9 Beautiful Cali Bike Routes – The Best Cycling California Offers

The Best California Bike Routes

There’s nothing like a scenic bike ride while soaking up some sun. It’s a 3-in-1: exercise, views, and pure bliss! Anyone who has been cycling for a while knows what’s up. But where is the best place to bike for some amazing photo ops or just some simple pleasure? That’s right – California.

If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably planning a new trip to cycling California and might be looking for the best place to start. Lucky for you, in such a large state that’s known for its vast bike routes, there are a plethora of options!

You could start cycling California from the top-down, vice versa, or stick to certain regions you’d like to explore. Today, we have for you a list of the top 9 destinations to bike to heart’s content. Whichever route you choose from this list, you won’t be disappointed. 

Let’s ride!

Best Cycling Routes in California

california bike routes

So, without further ado, let’s just jump right in. Read on to find out about the top 9 cycling California routes in 2021. 

Highway 1

California's Highway 1

Highway 1 is one of the most famous and all-time favorite California bike routes. This is for great reason, too! With spectacular views spanning pretty much the entire 57-mile distance (if you choose to go the whole way), you would have an amazing experience on Highway 1.  

So what will you see if you choose this California bike route? To start, it follows the Pacific coastline directly, giving you open views of the sparkling ocean, alcoves, and beaches, as well as wildlife and mountainous terrain at some points.

Highway 1 runs through the length of San Luis Obispo County, a place with tons of attractions, restaurants, and scenic areas for you to discover along the way. If you go the distance of the entire stretch, you can stop at these places without diverting your path almost at all!

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    There are even organized group rides down this trail if you’re a social cyclist, and biking events held there on certain holidays.

    Petaluma To Eureka

    Eureka California

    If you’re looking for a bike trail that will give you immense climbs and elevation gain, you should check out the renowned Petaluma to Eureka route in California. Cyclists who take this trail can look forward to an elevation gain of tens of thousands of feet, all while gaining experience biking through woodsy roads from time to time.

    This route isn’t for the weary – you need to know what you’re doing if you want to tackle a bike route that demands a bit more physical exertion. The best way to tackle this route might be to stop at campgrounds along the way (of which there is an abundance!). 

    Overall, this route will leave you feeling accomplished and fulfilled – not to mention that there are stretches of 30 miles plus that offer only stunning views the entire way. There’s almost no better thing than biking miles and miles enjoying uninterrupted scenery, and Petaluma to Eureka can give you just that.

    The Coast Ride

    Biking California Coast

    Ever dreamed about a ride that could take you all the way down the coast of the sunniest state in America? Look no further than the famed Coast Ride, an organized group cycling event that promises you days filled with adventure and scenic views. 

    The Coast Ride has its own website, actually, that can tell you when the next event will be and what the itinerary holds. You can sign up for a weekend trip (Fri – Sun) that will take you 375 miles down the coast. Some training might be required if you’re up for doing the entire trip in 3 days!

    You’ll start around 7:00 am each day, stopping at various restaurants and lodging areas when it’s mealtime or time to get some rest. The Coast Ride is no joke, but it could be one of the most rewarding cycling experiences you’d ever complete. Not to mention you’d meet friends interested in the same things!

    Santa Barbara County

    Santa Barbara County

    While some of the trails we’ve just covered can get pretty advanced, Santa Barbara County is one of the places that offer amazing rides in varying levels of difficulty. There’s so much to explore in this county, from the Hills to the Santa Ynez Valley – all of which are insanely beautiful.

    If you’re looking for an easier ride, there are lots of flatter terrain options with miles to boot – you can even sign up for some organized rides like wine tasting/vineyard hopping! 

    Those who are looking for more of a challenge can get one as they please – there is so much opportunity for elevation gain in the Santa Barbara Hills. You can bike the Gibraltar Road or Mount Figueroa for a prime exercise and unforgettable ride. 

