enCYCLEpedia ride #CAT1. See the book for a map and more detail.
Do you have the urge to visit a Mediterranean Island? If you can choose a warm sunny day, which can happen any time of year, a visit to Santa Catalina Island can be a sublime experience. There is no car ferry to the island so the only vehicles are from the residents of the village of Avalon. Most get around on golf carts. You can bring your own bike, or rent from a couple of concessions including Brown’s Bikes. It’s a great way to get around, combining a bike ride with the other activities that range from mini golf to zip line to scuba diving. There is no shortage of shops to engage you and plenty of restaurants to savor. Accommodations range from high end B&B’s and inns to a campground. The 20+mile ferry crossing takes about 1- 1.5 hours from several ports in Orange and LA Counties, and bikes are allowed for a fee. Check for particulars on transporting e-bikes on the ferries.
The easiest cycling is around the quaint village and on ultra scenic waterfront roads north and south of town. A gradual hill through a canyon leads up to the must-see Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. But for the most scenic roads and vistas, some substantial hill climbing north and south of town is required. You’ll need a multi-geared bike or better yet an e-bike to tackle those. Adventurous mountain bikers can get a permit or take a guided tour to cycle farther south, above Avalon, on Catalina Conservancy land, home of the bison herd. Or try cycling the length of the rugged 22-mile island.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (3rd Ed, 2021) contains detailed ride descriptions through the most scenic areas, 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 and you can detour to the waterfront and ride on some parkside trails. 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, very doable but not the most wonderful, 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 County’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 all the way to Oceanside. However getting an advance permit to ride through the Camp Pendleton roadways has become quite an ordeal. An option is to ride along I-5 for that stretch which is permitted, if you dare. 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, or those on e-bikes with plenty of battery power left, 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 or e-bikers with battery to spare 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, transferring to the Metrolink in Oceanside, or Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner the entire way.
Big Bear Lake sits about 7,000 feet above the urban valley floor in the spectacular San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Long known as a year round recreation playground with winter ski resorts and summer lake activities, cycling has mostly been of the hard-core variety, with little to offer to the more casual cyclist… until now.
The long-established Alpine Pedal Path runs ~2.4 miles along the northeast shore of Big Bear Lake, connecting campgrounds to the Stanfield Cutoff that leads to town. It’s not flat, but is easy enough, with plenty of gorgeous lake views and forest scenery. On warm days the pines emit a delightful aroma, and summer wildflowers can abound. A beautiful but hilly 1-mile spur leads through the pretty forest to the Discovery Center. In summer 2017 the main path was widened and re-paved making it much better for bikes and peds to coexist. Still, weekdays are much preferred in that regard. Meanwhile, the City of Big Bear Lake has developed a system of bike routes through serene residential streets, leading to the quaint Village, the hub of dining and tourist shopping. A bike path runs parallel to Pine Knot Ave.
Projects are underway to make a better connection between Alpine Pedal Path and the rest of the city bike routes. A separated bike path across Stanfield Cutoff connecting to the Pedal Path was completed in 2020 along the west side of roadway, which is short but sweet and one of the most scenic stretches of path in SoCal with iconic views across the lake. At time of writing that path is being extended (expect by late 2021) to Big Bear Blvd, and to the southwest adjacent to that main road, connecting to Sandalwood and pleasant in-town bike routes. Future plans also include a bike path from the Bear Mountain ski area all the way down to the lake along the Rathbun Creek corridor, intersecting Sandalwood. A very impressive 0.7-mile portion is already completed between Elm St near the new Zoo location and the Sizzler parking lot. Several agencies, including the US Forest Service, CALTRANS, San Bernardino County and the City of Big Bear Lake have been coordinating all of these projects. Signed bike routes through neighborhoods also traverse Big Bear City.
The other option for casual cyclists with fat tires is the Sky Chair lift at Snow Summit ski resort that leads to a choice of a fire road or the new Skyline Trail east down the mountain, as well as other options, depending on ability. You can also ride up the mountain on Forest Service Road 2N10 from the Bear Mountain area, a trip that e-bikers will be more appreciative of. A reward of a meal at the outdoor Skyline Taphouse BBQ (when open) can await you. It’s a very scenic ride through the National Forest with some awesome vistas.
We’ve spent one to two months RV camping near the lake’s northeast corner every summer since July 2017, and enjoyed near perfect weather (high 70’s – low 80’s, sunny, with an occasional fun monsoon thunderstorm) while the valley below was baking. We rarely needed our truck; we just hopped on our bikes to explore the paths and new routes, which I mapped out for enCYCLEpedia’s 2nd and 3rd Editions, with the latest maps available on the enCYCLEpedia website for book owners.
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. We do consider this a “ride with a friend” path, especially the more deserted stretch to the east of Riverside. 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.
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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.
It’s summer, the beaches are packed, and you can’t decide whether to hit the beach or go for a bike ride. Well, you can do both on beaches where the sand is compact enough to support a comfortable ride. Of course the off-seasons are best when the crowds are less, but these rides are doable any time of year. Here I present four of my favorite ocean beach rides, all at beautiful locales where there are no paved trails adjacent to the beach. On the west coast are Pismo Beach, California and Cannon Beach, Oregon. On the east coast are Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Daytona Beach, Florida. If you have your own favorite beach ride, which should be at least 4 miles each way, please let me know!
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."