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.
The only sport taking off faster than bicycling in Southern California is pickleball, that wacky, fun, addicting combination of tennis, badminton, racquetball and ping pong. While popular with all ages, it’s the senior citizens that are embracing it the most enthusiastically. With courts one quarter the size of tennis courts, it has a similar feel, but with less ground to cover, and the required underhand serve is much easier on the shoulder. It is more frenetic than tennis, however, and seniors have been getting injured fairly regularly, with pulled muscles and other injuries. That’s certainly not scaring too many away though, and pickleball courts are springing up everywhere to meet the demand.
Being able to combine your pickle with an easy scenic bicycle ride makes for the perfect day, especially if you bike to an al fresco lunch or brunch afterwards. It serves as a good cross training warm up for one’s muscles as well. Or, bring your bike with you and use it as a starting point for your ride. If one of you wants to ride and the other wants to pickle, knowing which courts are close to bike rides is helpful.
Pickleball courts are springing up everywhere as the demand from the public increases, and many parks now have at least courts with temporary nets available, with many permanent courts built as well. Most are free except where clubs have been established that collect membership dues or day use fees for visitors. Many community HOA’s have private courts not open to the public. Country clubs and resorts will either have courts open exclusively to members, or offer day use for a fee. This article highlights some of SoCal’s most popular pickleball facilities available to the public with notable easy scenic bike rides nearby. The courts are mostly outdoor, although you can also find indoor courts in public recreation buildings in many cities.
The bike rides are referenced from my book enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides (3rd Ed 2021) and many of the pickleball facilities are plotted on the downloadable maps available to book owners at enCYCLEpedia.net.
The DESERTS The Coachella Valley is overflowing with senior snowbirds starting late October, peaking in February-March-April, then fading into May through the hot summer. Year round residents still play in the hot seasons, but need to either start at the break of dawn, or try one of the several indoor public gym facilities.
Palm Springs (enCYCLEpedia Rides PS1,2,3): Demuth Park is the only game in town for outdoor play, with 12 permanent courts. It’s popular most mornings, especially Saturdays, and most late afternoons as well, making pickup games a cinch. It is located along Mesquite Blvd, east of El Cielo, along the Tahquitz Creek bike loop (PS3). In fact a new state of the art path, a CV Linker that will connect to the valley-wide CV Link path in the future, runs along Mesquite between El Cielo and Demuth Park, then adjacent to Demuth’s south perimeter (photo). There are also indoor facilities in the Demuth Park Community Gym and in North Palm Springs, with two courts at the Desert Highland Unity Center.
Rancho Mirage (Ride RM2): Two very nice new courts are located in Rancho Mirage Park along San Jacinto Dr north of The River center. This is more of a BYO player situation with no set open play times.
Palm Desert: Freedom Park is an excellent public facility with 8 courts located along Country Club Dr west of Washington. In peak season it’s easy to get a pick up game here in the mornings. There’s no specific enCYCLEpedia rides here, but it is easily accessed from other rides such as RM1,2 via the Country Club sidewalks or bike lanes. Across Country Club is Palm Desert Resorter, a private club that is the largest pickleball community in the desert, most popular with higher level players, but all levels are represented. Visitors are usually welcome for a fee. Palm Desert Community Center has a gym facility with indoor pickleball courts, available for a drop-in or modest annual fee. It is in Palm Desert Community Park, one of the highlights of Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert bike tours.
La Quinta (Rides LQ1, 2, 3): The very popular Fritz Burns Park has 8 permanent courts located at the southeast corner of Eisenhower and 52nd, a few blocks south of Old Town La Quinta, and at the base of La Quinta Cove. Even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike and enjoy a cruise up the Bear Creek Trail afterwards, or to other La Quinta locales, with lots of Bike ‘n Brunch options available in Old Town. One day in peak winter season it was so crowded I went for a 20 minute bike ride while waiting for my paddle to come up, and still had to wait 5 minutes.
Indian Wells (Ride IW1, LQ3, PD2): The world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden offers pickleball drop-in play several days a week ($10). Either ride in on the paths off of Warner Trail to the west entrance bike racks, or if that entrance is not available, such as during special events, ride around on the north service road to the main entrance off of Washington to the bike racks across from the box office. The National Pickleball Championships are held in November and the BNP Paribas tennis classic is in March.
