Biking: San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara - Guided Multi-Day
Overview - San Luis Obispo (SLO) to Santa Barbara Guided Bike Tour
South of Big Sur, cycling through San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County offers a diverse palette of marine wildlife viewing, historic missions, winery areas and surfers plying the waves of the Pacific Ocean off sandy beaches. A San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara bike tour is a good option for more casual cyclists looking to avoid the rugged terrain of the Big Sur coast, but still take in some breathtaking coastal scenery, beaches and wine country. Our standard itinerary is three days, but layover days can be added and/or shorter cycling days can make for a tour longer than three days. You can also start your tour north of SLO at Ragged Point to add even more great coastal cycling. See below for the standard tour and for other itineraries. To get more information and/or pricing for an itinerary you are interested in or to begin the process of booking a multi-day bike tour with us, send us a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. Or, just give us a call at 805.528.1080!
***ALL CENTRAL COAST OUTDOORS BIKE TOURS ARE PRIVATE***
"Everything about our trip was fantastic. John was an excellent guide - informative as much as we wanted without being intrusive. He was a pleasure to travel with, the lunch was superb and... the bikes were great. We will highly recommend you to anyone who asks."John Rule
Quick Links to Page Contents
- Standard Itinerary
- Alternate Itineraries
- Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
- Overview Map
- Start and End Tour Transportation
- Climate Information
3 Days / 133 Total Miles / Daily Average = 44 Miles / Daily Range = 38-52 Miles
Day One - SLO to Santa Maria - 43 miles (elevation +1101/-1131 ft)
Starting in the mission town of San Luis Obispo (voted happiest town in North America!), the SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour route heads toward the coast. A short detour along a creekside bike path to the small resort town of Avila Beach beckons before cycling through Pismo Beach, a classic beach town. From Pismo Beach the route veers inland through rich farmland. Watch for artichokes and strawberries! The terrain south of Pismo Beach has some rolling hills, but levels out as you cycle through the sleepy town of Guadalupe before the short spin to Santa Maria.
Day Two - Santa Maria to Solvang - 38 miles (elevation +1931/-1662 ft)
Leaving Santa Maria on this San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara bike tour, you'll quickly find yourself in the idyllic vineyards of the Santa Ynez winery region. This is where the movie "Sideways" was filmed, often with actual staff from the winery tasting rooms. Tackling the hills at the south end of Foxen Canyon Road brings you to the tiny hamlet of Los Olivos and its numerous tasting rooms. From Los Olivos it's a short spin along Alamo Pintado Road (or a rollicking climb and descent on Ballard Canyon Road) to the Danish-themed town of Solvang in the heart of the Santa Ynez wine country.
Day Three - Solvang to Santa Barbara - 52 miles (elevation +2472/-2965 ft)
The last day of this SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour starts with a pleasing spin and climb through isolated country behind Solvang past Nojoqui Falls Park before you gain US 101 and bike over Gaviota Pass to get back to the coast. The coastal approach to Santa Barbara on US 101 is actually quite pleasant for cycling on a freeway and features expansive ocean views. As you near Santa Barbara, you'll take the traditional Coast Bike Route through Hope Ranch and bike along the waterfront before ending the day among the palm trees and sandy beaches of Santa Barbara.
Adding Layover Days
Interesting layover days on our San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara bike tour can be made in the following locations:
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.
- Solvang. Located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country, Solvang (or one of the towns close by) is the best place for a layover day if you want to experience wine country and/or do some cycling to wineries.
- Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, with a rich cultural history and miles of sandy beaches, makes a great layover location. There is not as much quality cycling available as there is near Solvang, but the city has an extensive network of bike paths and routes that you can use to explore. Santa Barbara Car Free has an extensive list of activities and attractions that can be accessed by bike in town.
**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.**
Many other options exist for cycling from the SLO area down to Santa Barbara. Please see below for brief itinerary descriptions to see how they differ from the standard itinerary and click on the links to view a detailed PDF of any of these itineraries. To get more information and/or pricing for an itinerary you are interested in or to begin the process of booking a multi-day bike tour with us, send us a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. Or, just give us a call at 805.528.1080!
