Biking: San Francisco to Los Angeles - Self Guided Multi-Day
Overview - SF to LA Self Guided Bike Tour
Cycling all the way from San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the beaches of Los Angeles is one of the classic bicycling odysseys in the world. The coastal route between these two iconic California cities is possibly one of the most diverse coastal bicycle rides in the world, featuring iconic urban areas, rugged coastline, towering redwood forests, marine wildlife viewing, historic lighthouses, winery areas and surfers plying the waves of the Pacific Ocean off sandy beaches.
***ALL CENTRAL COAST OUTDOORS SELF GUIDED BIKE TOURS ARE PRIVATE***
Quick Links to Page Contents
- Standard Itinerary
- Alternate itineraries
- Cost and Availability of Accommodations
- Daily Luggage Delivery Options
- Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
- Overview Map
- Start and End Tour Transportation
- Climate Information
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 San Francisco to Los Angeles biking itinerary on the days scheduled for that stretch of coast. Please see our Big Sur Highway 2017 page for more details.
9 Days / 505 Total Miles / Daily Average = 56 Miles / Daily Range = 34-81 Miles
Day One - San Francisco to Half Moon Bay - 34 miles (elevation +2289/-2261 ft)
Your San Francisco to Los Angeles self guided bike tour begins in San Francisco along a bike path past the Golden Gate Bridge and then rides through the Presidio before greeting the Pacific by the iconic Cliff House and Ocean Beach. Continuing south through the hills of Daly City, the route passes through Pacifica and over Devils Slide before a pleasing coastal stretch to Half Moon Bay.
Day Two - Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz - 50 miles (elevation +3082/-3138 ft)
South of Half Moon Bay on the San Francisco to Los Angeles bike tour, Highway One is less hilly and our route down the coast feels like it's a million miles away from the city. Numerous state parks and beaches line the route, as well as an historic lighthouse. The villages of San Gregorio and Pescadero, both just inland from the Pacific coast, are tempting to explore by bike. We end the day in the surfer town of Santa Cruz, with its famous pier and boardwalk, where the laid back California lifestyle was practically invented.
Day Three - Santa Cruz to Monterey - 46 miles (elevation +1923/-1934 ft)
From Santa Cruz to Monterey the coastal cycling route weaves through farmland (watch for artichokes!) and along scenic dune areas with long stretches on bike paths. Along the way you may see sea lions and otters as you cross Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing. The historic town of Monterey features the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, made famous by writer John Steinbeck.
Day Four - Monterey to Big Sur - 45 miles (elevation +2748/-2530 ft)
Today's ride on the SF to LA self guided 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-by-the-Sea, enjoying its white sandy beach and beautiful mission. South of Carmel, you'll enter the fabled Big Sur coast, home to some of the most spectacular coastal scenery anywhere in the world. Here Hwy 1 is often carved out of cliffs and ridges high above the Pacific Ocean with waves crashing below. After bicycling across photogenic Bixby Bridge and climbing to Hurricane Point, the ride finishes a short distance inland in the town of Big Sur.
Day Five - Big Sur to Cambria - 71 miles (elevation +5832/-6039 ft)
The rest of the epic Big Sur coastline dominates the first fifty miles of the ride today. Right off the bat you'll tackle the biggest hill of the tour as you climb Hwy 1 above the Big Sur River past cozy cafes before descending back toward the ocean. Short hikes in state parks to redwood canyons and waterfalls as well as panoramic views from scenic vistas line this stretch of the route. After the challenging hills leading up to Ragged Point the terrain levels out as we ride through idyllic ranch areas past an elephant seal colony and Hearst Castle before getting a well earned night's rest in the seaside village of Cambria.
Day Six - Cambria to Pismo Beach - 52 miles (elevation +1812/-1798 ft)
In the morning our self guided bike route sticks close to the coast and winds through the picturesque towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay before skirting the edge of scenic Morro Bay National Estuary, home to an incredible diversity of bird life. Cycling inland from Morro Bay, you'll pass through idyllic ranchland and the historic mission town of San Luis Obispo (recognized as the happiest town in North America!) before heading back toward the coast. A short detour along a creekside bike path to the small resort town of Avila Beach beckons before the final leg of the route to Pismo Beach, another classic beach town.