Big Bear Lake (Ride BB1, BB3) SoCal’s four season playground in the San Bernardino Mountains is the home of Snow Summit, the largest ski area in SoCal, which converts to a mountain bike park in summer. Winter brings cold weather and snow, and summer boasts beautiful sunny weather, a welcome respite from the heat of the lowlands. Monsoons with thunderstorms develop periodically, but they usually wait until after morning pickleball sessions. Spring and fall can bring the mixed bag that the 7,000 foot elevation dictates. Alpine Pedal Path is a beautiful 2.5-mile paved path along the lake’s northeast shore connecting most of the area’s campgrounds and RV resorts. It connects to new bike paths across the Stanfield Cutoff, and along Big Bear Blvd to Sandalwood (behind the Vons). Other on-road bike routes on side streets are marked around town, and in the future the Rathbun Creek corridor will contain a path from the lake to near Bear Mtn Ski area — a 1-mile section is completed from behind the Sizzler to near the new zoo location.
The active and friendly Big Bear Pickleball Club plays outdoors seasonally Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings at Erwin Ranch Recreation Center, located on Hwy 38 on the way out of town, east of the Sugarloaf neighborhood ($3 visitor fee, $20 membership). A bike route weaves through the east side of Big Bear, requiring a short stint on a dirt road, past the famous wild burros, to reach it from the main part of town. Another venue is Meadows Park, located along the southeast shore of the lake, easily accessible via pleasant bike routes. The city built four permanent courts on a tennis court here, and club members play here on their alternate days, with no fees for visitors. I have enjoyed many fabulous days combining pickleball at Meadows Park with a cycle along the lake on the Alpine Pedal Path in perfect summer weather.
THE COAST SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Coronado (Ride SD7): This is one of the ultimate bike ‘n pickle places, with scenic flat Coronado for great riding, and two pickleball options. The Coronado Marriott has six good permanent courts and two temporary courts. Check for open play mornings ($6), frequently Monday and Thursday. Otherwise it’s open to be booked by the court for $24. Fees include 2-hour validated parking. The waterfront bike trail passes nearby as well, about ¼-mile south of the ferry landing from downtown San Diego, so even if you don’t ride to here, bring your bike by all means. You can go for a short jaunt, a cruise down the Silver Strand rail trail (aka Bayshore Bikeway), or book it all the way around the bay using the ferry to return. The other facility consists of 8 courts in Coronado Cays Park, located along the Bayshore Bikeway across from Silver Strand State Beach, just south of Loews resort. The city converts 2 tennis courts to 8 pickleball courts with temporary lines. Open play fees are $9 ($6 residents) Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can join an organization that is lobbying for permanent courts in Coronado.
Santee (Ride SD12): There’s a paucity of outdoor public pickleball in south San Diego County, so Big Rock Park‘s 8 permanent courts can get crowded at peak times. From here you can easily ride to the east entrance of Mission Trails Regional Park, west on Mission Gorge Road, without having to ride up and over the big hill to the main entrance. Mountain bikes give you the most options here. There are also trailheads at Big Rock Park itself into another section of the park, mostly for hiking though. Although not along bike routes, 8 popular new courts at Mackenzie Creek Park in east Chula Vista is only a few miles from Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, which is accessible via paved and dirt trails from San Diego Bay at National City.
Encinitas:Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle Club (drop-in’s welcome ($7) has 12 courts featuring clinics, lessons and organized play. However, it is over a mile inland from the coastal route (SDC1) in south Encinitas, at 875 Santa Fe Dr, with a so-so busy class 2 road to access it by bike. You could always bring your bike, then afterwards drive to the coast for that very scenic ride. Or take your bike on the Coaster and ride to the club.
Carlsbad: (Ride SDC1) Poinsettia Community Park in Carlsbad has 6 new state of the art open-play permanent courts with no fee. From South Carlsbad State Beach, ride east up Poinsettia Road. After I-5 turn left on Paseo Del Norte, right on Camino de las Ondas, left on Hidden Valley Rd to the park on the left at #6600. This route is hilly but bike-friendly. Very crowded on weekends.
