Pacific Coast South
The Pacific Coast South tour is among the world’s most popular bicycle rides, traveling along some of the world’s most marvelous coastline. We’ll pedal out of San Francisco and past a string of state beaches and spectacular shoreline. 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.
From 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 and loop down to the U.S.-Mexico border. If you’re not California dreamin’ yet, you will be after completing this amazing ride.
"One night the fellas sat around the campfire, drank some beer and talked about all sorts of things."
Day 1. San Francisco, California, 0 miles
We’ll meet in the incredible City by the Bay, home to vibrant arts and culture, world-class dining, and some of the most famous sights in the world — including the iconic (and easily bikeable) Golden Gate Bridge. Here we’ll enjoy our first meal together, and our leaders will conduct an orientation meeting that will get us ready for our journey ahead.
Day 2. San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, 40 miles
Today’s ride takes us through 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.
Day 3. Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, 52 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.
Day 4. Santa Cruz to Monterey, 42 miles
It’s basically car-free riding today as we curve through Monterey Bay, following the bike-lane signs to Veteran’s Memorial 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 or 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.
Day 5. Monterey to Big Sur, 57 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 a state beach in the area where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean.
Day 6. Big Sur to San Simeon, 42 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 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.
Day 7. San Simeon to Pismo Beach, 54 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.
Day 8. Layover day in Pismo Beach, 0 miles
Take a day to rest those legs in the Monarch Butterfly Grove or explore 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.
Day 9. Pismo Beach to Gaviota, 65 miles
As we leave Pismo Beach we will pull away from the coast for a while but will keep the Pacific Ocean in sight 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.
Day 10. Gaviota to Carpinteria, 46 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.
Day 11. Carpinteria to Malibu, 49 miles
Tonight’s destination, Leo Carrillo State Park, was named for noteworthy Californian Leo Carrillo. Born in 1880, Carrillo was a preservationist, conservationist, and 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.
Day 12. Malibu to Seal Beach , 69 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 en route to our overnight accommodations at Seal Beach.
Day 13. Seal Beach to Carlsbad, 67 miles
Tonight we’ll stay at another state beach campground, perched above a narrow stretch of sandy beach historically described as “cobble beach.” Enjoy the views from the coastal bluffs and fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shore below.
Day 14. Carlsbad to San Diego, 35 miles
We will continue the ride south from Carlsbad to beautiful San Diego, a city known for having quite possibly the best weather in the world. Sample some of the city’s diverse cuisine, visit its famed zoo, or simply cruise along the beach and bank some sunny memories to call up on dreary winter days.
Day 15. San Diego, 47 miles
On our last day we will continue the ride south — as far south and west as you can go in the U.S. — from San Diego to the U.S.-Mexico border. We will celebrate our journey with photos along the border at Friendship Park before heading back to San Diego. We’ll end with a celebratory dinner for a tour well done.