    Overall, check out the trails in Santa Barbara County and choose whatever best helps you achieve your dream of cycling in California. 

    Lake Tahoe

    Lake Tahoe Ride

    And now for Lake Tahoe – surely you’ve heard of it? It’s only the prime vacation spot for people all over the U.S., even those already from Cali! If you want to visit one of the top destinations in the country and find some amazing California bike trails, Lake Tahoe can be the one-stop-shop.

    Apart from just cycling the perimeter of the main Lake Tahoe, there are so many other nooks and crannies to explore in the area. There are state parks galore, many of which have dedicated bike trails and adventure potential. Check out some reviews and accounts from other riders who have enjoyed their time cycling at Lake Tahoe – there are so many!

    You can check out an interactive bike trail map here. With this map, you can craft your own adventure, figure out accommodations, and make this trip one for the books.

    The King Ridge Loop, Santa Rosa

    King Ridge Loop

    Another of the most impressive bike routes for cycling in California is the King Ridge loop in Santa Rosa, CA. This trail has gained rave reviews from its riders, and always seems to leave an amazing impression on them for a lifetime. Why is this? Well, it’s beautiful, for one thing, but also incredibly rewarding because of its physical demands.

    That’s to say, this is not a trail for any complete beginner. On the King Ridge Loop, you’ll encounter amazing views but will have to work crazy hard to get them. For example, the elevation gain can run up to thousands of feet in no time, where you’ll traverse through steep hills. Great for the quads, but training is definitely recommended before this loop.

    Along the ride, you’ll get to see cute little towns and charming scenes, with tons of photo ops and places to stop along the way. If you’re an experienced rider, don’t miss this one.

    Santa Barbara Wine Country Loop, Solvang

    Santa Barbara Wine Country Loop

    We mentioned a brief bit about how great Santa Barbara County is overall, but we thought that the Wine Country Loop needed its own dedicated section. Why is this? Because who doesn’t love a good wine tour while doing the thing they love – biking! 

    In Santa Barbara, there are over 100 wine tasting rooms you can visit along your bike ride. Therefore, before you go you can plan out which ones to hit as you traverse the wine country. Take in the amazing views of the vineyards while you go, and you won’t regret such a trip.

    If you need some help planning out the trip, there are actually tons of online resources that can tell you where to go or set you up with a group. That way, you can make friends and keep on a schedule!

    Palomar Mountain Climb, San Diego County

    Palomar Mountain Climb

    We’ve got yet another great California bike trail for serious climb lovers! If you want to take an exercise trip up Palomar Mountain, you’d be finding yourself on the longest and second-most difficult climb in San Diego County. This one is also no joke, so make sure you’re trained and ready before tackling a scenic climb like this one.

    This is actually the most popular bike trail in the county, and this is because it has so many great features along the way. Apart from the great weather in the area for biking up mountains, there are amazing views all the way up. There is a bunch of fun hairpin turns for extra challenges. 

    The best part? At the top, there’s a restaurant called Mothers Kitchen, so after such a bike trip you can reward yourself with an amazing meal. Then, on the way down you can just relax and enjoy the view. 

    Up and Down Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

    Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County

    The last California bike route you absolutely must try out is Mount Tamalpais (or more affectionately, Mount Tam) which sits at 2,571 feet in Marin County. This mountain is majestic, and thus it’s no surprise that it’s such a popular bike route for all sorts of cyclists. 

    If you’re looking to cycle California, the best experiences will come from the routes with major views. And what better place to find scenic panoramas than atop a big mountain? 

    There are two main bike routes up Mount Tam, one being a little bit more bumpy and gritty, and the other a more smooth pavement terrain. They connect at the top, so you can choose one or try a combination up/down using both! For example, it might be a bit more of a challenge to go up the bumpy way, but then you can glide down the mountain on the smoother side. 

    Essential Biking Gear

    Now that you have a solid idea of where you want to start your cycling adventures in California, let’s talk about some essential biking gear you’ll want to have before your trip.

