Tag Archives: Santa Ana River Trail

Riverside – A SoCal Cycling Paradise

by: Richard Fox, Author of enCYCLEpedia Southern California

Most people think of Riverside as the home of the Mission Inn with its spectacular Mission Revival architecture, holiday festivities and Sunday brunch.  But we come to Riverside to experience something else: it’s great bicycling.

The Mission Inn is the centerpiece of a restored historic downtown district that includes a 3-block long pedestrian mall, giving it a European flavor. Mount Rubidoux is a prominent landmark north of downtown, next to classic mansions in historic districts, beyond which is the Santa Ana River. Fairmount Park is east of downtown, containing beautiful Lake Evans with a mountain backdrop.  All of these features can be handily explored by bike.

The upper segment of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) runs about 19 miles from near Norco to the west to San Bernardino to the northeast, with Riverside near its midpoint. With no speed limit or road crossings, and light pedestrian traffic, it is one of the premier paths in Southern California for a good off-roadway workout.  Even better, it is a scenic path, running alongside a wide natural section of the Santa Ana River drainage, with vistas of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains that are often snow-covered in winter and spring. A detour off of the path takes you to the downtown district, and a surprisingly doable climb up Mt. Rubidoux on a gradual paved path reaps rewards of a spectacular vista of the surrounding region. Another path off of the SART brings you to lovely Fairmount Park.

The best time to ride here is when the air is clear and temperatures reasonable, which can occur any time of the year, though less so during the heat of summer.  These rides are described in enCYCLEpedia as Ride R1, with options 1 through 4, including maps, route descriptions and particulars.  Also in Riverside, the historic Victoria Avenue corridor takes you back to the glory days of citrus gold.  That is a subject for a future post (enCYCLEpedia Ride R2).

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Mission Inn in downtown Riverside.
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Euro-style pedestrian mall with sidewalk cafes runs 3 blocks downtown, starting next to The Mission Inn. Signs now prohibit bike riding.  enCYCLEpedia wishes the city would paint a bike trail through it, with a 5 or 8 mph speed limit rather than banning riding altogether since it’s such an integral part of a bike tour of the city.
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The path up Mt Rubidoux and the World Peace Bridge. The very gradual incline makes a great bike ride, but be very courteous to peds on the downhill so that bikes are not banned!
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Beautiful mountain vistas on the path up Mt. Rubidoux.
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West of town, the SART follows gently rolling hills next to the beautiful vegetation of the river with mountain backdrops.
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Dramatic views of the San Gabriel Mountains near the west end of the SART.
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SART heading northeast out of Riverside, 10 miles to San Bernardino. It is fairly isolated and lightly used but scenic and uninterrupted.
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Some scenic mountain vistas on the trail northeast nearing San Bernardino. Find lots of dining options near trails end along Hospitality Lane.
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For the most unique lunch experience, visit Tio’s Tacos in downtown Riverside for good al fresco Mexican dining, and explore the grounds filled with statues made from recycled materials.
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A scenic pause at Lake Evans in Fairmount Park.
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The path between Fairmount Park and the SART with Mt Rubidoux beyond, all drenched in springtime greenery. This stretch burned after this photo was taken in Spring 2017, but hopefully the vegetation will return soon.
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Orange County’s Top 10 Bike ‘n Brunch Rides – Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides to Al Fresco Meals

Getting behind on your exercise routine?  instead of driving why not ride your bike to some delightful dining experiences? These are enCYCLEpedia’s favorite combinations of easy scenic bicycle rides and enjoyable al fresco eats in Orange County, California. Bike routes to these dining destinations are described in the book “enCYCLEpedia Southern California – The Best Easy Scenic Bike Rides” by Richard Fox.

Laguna Beach has perhaps the most scenic dining patios, but riding there is mostly on busy streets with no bike trails or even bike lanes, so it didn’t make the cut. If you select an upscale establishment consider bringing or wearing a more appropriate frock. Personally I carry a light Hawaiian shirt to wear over my tee!

Feel free to comment with your own favorite Bike ‘n Dines. More info: Book’s website (Orange County is Chapter 5, the book’s largest); Book’s Facebook page.

1. Newport Beach

Newport Beach Back Bay
Castaways Park, Back Bay area

A wide variety of easy scenic bike routes combine with an equally extensive choice of dining options to make this area OC’s premier Bike ‘n Brunch destination. Cycle the fabulous loop around the ecologically vital Back Bay area, stopping at Back Bay Bistro at Newport Dunes Resort for a tasty al fresco lunch or a brunch splurge. Pedal along a paved path next to Newport’s wide sandy ocean beaches (best on uncrowded beach days), and choose from several patio restaurants en route, most centered around the Newport and Balboa Piers. Or, try Newport Landing overlooking the ferry stop to Balboa Island. On the island savor several patio restaurants along Marine Avenue. Upscale Bayside at 900 Bayside Dr is between The Back Bay and Balboa Island. A bit off the beaten bike path near Lido Peninsula are the waterfront patio delights Woody’s Wharf, The Cannery, The Dock, and Bluewater Grill.

