Cycling Nirvana: The Ultimate Guide to Biking the Pacific Coast Highway

biking the pacific coast highway

We’ve cherry picked the best of the coastal cycling on Highway One in northern SLO County for this California Pacific Coast bike tour. After meeting in Cambria (or at your nearby hotel) we shuttle past Hearst Castle to Ragged Point. Hopping on your bike, cycle Highway One down an isolated and pristine stretch of the coast past the historic Piedras Blancas lighthouse and visit the largest elephant seal colony in North America – a must see wildlife attraction!

Continuing south with spectacular views of the PacificOcean dominating the landscape, you’ll have the option of eating a gourmet picnic lunch by the pier at Hearst State Beach or continuing on to picnic at a cozy seaside park near Cambria.

With just a few hills, but no major climbs, this Pacific Coast Highway bicycle tour is perhaps the easiest way to take in some of the world class scenery by bike that the area has to offer. The tour is also highly flexible with options to reduce or extend miles as the morning develops, all without missing any of the main attractions.

Distance21 miles, with options to shorten route by 6 miles or by 8 miles.
DifficultyModerately Easy
TerrainMostly level with some short ups and downs and one more significant hill toward the start of the tour on the 21 mile route (elevation gain/loss = +860/-1150 feet).
Tour Time9:30 am to 2:00 pm
Complimentary Pick-UpLos Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria. Please call if interested in pick up fees for other locations.
Minimum Age12 years old
IncludesChoice of bike (hybrid or road), guide w/support vehicle, gourmet picnic lunch.

“Virginia was wonderful… She made sure that we were comfortable with the bikes and explained the route perfectly. We loved seeing her on the side of the rode at various intervals to offer assistance and educate us about what we were seeing. Lunch was wonderful. We also very much enjoyed her calm and peaceful air. Thanks so much for the wonderful day!”

Darlene and Barry Bikshorn Long Grove, IL

Comparison to Other Bike Tours

The Biking: Pacific Coast Highway Half Day tour cycles Highway One and is focused primarily on the spectacular coast of northern SLO County. Our Biking: Avila See Canyon Half Day bike tour has a great combination of coast and inland riding, but avoids Highway One (which can feel busy to less expereinced cyclists at some times of year) and is easier and thus great for families. If you are still looking for a relatively easy bike tour, but want more of a wine country focus, Biking: Paso Robles Wineries Half Day bike tour is our easiest wine country bike tour and is a short drive inland from Cambria. The Biking: San Luis Obispo Wineries Half Day tour has a few more hills than the Paso Robles half day bike tour, but has more wineries to choose from for tasting.

The Biking: Pacific Coast Highway Full Day tour is also focused on the spectacular coast of SLO County and continues cycling down Highway One to Cayucos.

Half Day Bike Tours in the Afternoon

Our half day bike tours typically start with a ride in the morning and end with a picnic lunch mid day. If this timing does not work for you, we can also start with a picnic lunch mid day and ride in the afternoon. If you’d like your half day bike tours to be like this, be sure to ask when you make the reservation by phone or put a note in the comments field of the online reservation system. There is no difference in cost for doing a half day bike tour this way.

Biking the Pacific Coast Highway

cycling pacific coast highway

For adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts, few journeys compare to the soul-stirring experience of cycling the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Spanning over 1,600 kilometers along the rugged coastline of California, Oregon, and Washington, this iconic stretch of road offers a cycling odyssey that’s as awe-inspiring as it is demanding. From the whispering Redwoods to the bracing winds of the Oregon Dunes, the PCH is more than a road; it’s a spirit-infused trail that beckons the intrepid cyclist for a sojourn of self-discovery, endurance, and breathtaking beauty.

Preparing for the Ultimate Pacific Coast Cycling Adventure

Before you clip into your pedals and feel the first salty spray of the ocean on your face, you’ll need to prepare for an expedition of a lifetime. The Pacific Coast Highway offers a gamut of challenges – from steep coastal hills to unpredictable weather – that require thorough preparation. Here’s how to get started:

The Right Gear for the Right Journey

Cycling the PCH is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Ensuring you have the right gear is paramount. You’ll want a robust touring bicycle or a performance road bike, along with quality panniers, ergonomic handlebars, and a comfortable seat. Don’t skimp on the essentials – a well-tuned bike can mean the difference between an enjoyable trip and an arduous ordeal.

The Art of Planning

Planning your route is more than just picking points A and B. It’s about understanding the terrain and the towns you’ll pass through. Researching the availability of bike shops, campsites, and lodgings can save you from headaches. Websites like Adventure Cycling Association provide detailed maps and tour route planning services.