Day Seven - Pismo Beach to Solvang - 68 miles (elevation +2989/-2520 ft)
The first part of the biking route today veers inland through rich farmland. The terrain starts out with some rolling hills, but soon levels out as you pass through the sleepy town of Guadalupe before a short spin through Santa Maria. From Santa Maria, you'll quickly find yourself in the award winning vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley winery region. 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 quick ride 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 Valley wine country.
Day Eight - Solvang to Ventura - 81 miles (elevation +3792/-4245 ft)
A pleasing spin and climb through isolated country behind Solvang starts the day before you gain US 101 and climb 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 and wide shoulders. As you near Santa Barbara, you'll cycle the traditional Coast Bike Route through Hope Ranch and bike along the waterfront. From Santa Barbara to Ventura the bike route hugs the coast and features some more freeway riding and views of several classic Southern California surf spots.
Day Nine - Ventura to Santa Monica (LA) - 58 miles (elevation +1529/-1571 ft)
On the final day of this SF to LA bike tour, Southern California ambience dominates the route. In the morning, you'll ride through more developed areas and farmland before reaching the scenic northern Malibu coast. As you get close to the actual town of Malibu, you'll see classic California beach homes built right over the Pacific Ocean. The last few miles of riding are on a bike path winding across the golden sands of the Santa Monica Beach to Santa Monica pier.
**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.**
Adding Layover/Rest Days
Interesting layover days on our SF to LA self guided bike tour can be made in the following locations:
Monterey. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly world class and worthy of up to a half day of your time. If you are a golfer, the famous golf courses of Pebble Beach are nearby. Explore scenic Monterey Bay by renting a kayak or taking a tour from Monterey Bay Kayaks.
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.
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.
Many other options exist for cycling from the San Francisco area down to Santa Monica (LA). 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! As always, if you don't find an itinerary on our website that fits what you are looking for, please contact us and let us know what your thoughts are.
SAN FRANCISCO TO SANTA MONICA (LA) - 12 DAYS
505 Total Miles / Daily Average = 42 miles / Daily Range = 30-52 miles
This is a more relaxed version of the 9 day itinerary. It breaks up the longer days and has added stopovers in coastal locations like Cayucos and Ragged Point in the middle of the tour. We also have a 10 day version - please inquire.
SAN FRANCISCO TO SANTA BARBARA - 8 DAYS
418 Total Miles / Daily Average = 52 miles / Daily Range = 34-71 miles
This itinerary skips the last 90 or so relatively urban miles from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica (LA). It is very easy to get from Santa Barbara to the LA area by airport shuttle services or by Amtrak. We also have versions of this itinerary that cover the same territory in fewer or more days - please inquire.
SAN FRANCISCO TO SANTA MONICA (LA) - 7 DAYS
505 Total Miles / Daily Average = 72 miles / Daily Range = 58-84 miles
A more aggressive version of our standard 9 day itinerary. It is also possible to cut the number of days even further if you are willing to cycle more miles per day.
HALF MOON BAY TO SANTA BARBARA - 7 DAYS
384 Total Miles / Daily Average = 55 miles / Daily Range = 45-71 miles
Compared to the standard 9 day SF to LA itinerary, this itinerary cuts out the hilly and urban section from San Francisco down to Half Moon Bay (about 35 miles) and also cuts out the relatively urban section (about 90 miles) from Santa Barbara down to Santa Monica (LA).
SANTA CRUZ TO SANTA BARBARA - 6 DAYS
334 Total Miles / Daily Average = 56 miles / Daily Range = 45-71 miles
This is a popular shorter version of the traditional 9 day SF to LA standard itinerary. It begins and ends in two of the most iconic beach towns on the California coast. As usual, this can also be done in more or fewer days - please inquire.
SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN LUIS OBISPO (SLO) - 6 DAYS
285 Total Miles / Daily Average = 48 miles / Daily Range = 34-61 miles
This shortened version of the traditional SF to LA bike itinerary focuses on the spectacular coastal areas just south of SF and the Big Sur coast north of SLO. It omits much of the inland and wine country riding south of SLO, but an extra day in the Edna Valley wine country just south of SLO can also be built in. It's also possible to start south of SF in Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz and ride just to SLO - please inquire.