2. Huntington Beach

Surf City Beach Trail near Dog Beach
Surf City Beach Trail near Dog Beach

The 8-mile Surf City beach trail is the premier scenic bike trail in Orange County. Your dining reward comes around the pier area, where you can grab a burger at a beach stand, or try the bustling beach patio at Sandy’s (below Duke’s). Climb up to Coast Highway (PCH) and Main Street for it’s many casual al fresco patio restaurants including Sushi on Fire, dog-friendly Zimzala at the Shorebreak Hotel, Sancho’s Tacos, Sugar Shack Café, Spark’s Woodfire Grill, and others. The Hilton and Hyatt resort hotels just south of downtown offer some great view patio dining. At the north end of the beach trail, Secret Spot in a strip mall across PCH from the Jack-in-the-Box offers breakfast items.

3. Dana Point/San Juan Capistrano

Los Rios Historic District, San Juan Capistrano
Los Rios Historic District, San Juan Capistrano

Pedal around Dana Point Harbor, perhaps stopping at the waterfront patios of Wind ‘n Sea or Harpoon Henry’s. Ride along Doheny State Beach, and take a jaunt up the San Juan Creek Trail to historic San Juan Capistrano, which can be reached by Amtrak or Metrolink. In San Juan, Sarducci’s at the train depot has a fabulous dining patio. Ramos House Café in the Los Rios District across the tracks is pricey but delicious, and the more casual Hummingbird House offers Greek fare. Mollie’s Famous Café en route (east at Del Obispo) is a popular breakfast/lunch spot.

4. Crystal Cove, Newport Beach

A stop at Ruby's Shake Shack, Crystal Cove State Park
A stop at Ruby’s Shake Shack, Crystal Cove State Park

Cycle to Crystal Cove State Park via the side streets of Corona del Mar and a short trip in the PCH bike lane. A fairly short but very scenic bike trail along the beach bluffs leads to the Crystal Cove Historic District and the Beachcomber Café with its prime beachfront patio. On top of the bluffs is Ruby’s Shake Shack, where you can grab a burger and date shake and take it down to the beach – now that is dining al fresco!

5. Orange

Lunch stop at Felix Cuban Cafe in the central square.
Lunch stop at Felix Cuban Cafe in the central square.

Santiago Creek Trail is one of OC’s newest, offering a nice creekside ride between the Mainplace Mall/Discovery Science Center area and Villa Park. From Hart Park, detour a few blocks to antique central at Old Towne Orange where outdoor options include Felix Cuban Café. You can also access Old Towne via Metrolink.

6. Irvine

Northbound from Newport's Back Bay on San Diego Creek Trail.
Northbound from Newport’s Back Bay on San Diego Creek Trail.

This master planned community has its fair share of bike trails connecting various parts of the city. As you pedal along the east-west segment of San Diego Creek Trail you will be riding parallel to commercial centers, including the Target Center at Culver where there are several Asian restaurants with outdoor tables set up, and a California Fish Grill.  Other routes combine a hillier ride in the Turtle Rock/Shady Canyon area with dining options near UC Irvine.

7. Anaheim/SART

SART at Yorba Linda
SART at Yorba Linda

You’ve heard of OC’s bicycle highway, the Santa Ana River Trail. Our favorite segment is between the new ARTIC transport terminal in Anaheim (serviced by Amtrak and Metrolink) and SART’s east end in Yorba Linda. You can gain back some of the calories you’ve lost at the Lazy Dog Café at Katella, where your pooch is also welcome on the patio.

8. Saddleback Valley

Biker's favorite Cook's Corner has outdoor seating and good food.
Biker’s favorite Cook’s Corner has outdoor seating and good food.

The Aliso Creek National Recreation Trail connects the Aliso and Wood Canyons mountain bike park in Aliso Viejo with the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, where you’ll find Cook’s Corner, a favorite of both motor and pedal cyclists for a burger or even a salad. Along the route are several other places to hop off the trail and catch a bite.

9. San Clemente

Al fresco dining on San Clemente Pier
Al fresco dining on San Clemente Pier

The city’s new beach trail (reachable by Metrolink and Amtrak) was a missed opportunity as far as a bikeable trail goes, but it is doable and very scenic if you don’t mind walking your bike through several zones. The reward can be Fisherman’s patio on the pier, or a couple of restaurants across the street from it. Other options are downtown up the hill on Avenida Del Mar, also reached by a confusing bike route that winds from North Beach through the city’s streets. At North Beach are casual dog-friendly Ellie’s Table, and Kaylani Coffee. You can also ride from here to Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, and then take the train back.

10. Fullerton

Fullerton's Laguna Lake Park along bike route
Fullerton’s Laguna Lake Park along bike route

Another prime rail stop via Amtrak or Metrolink, you’ll find plenty of dining choices in the historic district near the train station, including patios at Brownstone Café and Café Hidalgo in the historic Villa Del Sol courtyard. Then you can make your way on side streets west of Harbor to the trailhead for the mountain bike loops near Brea Dam and Laguna Lake, including the popular Fullerton Loop and easier options.