Biking the Pacific Coast Highway: An Adventure to Remember

biking the pacific coast highway

Come see why magnificent Highway One through northern San Luis Obispo County and Cambria is one of the premier places for Pacific coast bike trips. Located just south of the Big Sur coast, this stretch of California coast is every bit as beautiful as Big Sur, but lacks the major climbs and hairpin turns of the Big Sur coastal highway. Imagine yourself on your bike on an undulating road with waves crashing below the bluffs to your right while the picturesque coastal range rises on your left. It rarely gets better than this.

On this trip, we shuttle up to Ragged Point and cycle south on Highway One past a colony of decidedly odd looking elephant seals (a must see stop!), as well as the legendary Hearst Castle and San Simeon Cove. After a delicious gourmet picnic lunch at a seaside park, we ride our bikes through the delightful village of Cambria, home to numerous art galleries and shops, before winding up in the classic beach town of Cayucos.

sea elephant
Distance38 miles with options to add 5-20 miles
TerrainVariable terrain. Significant portions are relatively level, but there are also hilly sections on the 38 mile route (elevation gain/loss = +1415/-1735 feet). Longer options also have variable terrain with some climbing.
Tour Time9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Complimentary Pick-UpLos Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria. Please call if interested in pick up fees for other locations.
IncludesChoice of bike (hybrid or road), guide w/support vehicle, gourmet picnic lunch.

For adventure enthusiasts, cycling the PCH is the pinnacle of challenge and reward. This comprehensive guide is your ticket to an extraordinary voyage, threading through the heart of Southern California’s sun-drenched vineyards, the untamed wild of Big Sur, and the cosmopolitan charm of San Francisco.

Planning the Perfect PCH Cycling Trip

Before you set your wheels in motion, thoughtful planning is the spoke in the wheel that keeps your adventure rolling smoothly.

Understanding the Route

The Pacific Coast Highway stretches over 600 miles, from the sandy shores of San Diego to the mist of the Oregon border. The route is divided into several segments, each offering its own blend of coastal magic and challenges that range from gentle slopes to relentless climbs.

Choosing Your Dates

Avoiding the peak tourist season guarantees more tranquil roads. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall provide the best balance between good weather and manageable traffic.

Bicycle Selection

The right bike is fundamental to this excursion. Whether you prefer the comfort of a hybrid, the speed of a road bike, or the resilience of a touring bike, don’t underestimate the importance of a proper fit and thorough tune-up.

Gear and Equipment

A well-equipped cyclist is a confident cyclist. From helmets and gloves to weather-appropriate clothing and camping gear, your packing list must cater to the diverse conditions you could encounter.

Accommodations and Reservations

Book your accommodations well in advance, especially for popular stops like the Santa Monica Mountains and the campgrounds of Big Sur.

Training and Fitness

The PCH is not a ride best-suited for beginners, so ensure your fitness level matches the physical demands of this long, coastal route.

The Journey Begins in the South

Your adventure commences in the radiant city of San Diego. Begin with a perky spin around the San Diego Bay, and as you pedal towards La Jolla, the rugged coastline will become the canvas to your adventure. Rife with awe-inspiring cliffs and marquee beaches, the initial miles of your trip set the tone for what’s to come.

San Diego to Oceanside

Pedal past historic towns and laid-back beaches as you leave the metropolitan bustle behind. Oceanside is a serene overnight stop before the road rises into more challenging terrain.

Oceanside to Long Beach

This leg is a celebration of Southern California’s beach culture. You’ll witness surfers navigating the waves and the storied bohemian charm of the town of Encinitas. Stop for a rejuvenating break at Mission San Juan Capistrano before camping or lodging in the lively Long Beach area.

Long Beach to Santa Monica

Challenge your stamina with trails like the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which has a share of twists and turns. A stop at the Huntington Beach Pier is almost mandatory for its beauty and for the waves that make it a surf paradise. Santa Monica signals a significant milestone, where you can enjoy a well-deserved pause and visit locales like the historic Santa Monica Pier.

Middle Section: Big Sur and the Central Coast

Of the entirety of the PCH, this segment is both the most perilous and the most precious. Big Sur alone invites you to take it slow and absorb every nuance of its magnificence.

Santa Monica to Santa Barbara

The quaint piers of Malibu give way to the rustic winescapes as you pedal towards Santa Barbara. Take a detour to Solvang, a Danish village with charming architecture and bakeries.

Santa Barbara to Hearst Castle

Journey through the rolling hills of wine country and prepare for the unparalleled climb toward San Simeon. A visit to Hearst Castle is a regal reward for the toils.

Hearst Castle to Morro Bay

Pedal onwards where the mountains seem to plunge into the sea. Morro Bay’s colossal rock stack welcomes you, offering a surreal backdrop.

Morro Bay to Monterey

This stretch is a true test of your mettle, with climbs like Chalk Hill Road just outside of San Luis Obispo. But once conquered, coastal views that inspired the literati will be your companion right to Monterey’s doorstep.

Northern Leg: Cycling Beyond the Golden Gate

The final segment prolongs the magic of the coast, with the added allure of Northern California’s distinct maritime milieu.

Monterey to Santa Cruz

Follow the path of the old coastal train on the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. Santa Cruz injects youthful vibes and retro charm with its iconic boardwalk and enigmatic fog.

Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay

Feel the Pacific’s pulse quicken as you approach Davenport and pedal along the cliffside towards Half Moon Bay, a sleepy coastal town bursting with character.

Half Moon Bay to San Francisco

The final push toward San Francisco treats you with stunning coastal trails, crowned by the archetypal backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge.

After Pedaling: The Pacific Coast Highway Experience

The ride of a lifetime deserves a post-ride celebration. From the rugged cliffs of Big Sur to the artistry of San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway is a symphony of the soul that beckons to be relished.

Post-Ride in San Francisco

San Francisco’s bohemian spirit and cultural mosaic provide a vibrant backdrop. Visit iconic landmarks like Alcatraz, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Wharf. For the quintessential San Franciscan experience, explore the city aboard its famous cable cars.

Reflecting on Your Journey

Take the time to reflect on your coastal conquest. The memories and moments savored along the PCH are currency for the soul, a testament to the human spirit’s yearning for exploration and adventure.

Sharing Your Story

Whether through a blog, social media, or recounting it over a campfire, sharing your PCH cycling odyssey can inspire others to set out on their own two-wheeled escapades. Your story, with its trials and triumphs, is a guidepost for the next adventurous spirit looking to take on this quintessential American experience.

Recapping the Ride

Cycling the Pacific Coast Highway is an experience that transcends the mere act of traveling. It’s a communion with nature, an exploration of personal limits, and a prescription for wonder. The Pacific Coast Highway weaves experiences that are raw, romantic, and resplendent, guaranteeing that every mile is brimming with memories that last a lifetime.

If cycling the PCH isn’t already on your bucket list, it’s time to add it. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or an intrepid beginner, this legendary route beckons to be pedaled. It’s time to gear up, roll out, and write your own Pacific Coast Highway story.