Tag Archives: Coaster Line

New Years Day San Diego Coast Bike ‘n Brunch ‘n Rail

Perhaps the most popular cycling route in San Diego County is the coastal highway between Oceanside and Del Mar. On weekends and holidays hordes of cyclists zip up and down the roadway, enjoying the ocean vistas and breezes.   Riding southbound, the blue Pacific is ever present on your right and wide bike lanes make the route fairly safe.  The terrain is mostly flat except for a view manageable grades.  Navigating through the coastal cities is a bit trickier, but they have all installed either bike lanes or sharrows to help you along, and you can often escape down side streets to get off the main road.   We also tend to duck into the two State Park campgrounds that run for long distances parallel to the roadway.

Steve and I started the New Year by cycling from Oceanside to Encinitas, a casual 14 mile ride.  We started by following the Rail Trail route, a 44- mile work in progress as a combination of trails and on-road bike routes.  It served us well through Oceanside, however in South Carlsbad we opted to stay along the coast rather than heading inland to follow that route.  We stopped at the South Carlsbad State Beach campground and watched from the seaside cliffs as dolphins surfed the waves next to the humans.  Weather was sunny and brisk but perfect for cycling.

Dining choices are endless as you cycle through Carlsbad, South Carlsbad, and Encinitas, each with its own train station which is handy if you’d like to do a one-way ride.  We love train travel, so it adds more fun to our bike trips.   Farther along, Solana Beach has a station, but after that the next coastal station is downtown San Diego.  Certain Amtrak Surfliner trains stop at all stations, but a free reservation is required to take your bike along.  The local Coaster line welcomes bikes on all of its trains.  Look for a car with a bike insignia, which indicates it has spaces for two bikes.  The fare between Oceanside and Solana Beach is only $4 since it is considered one zone.  Weekend and holiday schedules are reduced, so some advanced planning is required.

We met friends for an al fresco lunch at Lobster West in Encinitas, and started the New Year with their delicious lobster rolls.  We then boarded a Coaster train and returned to Oceanside in about 20 minutes, in time for a spectacular sunset at the beach there. What a fantastic way to start the New Year!

Class II biking along the coast highway in Carlsbad.
Class II biking along the coast highway in Carlsbad.
Rich along Coast Highway near Carlsbad.
Rich along Coast Highway near Carlsbad.
View from Coast Highway.
View from Coast Highway.
Campers at South Carlsbad State Beach, a great Camp 'n Ride destination. Expensive and no hookups though.
Campers at South Carlsbad State Beach, a great Camp ‘n Ride destination. Expensive and no hookups though.  We watched as dolphins surfed the waves and chased fish while pelicans tried to grab them. 
Meeting with good friends for lunch in Encinitas.
Meeting with good friends for lunch at Lobster West in Encinitas.
Closeup of Lobster West's delicious lobster roll.
Closeup of Lobster West’s delicious lobster roll.
Steve awaits the Coaster train at Encinitas station. It's only $4 fare to Oceanside.
Steve awaits the Coaster train at Encinitas station. It’s only $4 fare to Oceanside.
View from the Coaster window.
View from the Coaster window.
Steve emerges from the Coaster car. Note the bike insignia. There was a space for our two bikes on this car.
Steve emerges from the Coaster car. Note the bike insignia. There was space for our two bikes on this car.
Returning to Oceanside. Steve with the pier beyond.
Returning to Oceanside. Steve with the pier beyond.
Sunset at Oceanside beach.
Sunset at Oceanside beach.

 

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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 a high 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 except for the tidal delta, 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. Both dirt trails and highway bike lanes connect to the river bike trail. 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 most scenic 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 feature 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.