bike-carrying tram at the designated stops. Be warned that although it is an easy ride, there are some gradual grades, so if you’re not acclimated to the 7,000+ foot elevation, take it slow and easy. Also consider taking the tram up the first and steepest hill to the first stop.
From the village, the Greenway Trail is the paved bikeway that heads east and reaches various features such as the Market Plaza with its restaurants and grocery store, the campground access roads, and ultimately the visitors center complex and bike rental facility. It is not especially scenic until it leaves the visitors center and reaches the rim for a couple of miles of amazing vistas, ending at the trailhead for the Kaibab Trail. From there you can also pedal on the closed-to-most-cars road to Yacqui Point.
For extra trail mileage, a new 6-mile path leads from the tourist village of Tusayan outside the park through the forest to the visitors center. It is mostly gravel.
Santa Fe, everyone’s favorite southwest Spanish colonial cultural mecca, is a place to stroll and take in its unique ambience characterized by the recognizable Santa Fe style architecture, and highlighted by its delectably spicy southwestern cuisine. The sprawling capital city features a central historic core that is the main attraction to millions of visitors.
Although cycling isn’t the first thing that comes to mind in association with Santa Fe, recent improvements in cycling infrastructure have created a very worthwhile biking experience for the easy scenic cyclist. Explore the downtown core, where many streets now have sharrows, and expand your ride on several bike trails that extend into the surrounding districts. Get a bike map from the City or on line or from this link: http://santafempo.org/documents/bikeways-map/
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."