Also in Carlsbad, St. Michaels by-the-Sea Church near town center has two popular drop in courts, 2 blocks from the ocean. Enter off Beech west of Carlsbad Blvd. $4 donation ($2 members, $30/year). Open play days/times or reservations, see website. Along Ride SDC-1.
Oceanside (Ride OC1): Melba Bishop Recreation Center in east Oceanside is a very popular facility, with 11 courts used by members Mon-Sat mornings ($3 guests). It’s free to the public at other times. It can be reached from the fabulous San Luis Rey River Trail at the College Ave crossing. It’s across the river, then back to the east on North River Road. Ride to the beach in 8 miles from here, and in the afternoon, the breeze will most likely be with you heading inland to the courts.
San Marcos : Innovation Park has 4 popular permanent courts at 1151 Armorlite Dr. (No fee). Courts are open daily but for drop in try the designated mornings. The Inland Rail Trail (Ride SMR2) runs near the park, and there is a Sprinter train station nearby, which runs between Oceanside and Escondido. The rail trail is accessible from bike routes around Cal State San Marcos and the city’s bike trail system (Ride SMR1).
San Diego Come on San Diego, you should be included in this list already. A stalwart advocacy group has been fighting to get permanent courts somewhere in the city, with the most likely candidate now being on or near the tennis courts at Robb Field in Ocean Beach, along the San Diego River bike path (Ride SD3) with easy access to the Mission Bay loop ride (SD1). Currently San Diego Pickleball sets up 8 courts at Pacific Beach Tennis Club for foursomes ($32/court) with reservations, no drop in. It is located adjacent to the northeast corner of the Mission Bay loop ride (SD1).
San Clemente (Rides DP1, SC1, 2, 3, SJ1): The active San Clemente pickleball community plays at San Gorgonio Park, up a big hill, which is no biggee if you have an e-bike. From El Camino Real at the San Clemente – Dana Point border, head up Camino Capistrano, and make your way UP Vaquero and Calle Vista Torito to the park in less than a mile. Don’t miss out on bike riding here, though, as trails connect from San Clemente through Dana Point to eastern San Juan Capistrano.
San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point (Ride SJ1) At the northeast end of the San Juan Creek bike path at Ortega Hwy and Antonio Pkwy are the four permanent courts at Sendero Field, operated by the Rancho Mission Viejo HOA. The public is invited to play Saturday mornings and other times as described. You can park here, play some games, then ride all the way to the beach at Dana Point and San Clemente on a paved path. Or continue on to the public courts at San Gorgonio Park. Along the San Juan Creek Trail (photo) in Dana Point is Del Obispo Park which has several temporary courts near the Senior Center.
Laguna Beach (Ride LB1) Alta Laguna Park in the Top of the World district has 3 permanent courts, plus additional temporary courts. Bike around this area with fabulous views of the ocean and Aliso & Wood Canyons Park. Make a tricky connection to the Arch Beach Heights District along an ultra scenic but hilly fire road. Lang Park down on PCH and Wesley near the Montage resort has temporary courts available. I don’t bike on PCH in Laguna.
Laguna Niguel (near Rides SV1, 2, 3, 4): Laguna Niguel Regional Park has four permanent drop in courts, but no organized play. Ride SV2 connects that park with Salt Creek Beach via a hilly route. SV2 also connects to the Aliso Creek Regional Trail (SV1) and Aliso & Wood Canyons road and mountain bike area (SV3,4). Perhaps drop off a non-pickling cyclist at the north end of SV1 (Aliso Creek Trail) at Cooks Corner and they can cruise all the way down to meet or join you. Many of the more advanced players in this area have joined the Nellie Gail pickleball club, not near our bike rides.
Irvine (New Ride IR3): The new Portola Springs Community Park in the Great Park district of northeast Irvine has 6 lighted pickleball courts with no fee. By bike take Portola Pkwy northeast from Sand Canyon (side trail or bike lane) to Pearblossom. Turn left on the road or take paths up to the park. This is a fairly hilly but not daunting route, though e-bikers will be happiest. There are also nine hybrid tennis and pickleball courts in Irvine located at at Heritage, Knollcrest, Los Olivos, San Carlo, and University Community Parks, most near Irvine bike routes.