Physical Training and Preparedness

Cycling the PCH requires a fair amount of physical endurance. Start training months in advance, gradually increasing your mileage and hill climbs. Incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into your routine to prevent injury. Remember, the PCH is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one – mental preparedness is key.

Navigating Safety

The stunning coastal views can be distracting, but safety must be a priority. Always wear a helmet and high visibility clothing. Familiarize yourself with local laws and road etiquette, particularly as you cross state lines. Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and be prepared for the possibility of having to communicate without phone service.

The Pacific Coast Highway Experience: What to Expect

Cycling the PCH is an experience unlike any other, with a series of geographical and cultural landscapes that will transform your understanding of the American West Coast.

California Dreamin’

Starting in the south in San Diego, your pedals will take you over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, through the vineyards of Napa Valley, and past the eclectic city of Santa Cruz. The California stretch also offers historical landmarks such as Hearst Castle and missions like the one in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The Wild Oregon Coast

Once you cross the border into Oregon, you’ll be introduced to the dramatically different scenery of dense forests and craggy cliffs. The famous Oregon Coast Aquarium, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and the small fishing town of Newport with its renowned clam chowders provide unique rest stops.

The Rugged Washington Terrain

The final leg through Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is steeped in maritime history and boasts lush, green landscapes, and picturesque seaside towns. Savor the coastal beauty at Olympic National Park and Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the contiguous U.S.

Making Memories and Connections

The scenic beauty is undeniably the highlight of the PCH, but the memories you make and the connections you forge with fellow travelers and locals are what truly add color to your adventure.

The Camaraderie of the Road

The cycling community is a tight-knit one, and the PCH’s popularity among cyclists means you’ll likely encounter like-minded individuals from all walks of life. Swap stories, share tips, and maybe even find a cycling buddy to tackle the next leg of your voyage.

Immersing Yourself in Local Life

The towns along the PCH offer diverse cultural experiences that shouldn’t be missed. Indulge in fresh local cuisine, explore art galleries, or immerse yourself in the local music scene. When possible, opt for small inns or bed-and-breakfasts that provide a warm, personalized touch to your trip.

Sustainable and Responsible Tourism

The PCH is more than just a road; it’s a treasure to be protected. Respect the environment by leaving no trace, supporting eco-friendly businesses, and learning about the local efforts in sustainability and conservation.

Enduring the Elements

The weather along the PCH can vary drastically – from the warm, sunny climates of Southern California to the cool, foggy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. Prepare to face the elements with appropriate clothing and gear that you can layer. Waterproof panniers, high-quality rain gear, and durable sunglasses are essential items you won’t want to forget.

The Final Push and Reflection

As you pedal into the North Beach at La Push or the rocky shores of Neah Bay, you might feel a mix of emotions – satisfaction, awe, and perhaps a slight tinge of sadness that your adventure is coming to an end. Take time to reflect on your achievements and the beauty that surrounded you. The Pacific Coast Highway is not just a destination; it’s a passage that can forever change your outlook on exploration, resilience, and serenity.

5 Intriguing Insights about Biking the Pacific Coast

  1. The Distance Span: The entire stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, from the southern tip of California to the northernmost point of Washington, covers approximately 1,650 miles. Cyclists can experience a vast array of landscapes and climates within this distance, making every pedal stroke a new discovery.
  2. Historical Routes: Many segments of the Pacific Coast Highway follow ancient paths once tread by Native Americans, explorers, and early settlers. Biking this route offers an intimate connection with the past, threading through historic towns and sites that tell the tales of America’s westward expansion.
  3. Wildlife Encounters: The PCH is renowned for its close encounters with wildlife. Cyclists often report seeing seals, sea lions, and otters along the California coast, while the Oregon and Washington stretches may grant sightings of deer, eagles, and even whales during migration seasons.
  4. Microclimates Galore: Due to the diverse terrain along the coast, riders will experience a variety of microclimates. It’s possible to begin a day’s ride in warm sunshine and end in cool mist, making it essential to pack for all possibilities and thoroughly research the weather patterns of areas you plan to cycle through.
  5. Community and Support: The route is well-traveled by cycling enthusiasts, creating a sense of community and mutual support. Towns along the way are accustomed to accommodating cyclists, making it easier to find bike-friendly lodgings, repair shops, and camaraderie in local cycling clubs or meet-ups.


Cycling the Pacific Coast Highway is not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare to make the commitment, it is an odyssey that promises indelible memories and the satisfaction of having conquered one of the most iconic cycling routes in the world. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist looking for your next big challenge or an adventurer in search of a profound connection with nature, the PCH is ready to welcome you. Prepare diligently, ride safely, and open yourself to the wonders of the West Coast. The road awaits, and with each pedal stroke, you’re closer to uncovering the cycling experience of a lifetime.