    The Basics

    Essentials for Mountain Biking

    Before you set out on your cycling California adventure, you’re going to need the basics. If you don’t have a helmet or a bike that’s ready for these trails, get on it! These are the barebones of what you’ll need, but there’s a bit more you might want.

    Being out in the sun warrants consistent application of a good sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. To protect your eyes, invest in a solid pair of sunglasses. You’ll need some good food and water storage on your bike as well so you’ll keep fueled on the ride, and don’t forget the first-aid kit!

    The Nutrition 

    Cycling Nutrition

    After you’ve figured out what you’ll wear and how you’ll store your equipment, it’s time to take a look at what you should eat, and when. You’re going to be doing a lot of biking if you pick one of these California bike routes, so it’s essential to stay fueled up!

    Since you kind of want to travel lightly (after all, you’ll probably be stopping at restaurants throughout the trip), it’s best to pack ready-made, ready-to-eat snacks primarily. These can be protein bars, Nutella, peanut butter snacks, and more. Essentially, pack light but pack smart in terms of calories and ease.

    The Equipment

    bike equipment

    When setting out on bike rides that span tens to hundreds of miles, there are a few pieces of equipment that can mean the difference between a pleasant and uncomfortable trip. 

    Mainly, you should focus on what you’ll be wearing during the ride. Are your clothes padded, or at least of material that you’ll be okay with wearing for hours on end? If you need gloves, do you have the right ones for biking that will prevent calluses?

    It’s important to have an extra bike pump in your group, and always remember to bring a quality lock for when you have to step away from your bike. You never know, so it’s best to be extra safe!

    PRO Tips For Aspiring Cyclists

    So now you’ve got your gear, got your route picked out, and you’re looking for some more advanced tips. Here’s what the pros recommend before you set out on your trip.

    Get a properly fit, quality bicycle

    If you want to tackle some of these California cycling routes, that old bike you have from 2010 just might not cut it. To be serious about biking and get the most out of your trip, it’s highly recommended to get a bike tailored to your riding style. 

    Go to your local bike shop and ask for a bike that can handle terrains such as the ones in California, and have them show you a few options. Another thing that can help the bike purchasing process is to ask around and see what other cyclists are rocking. 

    Start small

    When it comes to these trips, unless you’re biking every single day there’s not much reason for you to start out on the hardest one. If you’ve got the time, it’s better to work up to that point so it’s not so hard on your body. The best way to ensure no sports injuries nor discomfort is to train, and more importantly, start small. 

    There are lots of trails on this list that are not too demanding but are highly rewarding. We’d say if you’re already willing to cover the long distances of Cali bike routes, do a smaller one, a medium one, and then if you feel ready, go big.

    Find a buddy

    While some people prefer to be a lone wolf while cycling, it’s probably not the norm. Having someone with you that enjoys cycling just as much as you do can be incredibly rewarding out on the trail. There are so many of us out there that are also looking for a biking buddy. 

    If you don’t already have a friend you know would be down to go out on the California trails, try joining a more organized bike trip. While you’d be starting out alone, there are so many opportunities to meet some lifelong friends who share the same passion. There’s nothing like meeting new people on the trail!

    Conclusion

    And there you have it, the top 9 routes where you’ll find some of the best cycling California has to offer. Many of these routes aren’t for complete beginners, but don’t be scared off! There are tons of bike routes in California we haven’t mentioned here that might be the perfect match for your riding style. 

    The best part about many of these routes is that there are stops along the way so you can experience new destinations at every turn. With just a bike and the right equipment, you can cover hundreds of counties, meet new people, experience different cuisines along the path, and most of all, take in spectacular views. 

    If you’re still wondering about the right gear to get for your trip or have any questions you need to be answered, drop a comment down below and we’ll help you out. Until next time, and we hope you have a great trip!

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    9 Beautiful Cali Bike Routes - The Best Cycling California Offers — Bike Hacks