Pricing below is for our innovative self guided bike tour program. Prices below assume our standard self guided bike tour services and are per person prices for the whole itinerary. The rates vary according to length of itinerary and number of people in the cycling group. If you will be doing the itinerary in less or more than the amount of days listed below, the price will be adjusted accordingly. For number of days below the standard range - subtract $15 per day per person. For number of days above the standard range - add $20 per day per person.
PER PERSON ITINERARY PRICE BASED ON GROUP SIZE
|Itinerary||Total Miles||# of Days||Solo||2 ppl||3 ppl||4+ ppl|
|SF to LA (Santa Monica)||505||8-10||$1050||$675||$535||$470|
|SF to Santa Barbara||418||7-9||$900||$600||$480||$420|
|SF to SLO||285||5-7||$760||$475||$375||$320|
|Half Moon Bay to LA||471||7-9||$1005||$655||$505||$450|
|Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara||384||6-8||$895||$565||$455||$405|
|Half Moon Bay to SLO||251||4-6||$715||$445||$355||$300|
|Santa Cruz to LA (Santa Monica)||421||6-8||$940||$620||475||$420|
|Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara||334||5-7||$785||$500||$415||$360|
|Santa Cruz to SLO||201||4-6||$590||$385||$325||$270|
|Monterey to LA (Santa Monica)||375||5-7||$875||$560||$445||$390|
|Monterey to Santa Barbara||288||4-6||$705||$445||$365||$305|
|SLO to LA (Santa Monica)||220||4-6||$615||$410||$330||$280|
Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire (Start the booking process)
Once you've reviewed itinerary options and have an idea of what itineraries or dates might work best for you, the best way to start the process of booking a tour and confirming the price for your group is to fill out the Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. You can always give us a call at 805.528.1080 as well.
The cost and availability of accommodations on a California coast self guided bike tour 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. It can be a challenge to find hotel accommodations for less than $100 per night average, although if you are willing to stay in hostels where they exist, you can average less than $100 per night. Most budget hotel accommodations are in the $70-150 per night range. Mid range accommodations are typically between $150-300 per night. 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.
Daily luggage delivery is not normally included in our self guided bike tour package, but can potentially be arranged for an extra fee. Our standard self guided services include a pannier system for the bike so you can carry just the clothing and gear you need during the tour. We will take your excess luggage (anything you don't carry on the bike), store it for you during the tour and deliver it to you at the end of the tour. If you want daily luggage transfer, be aware that moving luggage down the coast one way can cost a minimum of $150 extra per moving day and often up to double that or more. We usually use a combination of parcel delivery services (in areas farther from our home base in SLO County) and our own staff and vehicles (closer to our home base). Please contact us if you are interested in a quote on daily luggage delivery for your self guided bike tour.
Traffic along the San Francisco to Los Angeles self guided 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. Hwy 1 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. A small portion of the cycling is actually on freeways, but these sections always have a large shoulder, except for two very short stretches on the approach to Santa Barbara. However, motorists are used to seeing lots of cyclists along the route and are normally courteous. Bicyclists doing the SF to LA bike self guided tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.
The terrain for the San Francisco to Los Angeles bike self guided 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 SF to LA self guided 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 San Francisco to Los Angeles bike tour itinerary has the elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing the SF to LA self guided bike tour should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain.
San Francisco Bay Area
There are three major airports (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose) serving the San Francisco Bay Area. Most major airlines fly to all three airports. San Francisco (SFO) is the most convenient if you are starting your tour in San Francisco or Half Moon Bay. San Jose (SJC) is the most convenient if you are starting your self guided bike tour in Santa Cruz or Monterey/Carmel (there is a regional airport in Monterey as well). Airport shuttle services such as SuperShuttle can shuttle you from any of these airports to hotels in San Francisco or from SFO to Half Moon Bay. If you are starting your bicycle tour in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Airport Flyer offers shuttles from San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC) to Santa Cruz. If you are starting in Monterey, Monterey Airbus offers shuttles from San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC) to Monterey. Amtrak also offers train service to the San Francisco Bay Area. The main trains stop in Oakland and you usually transfer to a bus or BART to get to/from San Francisco.
Los Angeles Area
The LA area is served by several airports, the main one being Los Angeles International (LAX). LAX is very close to Santa Monica. Airport shuttle services such as SuperShuttle can shuttle you from any of the airports in the area to most local locations. If you are ending your bicycle tour in Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Airbus offers transportation from several Santa Barbara area locations to LAX. Amtrak also offers train service from Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles area.