- Standard Itinerary
- John’s Tour Thoughts
- Adding Layover/Rest Days
- Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
- Overview Map
- Different Routes within the Zone
- Start and End Tour Transportation
Overview – SF to LA Guided Bike Tour
Cycling all the way from San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the beaches of Los Angeles on a guided bike tour 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.
“We so enjoyed our bike ride along the Pacific Coast Highway… We want to compliment you on a wonderful experience from start to fabulous finish. Your knowledge of the area and surroundings was great. We loved the ride and the “no pressure” way of letting us ride at our own pace… The gourmet picnic lunches were out of this world. It was so pleasant and relaxing after the ride… If anyone asks us what’s fun out there in California, you can be sure we will point them in your direction.”
Natalie and Tom Hosp Fort Meyers, Florida
Standard Itinerary – San Francisco to Los Angeles (Santa Monica)
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)
Our San Francisco to Los Angeles 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 SF to LA 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 tiny 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 the Monterey Peninsula 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 seals as you cross Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing. The historic town of Monterey features 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 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 cycling across photogenic Bixby Bridge and climbing to Hurricane Point, the ride finishes a short distance inland among the redwoods 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 coast dominates the first 50 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 colorful cafes before descending back toward the ocean. Short hikes to redwood canyons and waterfalls as well as panoramic views from scenic vistas line this stretch of the route. After the hills leading up to Ragged Point the terrain levels out as we ride through idyllic ranchland 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 route sticks close to the coast and winds through the picturesque towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay before skirting scenic Morro Bay National Estuary, home to an incredible diversity of bird life. Cycling inland from Morro Bay on this SF to LA bike tour, you’ll pass through idyllic ranchland and the historic mission town of San Luis Obispo (voted happiest town in North America!) before heading back to 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 cycling route today veers inland through rich farmland. The terrain starts out with some rolling hills, but levels out as you pass through the sleepy town of Guadalupe before a short spin to Santa Maria. From Santa Maria, you’ll quickly find yourself in the idyllic vineyards of the Santa Ynez 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 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. As you near Santa Barbara, you’ll take the traditional Coast Bike Route through Hope Ranch and bike along the waterfront. From Santa Barbara to Ventura the route hugs the coast and features some more freeway riding and views of several classic surf spots.
Day Nine – Ventura to Santa Monica (LA) – 58 miles (elevation +1529/-1571 ft)
On the final day of this San Francisco to Los Angeles bike tour, Southern California ambience dominates the route. In the morning, you’ll ride through urban 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 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.**
John’s Tour Thoughts
- If you prefer to avoid the urban and agricultural areas between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles (Santa Monica), we often recommend doing a slightly shorter tour ending in Santa Barbara instead of Santa Monica. Using the itinerary above as a model, this means the last day would be Day Eight with a shorter ride of about 55-60 miles from Solvang to Santa Barbara. There are numerous public transportation options to get from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, including Amtrak;
- We also do many tours that start at Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz to avoid the urban riding in and around San Francisco;
- It’s also possible to combine the first two days and go from San Francisco to Santa Cruz in one day, making an itinerary of eight total days;
- Shorter California coast bike tours that concentrate on the Big Sur coast and areas just south are also very popular. We’ve planned bike tours for many cycling groups from the Monterey area down the Big Sur coast to San Luis Obispo (SLO) county or from SLO County down to Santa Barbara County. Please see relevant other itinerary zone pages for more information;
- If long daily mileages and/or century bike rides are your cup of tea, the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles can be done in five days of roughly 100 miles per day (or San Francisco to Santa Barbara in four days of roughly 100 miles per day). You could also start north of San Francisco to add one or more century days to the coastal bike route down to Santa Barbara or Los Angeles;
- 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.
Adding Layover/Rest Days
- 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 Monterey Bay by renting a kayak or taking a tour from Monterey Bay Kayaks.
- Big Sur. This is the best layover spot for hiking. Amazing coastal hikes as well as hikes into the redwoods are available at Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
- 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.
Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
Traffic along the San Francisco to Los Angeles 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. A small portion of the cycling tour 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. Cyclists doing the SF to LA bike tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.
The terrain for the San Francisco to Los Angeles 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 SF to LA 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 bike tour should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain.
Different Routes within the Zone
Between San Luis Obispo County and the town of Santa Barbara, our normal San Francisco to Los Angeles bicycle tour route goes via the Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang. This routing is slightly longer overall (by 17 miles) than the more direct route via Lompoc. We route most of our SF to LA bicycle tours via the Santa Ynez Valley to give cyclists the chance to ride through a classic California wine country area. The bike route via Lompoc does decrease the overall miles, but misses the Santa Ynez Valley wine area in favor of wide open and isolated ranch and farm country farther to the west. Lompoc is also not as interesting a town as Solvang (or other towns in the Santa Ynez Valley) for an overnight stay and has no high end quality hotels or restaurants. However, if you are not interested in wine country areas and want to keep moving down the coast in the most direct fashion, staying in Lompoc is certainly worth considering. Please email us for a sample of an alternate California coast biking itinerary that is routed via Lompoc instead of the Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang.