SLO TO SANTA BARBARA - 4 DAYS
133 Total Miles / Daily Average = 33 miles / Daily Range = 25-43 miles
This is a relaxed itinerary that splits up the longer day from Solvang to Santa Barbara with an overnight stay at El Capitan Canyon, a back to nature resort with luxury tents and cabins.
RAGGED POINT TO SANTA BARBARA - 4 DAYS
194 Total Miles / Daily Average = 49 miles / Daily Range = 38-61 miles
This is an excellent option if you want to tack on some really nice coastal riding. You still travel to the town of San Luis Obispo at the start of the tour and we shuttle you up to Ragged Point to start the cycling. If you want to keep the miles on the first day more moderate, you can also cycle from Ragged Point to Morro Bay instead of SLO and stay overnight there. That makes the next day to Santa Maria a bit longer, but evens out the mileage a bit better than staying in SLO.
RAGGED POINT TO SANTA BARBARA - 5 DAYS
194 Total Miles / Daily Average = 39 miles / Daily Range = 30-52 miles
This is a more relaxed version of the Ragged Point to Santa Barbara 4 day itinerary above and stays overnight in the beach towns of Cayucos and Pismo Beach instead of San Luis Obispo.
We have three levels of service and pricing for our guided bike tours. The pricing on our most popular levels is a base daily rate for the whole group based on size of support vehicle needed multiplied by number of days for the tour plus added cost for providing bikes and/or lunch. You typically book your own accommodations (we provide recommendations) and are responsible for all or most of your meals (we also provide recommendations). We can also do fully inclusive tours. Please click on the links below (or just call us!) to read more about our different service levels and to see what daily rates might be like for your tour.
Summary of Levels of Service
- Guided - Vehicle Support Only - Best if you have your own bikes.
- Guided - Vehicle Support Plus Bikes and/or Lunch - Our most popular option. Best for groups of 2-6 people without their own bikes. We'll supply accommodations recommendations.
- Guided - All Inclusive - Hassle free. Includes vehicle support, bikes, meals, accommodations. Best for larger groups.
We also offer Self Guided Multi-Day bike tours down the coast and in wine country.
Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire (Start the booking process)
Once you've reviewed itinerary options and have an idea of a level of service you'd like, the best way to start the process of booking a tour and getting a firm price quote for your group and itinerary is to fill out the Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. You can always give us a call at 805.528.1080 as well. Remember - all our bike tours are private! But we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the modest cost of a private bike tour with us.
Most of the groups that do guided multi-day bike tours with us book their own accommodations based on our recommendations. The cost and availability of accommodations can vary considerably and are influenced by location, high season vs. low season rates, and weekend vs. weekday rates. The best way to get a sense for what accommodations for your tour might cost is to first choose a specific itinerary and dates and ask us to email you our lists of recommended accommodations for each stop along the way. Then you can check availability and rates for your specific dates. Most budget hotel accommodations are in the $70-150 per night range. Mid range accommodations are typically between $150-300 per night. High end accommodations can cost much more than that. Some places, especially along the Big Sur coast, may sell out months in advance during the busy summer season or other holiday times, and/or may require two nights stays on certain busy weekends. The farther in advance you plan your bike tour, the better chance you have to get the accommodations you want at each stop along the way. Virtually all accommodations we recommend have websites where you can check availability and book rooms.
Traffic along the SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour route is highly variable. Some stretches are on remote roads that have little to no traffic. Some 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 that have little to no shoulder. A small portion of the cycling tour is actually on freeways (mostly on the approach to Santa Barbara), but these sections always have a large shoulder, except for two very short stretches on the approach to Santa Barbara. Cyclists doing the SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.
The terrain for the San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara bike tour route is variable, but less challenging than the riding along the Big Sur coast to the north. 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%. Each day of the SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour itinerary has the elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing the SLO to Santa Barbara bike tour should be comfortable with riding at least a few sections with hilly terrain.
San Luis Obispo Area
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.
Santa Barbara Area
Santa Barbara has a regional airport (SBA) served by several major airlines. There are non-stop flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Phoenix. The Santa Barbara Airbus offers transportation from several Santa Barbara area locations to Los Angeles International (LAX) as well. Shuttle time is usually 2-2.5 hours. Amtrak also offers train service from Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles area.