Cycling the California Coast: Where to Stop & How to Prepare

hybrid bicycles

From beautiful cliff sides to gorgeous beaches, the stretch of the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the most beautiful sights in the United States. It’s no wonder that thousands of people decide to cycle the route each year. If you’re not a seasoned cyclist you may get very sore trying to bike across the coast. You may enjoy the experience better using an electric bike. You can find good priced ones at if you’re interested. Check out this popular route if you’re ready for your first cycling trip down the California Coast.

San Francisco to Santa Cruz

The first stretch of the ride begins in San Francisco and ends in Santa Cruz. The hills and turns in this area are perfect for hybrid bicycles. Along the way, you’ll come to Montara, Half Moon Bay, and Pescadero. Each of these towns offers places to eat and rest, and Half Moon Bay State Beach provides a campground. In addition to beautiful coastline views, you can stop at Golden Gate Park, watch for whales at Davenport’s cliff, or check out Santa Cruz’s old-fashioned boardwalk.

Santa Cruz to Monterey

The next leg of the trip takes you to Monterey. This is an easier ride without as much to see or do, but there are several miles of lovely ocean views scattered among the agricultural fields and sand dunes. In Monterey itself, you can check out the world-renowned aquarium and camp at Veterans Memorial Park. If you love birds, rent a kayak and paddle into the brackish water of Elkhorn Slough for an up-close view.

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The Big Sur Coast

For many, Big Sur Coast is the highlight of the bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ride itself features a lot of uphill pedaling, but also provides some of the best views of the coastline and the green hills. Along the way, you can stop in Carmel to visit art galleries and restaurants, or head to the hiking trails of Point Lobos State Preserve.

Big Sur to San Luis Obispo

The next stretch is a flatter route that works well for cruiser bicycles. This path heads inland a bit, but there are still a couple of great places to check out. Pismo Beach offers a bit of coastline, and Cayucos has a non-tourist vibe. Morro Bay has a famous harbor, while San Luis Obispo is the largest town in this stretch and houses a university and restored mission.

San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara

Because of the sand dunes and Vandenerg Air Force Base, this leg of your cycling trip will be inland. You’ll see plenty of farm fields, some Mexican restaurants in Guadalupe, and a range of lodging options in Lompoc. Just north of Lompoc is a restored mission, and you can ride four miles out of your way to the beach, but most of this leg will just be travel.

Santa Barbara to Los Angeles

Finally, you’ll travel between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is a major tourist town with gorgeous beaches and high-end retailers and restaurants. About 12 miles south is a campground at Carpenteria State Beach, or you can check out the islands at Channel Island National Park. After you leave Santa Barbara, you’ll find a harbor and mission in Ventura and hiking trails in Sycamore Canyon before hitting Los Angeles in the Malibu area.

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Whether you’re riding a 21 speed beach cruiser or something more high-tech, create a packing list beforehand so you remember things like your toothbrush, phone chargers, ID cards, and first aid kit. Stop by your favorite bike shop to ensure your bike, helmet, and other gear are in excellent condition. Happy cycling!

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