Start and End Transportation
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 in 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 bicycle 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 Los Angeles 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.
From the city by the bay to the streets of Los Angeles, there’s no better way to soak in the splendors and pulse of these iconic cities than by riding through their bustling streets and scenic paths. If you’re an adventure seeker, cycling enthusiast, or just looking to switch up your travel experience, a bike tour might be exactly what you need. Whether you’re drawn to the rolling hills and vibrant culture of San Francisco or the sun-drenched boulevards of Los Angeles, each city has a unique offering for cyclists. Lace up your riding shoes and join us as we explore the best bike tours and trails in the West Coast’s most captivating cities.
Why San Francisco and Los Angeles are Ideal for Cyclists
San Francisco and Los Angeles couldn’t be more different, yet they both share an indelible spirit of endless exploration. San Francisco lures with its steep streets, eclectic neighborhoods, and panoramic bay views while Los Angeles beckons with its sprawling landscapes, world-famous landmarks, and a year-round bike-friendly climate. Both cities have invested significantly in cycling infrastructure and community, making them ideal for those who prefer two wheels to four.
San Francisco’s Iconic Bike Routes and Hidden Gems
The Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
Arguably the most famous bike route in San Francisco, the trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to charming Sausalito is a must for any visitor. The 8-mile (round trip) jaunt offers unparalleled views of the bridge, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco skyline.
The Wiggle and Golden Gate Park
For an urban cycling experience, The Wiggle is hard to beat. This zig-zag route through the Lower Haight, Alamo Square, and into Golden Gate Park presents a mix of challenges and serene pathways.
Off the Beaten Path in the Presidio
Explore the Presidio, a former military outpost that’s now a national park with an extensive network of trails, some only accessible by bike. Quiet roads, forested areas, and historic sites await.
Los Angeles’ Eclectic Cycling Adventures
The Beachfront Beauty of Venice and Santa Monica
Take in the quintessential LA experience with a beachfront ride from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. People watching and ocean views set the scene for this leisurely 5-mile stretch.
Hollywood to the LA River
Pedal past the glitz of Hollywood before descending into the concrete-lined LA River path. This diverse route encapsulates the city’s varied landscapes, from bustling urban centers to tranquil riverbanks.
Griffith Park and the Observatory
Ride through the sprawling Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America, to the iconic Griffith Observatory for stunning views of the city. Keep an eye out for the famous Hollywood sign!
The Best Bike Tours in San Francisco and Los Angeles
For those looking for a guided experience, there are several reputable companies that offer bike tours in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. These tours often provide knowledgeable guides who can offer insights into the city’s history, architecture, and local culture, enhancing your experience.
San Francisco Bike Tour Companies
- San Francisco Bike Rentals and Tours
- Blazing Saddles
- Dylan’s Tours
Los Angeles Bike Tour Companies
- Bikes and Hikes LA
- LA Bike Tours
- The Real Los Angeles Tours
Logistics of Renting a Bike in San Francisco or Los Angeles
Renting a bike in San Francisco or Los Angeles is a straightforward process, with numerous rental shops located throughout the cities. Many shops offer a variety of bike types, from standard road bikes to electric and hybrid models suitable for different terrains and fitness levels. It’s also possible to book your bike online in advance, ensuring you have the right bike for your adventure.
What to Consider When Renting a Bike
- Type of bike and suitability for your planned route
- Rental duration and availability of guided tours
- Cost, including rental fees, deposits, and potential additional services
- Inclusions such as helmets, locks, and route maps
Safety Tips for Cycling in San Francisco and Los Angeles
Safety is paramount when cycling in any city, and San Francisco and Los Angeles are no exception. Here are some essential tips to ensure your bike tour is both enjoyable and safe:
- Always wear a helmet
- Observe traffic laws and signs
- Be aware of your surroundings and the actions of other road users
- Use proper lighting and reflective gear, especially if cycling at night
- Secure your bike when not in use
How far is la to san francisco
The distance between Los Angeles (LA) and San Francisco, two of California’s most famed cities, is approximately 380 miles (612 kilometers) when traveling by road. Riders who wish to experience both cities by bike, either directly or through scenic routes, should be prepared for a long but rewarding adventure that could take them through California’s diverse landscapes—including coastal views, lush forests, and vibrant urban centers. For the dedicated cyclist, the journey between these two iconic cities is not just a travel distance but an opportunity to immerse in the vast beauty and varied climates that define California.
Wrapping Up Your Cycling Adventure
Exploring San Francisco or Los Angeles by bike is a fantastic way to see the cities from a fresh perspective. It’s an active, immersive, and eco-friendly approach that allows you to cover more ground while still feeling the local ambiance. Remember to take plenty of photos, hydrate often, and enjoy the ride. Whether you’re conquering the hills of SF or coasting along Venice Beach, the memories made on your bike tour are sure to last a lifetime.
Cycling in San Francisco and Los Angeles isn’t just about the exercise; it’s a full-bodied experience that allows you to engage with history, art, and the vibrant pulse of these cities. Be prepared for the adventure, and the cities will reward you with memories as rich as the views are beautiful. Happy cycling!