With good reason, this classic Pacific Coast tour is among the world’s most popular bicycle rides. It goes from one beloved California city to another, by way of some of the world’s most marvelous coastline.
We’ll pedal out of San Francisco and past a string of state beaches. En route, we’ll view unforgettable seascapes, inhale the salty essence of the Pacific, and ride through the farm country of Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley.
Beginning in Santa Monica, we’ll follow oceanside bike paths and ride through residential and industrial areas before rejoining the Pacific Coast Highway south of Los Angeles. From San Diego, we’ll take the Coronado Pedestrian-Bicycle Ferry to Coronado and follow a bike path along Silver Strand State Beach. If you’re not California dreamin’ yet, you will be after completing this amazing ride.
|Start Date:||Oct 06, 2014||End Date:||Oct 19, 2014|
|Start Location:||San Francisco, CA||End Location:||San Diego, CA|
|Total Days:||14||Riding Days:||12|
|Average Daily Mileage:||50.3||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||16||Airport:||San Francisco (SFO) - San Diego (SAN)|
|Tour Leader:||Nicole White, Tony Docal||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Intermediate+||Level of Support:||Van Supported|
San Francisco. We’ll meet in the City by the Bay at the Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel, located between the Marina district and the Fisherman’s Wharf/North Beach area. The hostel occupies historic structures at Fort Mason, a former Army post. The grounds are a haven of green grass and birdsong, offering views across the bay of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here we’ll enjoy our first meal together, and our leaders will conduct an orientation meeting.
San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, 40 miles. Today’s ride takes us out of San Francisco along the city’s western edge, past Pacifica to Half Moon Bay, a city resting at the foot of forested hillsides along some of the most beautiful beaches in all of California. You may find our overnight location, Half Moon Bay State Beach, a tough place to leave come morning, with its four miles of beach for surf strolling and squeezing sand between your toes.
Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, 54 miles. Much of today’s ride is joyful cruising down Highway 1, with good shoulders and smooth pavement. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Steamer Lane, a world-renowned surf spot, is well worth a visit. Founded in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse at Lighthouse Point and operational since 1986, it claims to be the first surfing museum in the world. The beach boardwalk in Santa Cruz is a good place to find a milkshake.. We’ll stay the night at New Brighton State Beach on a bluff overlooking northern Monterey Bay.
Santa Cruz to Monterey, 40 miles. It’s basically car-free riding today as we curve through Monterey Bay, following the bike-lane signs to Veterans Park. Located just a mile from downtown Monterey, the park occupies 50 acres of forested hillsides and includes hiking trails that wind beneath tall Monterey pines and offer great views of the bay. If time permits, we’ll want to visit the Monterey Aquarium and Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck in his novel of the same name. The canneries have all closed since Steinbeck’s time, and today Cannery Row is a haven of restaurants serving fresh-caught seafood and organic produce brought in from surrounding farms. Offshore is the Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area, home to a recovering population of California sea lions.
Monterey to Big Sur, 60 miles. Nothing says “stunning coastline” like Big Sur, which is our destination today. We’ll begin by riding a circuitous route out along 17-Mile Drive, past the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links, to Carmel-by-the-Sea. 17-Mile Drive is widely regarded as one of the most scenic rides in the world. Along the way are the Lone Cypress, one of California’s best-known landmarks, and Cypress Point Lookout, which appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Vertigo. We’ll stay at Plaskett Creek Campground just south of Sand Dollar Beach Day Use Area, the largest sandy beach in the sparsely populated Big Sur area.
Big Sur to San Simeon (Cambria), 40 miles. Today we’ll continue south along unspoiled, unbroken coastline to San Simeon, along a demanding road with minimal shoulders, traversing open grasslands and timbered slopes. San Simeon was first settled as a whaling station and became best known as the location of the Hearst Castle. Now a National Historic Landmark, the castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan for publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. We’ll camp the night at Hearst San Simeon State Park, among the oldest units in California’s state-parks system, where coastal bluffs provide clear views of the ocean and rocky shoreline. The park also includes the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve, an important archaeological site where evidence of human occupation dating back nearly 6,000 years has been unearthed.
San Simeon to Pismo Beach, 53 miles. Today we’ll ride inland from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo, continuing on to Pismo Beach, a classic beach town situated roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’ll be mostly on county and state roads with intermittent shoulders.
Pismo Beach, layover day. Take a day to rest those legs in the Monarch Butterfly Grove, or exploring tide pools, coves, and caves on the miles of beautiful beaches. The 1,200-foot Pismo Pier is perfect for sightseeing, walking, fishing, and watching the sunset.
Pismo Beach to Gaviota, 62 miles. As we leave Pismo Beach we will pull away from the coast for a while but will keep the Pacific Ocean in site as we continue to ride along routes 1, 135, and 101. Our destination for the evening is Gaviota State Park. The park takes its name from the Spanish word for seagull, given to the area by soldiers of the Portola Expedition who supposedly killed a seagull while camping here in 1769.
Gaviota to Carpenteria, 44 miles. Today we will have a mix of hilly and flat terrain as we continue along the coast through Santa Barbara to our destination for the evening, Carpinteria State Beach about 12 miles south of the city. End your day swimming, surf fishing, and exploring tidepools. We’ll camp on the beach tonight.
Carpenteria to Malibu, 47 miles. Tonight’s destination, Leo Carrillo State Park, was named for Leo Carrillo. Born in 1880, Carrillo was a preservationist, conservationist, and an actor, best known for Playing “Pancho” in the early 1950s TV western The Cisco Kid. Coming from a long line of original Californians, Carrillo served on the California Beach and Parks Commission for nearly two decades, where he was key to the state’s acquisition of the Hearst Castle. He died in 1961. His namesake park features a mile and a half of beach with tide pools and coastal caves to explore, while the campground offers nice sites shaded by giant sycamore trees.
Malibu to Newport, 77 miles. We’ve got some big-time city riding to do today! We must find our way through Los Angeles, a conglomerate of suburbs loosely strung together. It’s the largest municipality in the world in terms of land area — more than 450 square miles situated between the mountains and the ocean. We’ll use beachside bicycle and pedestrian paths that are not without hazard, since they’re also shared with skateboarders, in-line skaters, and others. Through Torrance and Carson we’ll follow city streets, then it’s back onto bike paths through Long Beach. At Seal Beach we’ll rejoin the busy Pacific Coast Highway, which has shoulders. We’ll be rewarded by an overnight at the Newport Dune Waterfront Resort.
Newport to Encinitas, 58 miles. Tonight we’ll stay at San Elijo State Beach, a narrow stretch of sandy beach backed by bluff, with a nearby reef popular with the diving and snorkeling crowds. There’s also swimming and surfing; in fact, you might even be able to arrange a surf lesson through the Eli Howard Surf School.
Encinitas to San Diego, 45 miles. On our last day of the tour we will continue the ride south from Encinitas through beautiful San Diego, ending at the U.S.-Mexico border. We will celebrate our journey with photos along the border before loading our bikes onto the van and driving back to San Diego. We will end with a celebratory dinner for a tour well done.
"This whole tour was just like a fairytale."
2012 Tour Participant
"Camping can be an added challenge, however, we really got to know one another quite well. I enjoyed seeing the different personalities working together. I also appreciated the background, expertise and stories of the leaders."
2013 Tour Participant
"This was truly one of the best vacations I have ever had, and memories of the staff, tour participants, and scenery will always bring me happiness."
2011 Tour Participant
"This ride is the most photogenic I've seen."
2011 Tour Participant