Biking: Monterey to San Luis Obispo - Guided Multi-Day
Overview - Monterey to San Luis Obispo (SLO) Guided Bike Tour
If you only have time for a shorter bike tour down the California coast, the coastline from the Monterey Peninsula through the Big Sur area and down to SLO County plays like a highlight reel of the best elements of the coast. The first part of a Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour focuses on the hilly, but spectacular Big Sur coast, with its rugged coastline and towering redwoods. South of Big Sur, cycling through San Luis Obispo County offers a diverse palette of marine wildlife viewing, historic missions, sandy beaches and surfers plying the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Adding some time south of San Luis Obispo will bring you into the wine country of the Edna Valley.
***ALL CENTRAL COAST OUTDOORS BIKE TOURS ARE PRIVATE***
“Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, great company and food, and wonderful guides...what more could one want on a bike trip!”Steve and Cindy Jacobs Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Quick Links to Page Contents
- Standard Itinerary
- Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire (Start here for booking a tour)
- John's Tour Thoughts
- Adding Layover/Rest Days
- Mileage Calculator for Alternate Itineraries
- Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
- Overview Map
- Different Routes within the Zone
- Start and End Tour Transportation
IMPORTANT: Due to heavy rains over the winter 2016-17, many sections of Highway One down the Big Sur coast were heavily damaged. During the repair phase (which may take as long as the rest of 2017) portions of the highway are likely to remain closed to through traffic, and this will impact any Monterey to San Luis Obispo biking itinerary on the days scheduled for that stretch of coast. Please see our Big Sur Highway 2017 page for more details.
4 Days / 155 Total Miles / Daily Average = 39 Miles / Daily Range = 22-49 Miles
*** Please see John's Tour Thoughts and Mileage Calculator for Alternate Itineraries for information about tours within the Monterey to San Luis Obispo Zone for different start/end points and/or different numbers of days and mileages. ***
Day One - Monterey to Big Sur - 45 miles (elevation +2748/-2530 ft)
The Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour begins with a side trip out to scenic 17 Mile Drive to experience the storied golf courses of Pebble Beach. You'll continue through Carmel, enjoying its white sandy beach and beautiful mission. South of Carmel, you'll enter the fabled Big Sur coastline, home to some of the most spectacular coastal scenery anywhere in the world. Here Highway One is often carved out of cliffs and ridges high above the Pacific Ocean with waves crashing below on rocky sea stacks. After crossing photogenic Bixby Bridge and climbing to Hurricane Point, today's bike ride finishes a short distance inland among the redwoods in the town of Big Sur.
Day Two - Big Sur to Ragged Point - 49 miles (elevation +5043/-4941 ft)
Get ready for an epic full day of biking the Big Sur coast! Right off the bat you'll tackle the biggest hill of the Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour as you cycle above the Big Sur River past colorful cafes and more redwoods before descending back toward the ocean. Rugged and remote coastline dominates the rest of the day, with numerous state parks offering short hikes to waterfalls and panoramic views of the Pacific. After cycling a final set of hills, you'll enjoy a well earned rest at the Ragged Point Inn, perched on a bluff high above ocean.
Day Three - Ragged Point to Cambria - 22 miles (elevation +937/-1202 ft)
After descending from Ragged Point the coastal route in northern SLO County features more forgiving terrain, but still encompasses expansive ocean views as you pass by historic Hearst Ranch and Hearst Castle. Just south of Piedras Blancas lighthouse, the largest elephant seal colony in North America is a must-see stop. Home for the evening is the charming seaside village of Cambria, featuring numerous art galleries and restaurants.
Day Four - Cambria to San Luis Obispo (SLO) - 39 miles (elevation +1456/-1273 ft)
South of Cambria the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour route veers inland for short while before returning to the coast just north of Cayucos, a classic beach town with a pier, a huge sandy beach and surfers plying the waves just offshore. Our route hugs the coast from Cayucos south to Morro Bay, which is a fishing village with a scenic harbor area. From Morro Bay to SLO you'll skirt the edge of wildlife rich Morro Bay National Estuary before cutting inland for some hilly, but very scenic cycling. SLO (voted happiest town in North America!) features an historic mission and a vibrant walkable downtown area.
**Please note that all mileages and elevation gain/loss data (in feet) are approximate only and will vary according to hotel location and actual routes ridden.**
After reviewing the information on our website, if you'd like to see an alternate itinerary, doing the above itinerary in more or less days and/or getting the process of planning a multi-day bike tour with us started, please use our Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. You can always give us a call at 805.528.1080 as well.
- If you want to cycle through a wine country area, the Edna Valley lies just south of SLO and is perfect to explore by bike with an extra day at the end of the itinerary. You could do it as a loop ride out of San Luis Obispo, or end up in the beach town of Pismo Beach.
- Three day itineraries from the Monterey Peninsula to SLO County are also possible. Options include combining Day Two and Three or combining Day Three and Four in the standard itinerary above.
- You can also do a three day itinerary with distances more in the 25-45 miles per day range by starting in Carmel instead of Monterey, staying the first night in Big Sur (26 miles), the next night in Lucia (24 miles) or Gorda (37 miles) and finishing in Cambria (47 miles from Lucia or 34 miles from Gorda).
- If the hills and riding conditions of Big Sur are not your cup of tea, but you still want some more spectacular coastal scenery, consider starting your bike tour in Ragged Point. The coastal scenery south of Ragged Point down to Morro Bay is still quite dramatic, but the terrain is much more forgiving. For more details of tours that start at Ragged Point, please see the SLO County or SLO to Santa Barbara itinerary pages.
- For those looking for longer daily mileages, a two day itinerary from the Monterey Peninsula to SLO County is recommended.