Tustin (Near Rides IR1, TU1): The active Tustin Pickleball Club ($75/year membership) plays on 10 courts at a school facility Mon-Sat 7-10 am at 1302 Service Road. At other times the courts are open to the public with no fee. The closest enCYCLE ride of note is TU1-3, the Mountains to the Sea ride, but the connection to the courts is not the greatest. From Harvard in Irvine take Class II Edinger northwest, past the Metrolink Station. Turn right on Red Hill and a quick left on Service Road.
Fountain Valley (Ride FV1): Pickleball is offered at the Fountain Valley Tennis Courts by Agape Pickleball at the north end of Mile Square Park every day ($fees vary). Also access the park via a one mile on-road connection from the the Santa Ana River Trail (SAR1) that begins at the Huntington Beach bike path (HB1).
Huntington Beach (RIdes HB1, 2): Four free outdoor lighted permanent courts hosted by Surf City Pickleball are located at Worthy Community Park, 1801 Main Street (at 17th Street). From the fabulous Huntington Beach coastal trail (HB1), take the bike route up 17th Street for less than a mile to the park. The August annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament is located at Murdy Park on temporary courts set up for that purpose, and is not as good to combine with a cycle, although you can access the pleasant paths around Huntington Beach Central Park (Ride HB2) via road or sidewalk from there. The newest facility is at Golden West College, with 24 lighted courts, morning or evening sessions ($5 drop in fee or memberships available), however it is only accessible via several miles of bike lanes on Golden West Blvd from the beach.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Hermosa Beach: Located a few blocks from the South Bay Beach trail, the four courts here are crowded, competitive, and subject to prior reservation by city residents. From The Strand (Ride LA2) take 8th or 10th Streets east toward the Kelly Courts off Valley Drive. Don’t come here to just pickle with one of the best, most scenic bike trails in the country a few blocks away.
Los Angeles There are no stellar pickle/bike combos in LA. Here is a summary of where courts are. Pending are fee-based courts at Balboa Sports Complex, along our Sepulveda Dam Rec Area paths ride (LA5). In Burbank, the four Maxam Park Courts at Hollywood Way and Pacific Ave (open play every day) are 1.5 miles north of the Chandler Bikeway (LA7).
Long Beach and Seal Beach Some of the best easy scenic cycling is around Long Beach and you can combine it with a pickle at the three waterfront Bayshore courts at 54th Place and Ocean Blvd during open play 8am-12pm Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun. It is at the junction of rides LO1 along the beach to downtown and the Queen Mary and LO2 through Naples Island to Seal Beach. Also, From the San Gabriel River Trail (SGR1) you can take the south Spring St sidewalk across the river to El Dorado Tennis Center for open play Tues & Thur 8-11am and Fri 6-9pm ($5). Or, from the Belmont Shore area (LO2) ride north from Marine Stadium to Billy Jean King Tennis Center with drop in play Sat & Sun 2-6pm ($5).
In Seal Beach (Ride SE1) four new permanent courts are in Marina Park open all the time for free open play. It is located at the corner of Marina Dr and 1st St, a block from the San Gabriel River Trail (SGR1) and the bridge to Long Beach (LO2). Seal Beach is actually in Orange County.
Santa Clarita: The main pickleball facility is at Bouquet Canyon Park, located about 2.75 miles northeast from the Santa Clara River bike path (up Class II Bouquet Canyon to Urbandale). It is always available for open play with no fee.
Ventura and Ojai: Ventura is one of the best places for SoCal easy scenic cycling between its beach paths (VE1, VE4) and its rail trails inland to Ojai (VE2, VE3). There’s not a lot to pickle about yet, but Harry A. Lyon Park offers Sat 9am-12pm and Thurs 3:30pm-dusk open play and is located a few blocks off of the Ventura River rail trail (VE3). Juanamaria Park, that has Sun & Thurs afternoons available is not near the bike paths.
