Tag Archives: San Diego

A Eurostyle Bicycle and Train Holiday Along the Southern California Coast

by Richard Fox

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. 

EncyclePedia_022014_FCID.inddMy 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.

 

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Amtrak Surfliner on rebuilt “trestles” next to San Clemente’s famous Trestles surf beach (SC3).

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.

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View of the Santa Barbara County coastline from the Surfliner. 

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.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, downtown SLO

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.

The existing short and sweet Harborwalk path leading to Morro Rock.
Bike path to Morro Rock in Morro Bay (MB1)

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.

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Avila Beach Pier  (AV1)

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. 

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Riding the compact sands of Pismo Beach  (PB1)

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. 

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The lonely Surf Amtrak Station, 9 miles west of Lompoc  (LOM1)

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).

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Paths around the UCSB Lagoon (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.

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Cabrillo Beachway, Santa Barbara Waterfront (SB1)

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.

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Rincon Bike Path along US 101 between Carpinteria and Ventura (VE4)

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.

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Path through San Buenaventura State Beach near downtown Ventura (VE1)

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.

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Rail trail through the Ojai Valley  (VE3)

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.

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Historic Olvera Street near LA’s Union Station

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

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North end of  LA coastal bike trail aka Martin Braude Trail (LA1)

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.

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Bike path through Long Beach’s Shoreline Village restaurant area  (LO1)

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.

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Huntington Beach path near the pier (HB1).

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).

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Newport Beach’s oceanfront path.

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.

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Laguna Beach is the jewel of Orange County, with its rocky coves, sandy beaches, and lovely downtown right on the beach, but it can be a bitch to bike through (LB2).

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).

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San Juan Capistrano’s historic Los Rios District next to the train depot (SJ1).

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.

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Elevated portion of San Clemente’s Beach Trail (SC1).

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.

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Oceanside Harbor, a great place to stop for a meal after the ride through Camp Pendleton from San Clemente (SC3) or just riding around town (OC1).

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.

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A typical view heading south along the north San Diego County coastal highway (SDC1).

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.

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A Coaster station in north San Diego County

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.

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Scenic north end of Ocean Front Walk in Pacific Beach (SD1)

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).

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The amazing San Diego Zoo (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).

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A moving bike statue along Coronado’s scenic waterfront path (SD7)

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.

 

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Fabulous Bicycle Bridges of the West

By Richard Fox, enCYCLEpedia.net

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Circling San Diego Bay on the Bayshore Bikeway

By Richard Fox

San Diego Bay curves gracefully around the Coronado peninsula, its entrance  guarded by dramatic Point Loma where Portuguese navigator Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho landed in 1542.  Along its shores are the downtown San Diego waterfront district, its port and shipyards, Naval installations, lots of private boat marinas, and some important wildlife preserves to compensate for some of the habitat that was taken away during urbanization.  The downtown waterfront is a tourist center featuring the Midway aircraft carrier museum, San Diego Maritime Museum, harbor cruises, and shops and dining at Seaport Village.  Coronado is famous for its beautiful ocean beaches and the Hotel del Coronado.

The sights and sounds of this area are guaranteed to fill the memory card on your camera, and the incredible choice of restaurants will fill your belly.  The 26-mile Bayshore  Bikeway loop circumnavigates the east finger of the bay, and is mostly flat as a pancake.  The route includes one of the Southland’s only substantial rail trails, waterfront bike trails, and some yet-to-be developed sections in the port area.  San Diego Trolley light rail is available to those who want a shorter route and less riding next to traffic through the industrial section.  A highlight is a harbor ferry ride that transports you and your bike across the bay to complete the loop. Bikes are not allowed on the Coronado Bridge.

The Bayshore Bikeway project is a stellar example of community cooperation to provide a valuable recreation asset to its residents, neighbors, and visitors.  Kudos to the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and National City, and San Diego County.