- For long distance California Coast bike tours we ALWAYS recommend going from north to south (one way) due to prevailing winds along the coast from the north and northwest.
Interesting layover days on our Monterey to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour can be made in the following locations:
Cambria. There is quite a selection of art galleries, fine restaurants and wine tasting available in Cambria. Hearst Castle is just a few miles north. Try kayaking in San Simeon Cove with Sea For Yourself. There are also numerous hiking trails in and around Cambria, including Hearst San Simeon State Park. To encompass a layover day in Cambria, you would either lengthen Day Two or cut Day Three in half.
San Luis Obispo (SLO). This diverse town offers plenty of galleries and restaurants in its award winning downtown area. The Edna Valley stretches south of town and offers numerous winery tasting rooms and great cycling.
If you are interested in starting or ending at different points than in the sample Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour itinerary and/or if you want to increase or decrease the number of days of your Monterey to SLO bike tour to yield different daily average mileages, please use the calculator below to begin customizing your tour. Please don't hesitate to email us if you have other questions or would like a proposed itinerary with your specifications sent to you.
Metric conversion: miles x 1.61 = kilometers
Please email us to request more information on specific itineraries or to start the process of booking a tour with us.
For shorter itineraries within the Monterey to SLO bike tour zone or longer itineraries that include the Monterey to SLO bike tour zone, please click on the following links:
Traffic along the Monterey to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour route is highly variable. Some stretches are on remote roads that have little to no traffic. Much of the cycling route is on Highway One, which has differing traffic volumes on different portions. Highway One also has highly variable shoulders with some stretches (especially through Big Sur coast) that have little to no shoulder. Summer tends to see the heaviest traffic on Highway One. Inexperienced cyclists or cyclists who have a low tolerance for riding with traffic have commented that the busier sections of Highway One during summer seemed hectic to them. More experienced cyclists seem less impacted by the traffic on Highway One. However, motorists are used to seeing lots of cyclists along the route and are normally courteous. Cyclists doing the Monterey to SLO bike tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.
The terrain for the Monterey to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour route is also highly variable. Most days will have some combination of relatively level riding and some hill climbing. Most of the sustained climbs (i.e. 1/2 mile or longer) are of moderate steepness (5-8%) and there are no sustained climbs that average over 10%. The hilliest section for cyclists doing the Monterey to SLO bike tour is the 75 miles of Big Sur coast between Carmel and Ragged Point. There is very little level riding on this stretch of coast and the vast majority of the route is either climbing or descending. There are two climbs on the Big Sur coast that are just over 2 miles long and gain almost 1000 feet. Each day of the Monterey to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour itinerary has the elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing the Monterey to SLO bike tour should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain.
We offer three levels of support for guided bicycle tours down the California coast: Vehicle Support Only, Vehicle Support plus Bikes and/or Lunch, and Fully Inclusive. Follow the links for more explanation of how pricing might work for your group. Prices for guided bicycle tours down the California coast from Monterey to SLO are usually based on a daily rate multiplied by the total number of days on the bicycle tour. Please don't hesitate to contact us or send in a Custom Bike Trip Questionnaire to find out how much the tour you are interested in might cost your group.
We also do a self guided version of this itinerary.
Some very interesting itineraries combining coastal and inland areas between Monterey and SLO in longer loops are possible. One of our favorites is a four day ride we did in one October for our anniversary. We call this one "Big Sur Back of Beyond." The start is usually Cayucos, but could also be any of the nearby coastal towns (Cambria, Morro Bay or Los Osos). The first day is a relatively short ride (but with a big climb and descent) over the coastal range to Paso Robles, home to a rapidly growing winery region. On Day Two, the route weaves northwest through isolated ranchland and between Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento before winding up at a really unique lodge (called The Hacienda) in a spectacular location overlooking an original California mission.
Day Three is our personal favorite as it explores the wild backside of the mountains of Big Sur as you climb through oak savannas and then more steeply along the headwaters of the Nacimiento River. From the summit there is a thrilling seven mile descent to the Big Sur coast. Overnight lodging could be in Gorda or at Ragged Point. The last day finishes along the coast south to your starting point.
We've also set up a tour for a much longer loop starting in coastal northern SLO County, heading north and inland via Paso Robles, the Salinas River Valley and Carmel Valley Road all the way to the Monterey Peninsula, then down the coast via the traditional route to SLO County. The whole loop is about 300-325 miles.
The Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is very close to Monterey and is served by several major airlines. There are flights to Monterey from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver. The nearest major airport to Monterey is San Jose (SJC). Monterey Airbus picks up at the San Jose airport (SJC) and drops off in downtown Monterey. Shuttle time is usually 1.5 hours. If you are flying into San Francisco (SFO), Monterey Airbus also picks up there and drops off in downtown Monterey. Shuttle time is usually 2-2.5 hours.
While it is possible take Amtrak to Monterey, the Amtrak route to Monterey usually involves a transfer to a bus in nearby Salinas.
If you are coming from southern California to Monterey before the bike tour, we can often offer a complimentary shuttle from SLO to Monterey the day the tour starts. It is often easier and cheaper to get to SLO from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara via Amtrak than it is to fly or take Amtrak from either Los Angeles or Santa Barbara to Monterey.
San Luis Obispo Area
Similar to Monterey, San Luis Obispo has a regional airport (SBP) quite near town, although it is smaller and currently served by only two airlines (United and US Air). There are non-stop flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. San Luis Obispo is also well served by Amtrak and has several trains/buses per day north toward the San Francisco Bay Area south toward Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Many people assume you can rent a car in most of the towns in SLO County, but this is not the case. There are no places to rent cars along the northern SLO County coast (i.e. Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay) until you get to the town of SLO itself, where most major national car rental companies are represented.