Ojai has four dedicated courts located near City Hall a block south of the rail trail (VE3) via Ventura St. It is all open play with no fee and morning and afternoon sessions, but “green zone” quiet paddles are required, and the city has some for lend. You can bike up from Ventura on the rail trails, play some games if you arrive at the right time, have lunch since the courts are closed mid-day anyway, and enjoy a mostly downhill cruise on the way back.
Simi Valley: The Arroyo Simi Bike Path aka Greenway extends along the wash about 6.5 miles between Madera Rd (south of Easy St) east to Cochran Ave (between Fig and Ralston Streets). Of the three public pickleball facilities, only Duck Park at Rancho Simi Community Park is located near the path at 1765 Royal Ave at Erringer Rd, with six dedicated courts available every day. The other locations with dedicated courts are farther away in the city; Lemon Park at Rancho Tapo Community Park, 3700 Avenida Simi (4 permanent, 2 shared, open everyday) and Sinaloa Middle School, 301 Royal Ave, with 12 permanent courts available Sat & Sun.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Santa Barbara: The active Santa Barbara facility ($5 fee) is situated adjacent to the noisy 101 freeway. From the beach trail (Ride SB1) take Cabrillo Blvd east, under the freeway and just past the ramps (caution through here!) look for a short paved path across the road and before the traffic circle that cuts up to Old Coast Hwy. Ride left on the sidewalk (or bike lane across the road) for a mile to the first left on Park Place to the 12 dedicated courts.
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY Pismo Beach (Ride PB3): Palisades Tennis Courts at 3990 Shell Beach Rd in Shell Beach/Pismo Beach has four popular free pickleball courts with an ocean view. Along the Class II / Class I scenic north Pismo Beach bike routes near Avila Beach. E-bikers will enjoy the routes that go back and forth to the cliffside coastline. Private Pismo Beach Athletic Club near downtown and all PB rides has four courts and offers a $10 day pass.
Morro Bay (Ride MB1): Four very nice permanent courts ($1 fee) are located in Del Mar Park. From the north end of town, cross Hwy 1 either on Yerba Buena or Sycamore. Ride on Class II Main Street right or left (respectively) to Island Street. Ride UP the hill a couple blocks to road’s end and turn right to the park. Take the park path over to the courts on the right.
Cambria (Ride CA1): Cambria’s six excellent courts are at the Old Cambria Grammar School, 1350 Main St, between the east and west villages on the west side of the road. The venue is popular with upper-level players but all are welcome ($3 guest fee in AM, free in PM, memberships available).
San Luis Obispo: Although not on a best featured ride, bike paths run through French Park, where the city’s permanent courts are located, then through nearby neighborhood greenbelts and Islay Park. Temporary courts are set up at Meadow Park, which has bike paths and an on-road connection to the rail trail that starts at the Amtrak station.
Claremont (Ride CL1, PET): The Pacific Electric rail trail starts in Claremont and runs about 21 miles east through Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana ending in Rialto. It is serviced by Metrolink trains. About 1 mile south of town and the enCYCLE bike routes, locals play at Wheeler Park’s 5 lighted courts with permanent nets, open every day, morning through evening. Find bike lanes south on College and west on San Jose.
Rancho Cucamonga (Ride PET) Red Hill Park has three new permanent courts. From the Pacific Electric Trail exit onto Vineyard and take it a few blocks north to the park. There’s also temporary courts at Rancho Cucamonga Sports Center, located on Rochester 1.5 miles south of the PET.
Riverside (Ride R2) From the historic Victoria Ave citrus country bike ride, Riverside Pickleball hosts play at Shamel Courts with established play times, 1 mile north on Mary St then Brockton St under CA91; and at Viegas Community Center, 3091 Esperanza St, temporary courts, a half mile to the north of Victoria Ave via Madison St then east.
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.
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.
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.
Map by GObyBikeSD.com and SANDAG
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.
A moving bike statue along Coronado’s scenic waterfront path.
Short but sweet path and beach next to Hotel del Coronado.
A scenic section of the Silver Strand rail trail past a wetlands wildlife refuge that connects Coronado to Chula Vista.
On our latest ride we visited popular Emma’s Pancake House on E Street in Chula Vista near the Trolley station.
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.
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!
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.
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.