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Map by GObyBikeSD.com and SANDAG

 

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The pedestrian ferry allows bikes for no extra$. From the Coronado Ferry landing boats travel to the Convention Center (next to Joe’s Crab Shack), or for a longer ride on a larger boat for the same price, to the downtown waterfront.
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A moving bike statue along Coronado’s scenic waterfront path.
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Short but sweet path and beach next to Hotel del Coronado.
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A scenic section of the Silver Strand rail trail past a wetlands wildlife refuge that connects Coronado to Chula Vista.
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On our latest ride we visited popular Emma’s Pancake House on E Street in Chula Vista near the Trolley station. 
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San Diego Trolley’s Blue Line travels parallel to the east side of the bay, and if you want to “cheat” a bit you can squeeze on (preferably not during rush hour) and skip as many miles through the industrial zone as you like. Some sections have bike pathways already completed, but others are pending and require an on-street bike route past ship yards. The 12th & Imperial Station is the junction of the Blue and Orange lines, and a good place to hop off to get to the MLK Rail Trail through downtown/Gaslamp Quarter/Convention Center or the waterfront pathways.

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Author’s Note:  Since enCYCLEpedia focuses on only the most scenic rides, the book’s featured ride SD7 is a very scenic back and forth from the Coronado Ferry Landing along Coronado’s pretty water pathways and the Silver Strand rail trail to the sands of Silver Strand State Beach. Option 1 extends the rail trail journey to its terminus in Imperial Beach/Chula Vista. Option 2 continues on a variety of routes to encircle the bay as presented in this article, with Option 3 an additional jaunt along the Sweetwater Bikeway pathway along a channelized river to the restaurants at Plaza Bonita. Option 4 combines this ride with a full tour of San Diego Harbor (Ride SD4).

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.

 

Take Trains to Scenic SoCal Coastal Bike Rides – So Cal Life Mag Article

By Richard Fox

Southern California is serviced by Amtrak and several bike-friendly regional rail lines.  I wrote an article for Southern California Life Magazine’s July-August 2015 issue highlighting the best easy scenic bike rides accessible along Amtrak’s Surfliner coastal route, as well as the local Metrolink and Coaster lines that use the same tracks between Ventura and San Diego Counties.

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San Diego’s Mission Bay area – An Easy Scenic Cyclist’s Paradise

San Diego’s Mission Bay, once a wetland that was dredged to create a water playground surrounded by public parks, is nirvana for those who like easy and scenic bike rides.  Trails that surround most of it are mainly flat as a pancake and hug the bay, with a connection to the 3-mile long Ocean Front Walk that parallels the blue pacific. Currently two large campgrounds, Mission Bay RV Resort and Campland-On-the Bay provide a great base for exploration, and resort hotels along the route include Hilton San Diego, Paradise Point Resort on Vacation Island, Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, and Catamaran Resort in Pacific Beach.

There are countless options to stop for a Bike ‘n Brunch experience in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, numerous places to rent bikes, and trail connections that lead to area highlights such as Ocean Beach, historic Old Town San Diego, and Sea World.  A nice loop route on side streets connects Mission Bay to the lovely La Jolla district, and you can even ride down to the San Diego Harbor trails and take a ferry to Coronado for more great riding, but that’s the subject of another story.

Route signage is just so-so on the routes, so you’ll need a good bike map such as that found in enCYCLEpedia to avoid getting lost.  Also be aware that doing a complete loop around the bay involves some low-traffic street riding, and crossing a bridge in a bike lane or sidewalk.

Check out my entry on this topic in the San Diego Reader’s travel article contest of April 2015 (It was one of the finalists). Also see their Facebook page.

Cycling around the north end of Mission Bay with the San Diego skyline in the distance.
Cycling around the north end of Mission Bay with the San Diego skyline in the distance.
Parallel trails at the southeast corner of Mission Bay.
Parallel trails at the southeast corner of Mission Bay.
A great trail curves around the northwest corner of MIssion Bay.
A great trail curves around the northwest corner of MIssion Bay.
The Mike Gotch bridge (2012) over Rose Creek at the northeast corner of the bay vastly improved the loop ride.
The Mike Gotch bridge (2012) over Rose Creek at the northeast corner of the bay vastly improved the loop ride.
Ocean Front Walk can be a fabulous 3 mile cruise if you avoid peak times when it can be a zoo.
Ocean Front Walk can be a fabulous 3 mile cruise if you avoid peak times when it can be a zoo.
Scenic north end of Ocean Front Walk.
Scenic north end of Ocean Front Walk.
A sunset scene from Mission Bay RV Resort.
A sunset scene from Mission Bay.

RV Life Nov ’14 Article – Best Camp ‘n Rides – from enCYCLEpedia

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I wrote an article on the Top 10 Camp ‘n Rides in Southern California for the November 2014 issue of RV Life Magazine – November 2014 Issue.    Here is the article from page 27. 

Rv Life Magazine Nov 2014