California is known for its outdoor beauty. Even in the middle of some of its busiest cities like San Francisco you can find hidden natural oases that let visitors and residents alike get in touch with Mother Nature. That connection to the outdoors has made California one of the best travel destinations for cyclists in the world. Not only are there thousands of trails crisscrossing the countryside, many of California’s big cities (including San Francisco and San Diego) are “bike friendly.” In fact, riders of all abilities can find trails, treks, and tours that will let them experience everything California has to offer from the back of a bicycle.
So whether you come for the sun and the surf, the wine and the whimsy, or the bright lights and the big city you’ll find some of the best California travel destinations for cyclists in the list below.
Malibu likes to market itself as a rich and exclusive beachfront neighborhood—and that it is. However, the mountains above Malibu are a naturalist’s dream. There’s little to no traffic on the roads and excellent weather all year long. However, while the hills might not be as steep (or as numerous) as those in San Francisco, there is plenty of hill climbing to do for the adventurous bicyclist.
And once you get out of the heart of the city there are tons of camping options if you’re in the mood to “rough it.” But keep in mind you’re always close enough to everything to you can treat yourself (and your special someone) to a night on the town.
And did I mention the beach?
Davis is “The City that Fell in Love with the Bicycle.” Just 11 miles west of Sacramento, Davis has more bikes on the road than cars. In fact, there are bike lanes on 95% of its major streets—some of which date back to 1967 when the rest of California was arguing that bike lanes were illegal! That commitment to cycling culture hasn’t died. Davis has spent $14 million on bike projects in the last 10 years alone.
What is there to do in Davis? While there you can visit the UC Davis Arboretum for a lovely stroll through manicured natural beauty, sample your way through the expansive Farmer’s Market, or visit The Bicycling Hall of Fame.
Voted one of the 10 Best Small Towns in America Healdsburg is something of a hidden gem. From here you can experience Sonoma Wine Country on bicycle or eat your way through town on one of the famous “Food Tours.”
The H2hotel is an interesting eco-friendly option for Earth-friendly travelers (which just so happens to offer secure bicycle storage and “public” bicycles you can borrow) but there are plenty of other high-end hotels and B&Bs (many of which are housed in historic mansions and manor houses). Some of the few standouts include the Madonna Manor, The Hotel Les Mars, and The Grape Leaf Inn.
And what about those food tours? These “unique culinary adventures” are customized to give visitors either the gourmet experience of fine dining restaurants in town or a more downhome taste of Healdsburg featuring a stop at SHED, a modern day grange celebrating “good cooking, good farming, and good eating.”
Just don’t eat so much you can’t get back on your bike!
Huntington Beach, California
Not only is Huntington Beach an excellent place for cyclists to visit (thanks to the bike trails throughout the region) it’s also California’s Pacific Ocean playground. Couples love Huntington Beach for the natural beauty, the quaint bed and breakfasts, and extensive dining options.
But there’s plenty for families to do here as well. Right from the harbor you can book exciting deep sea fishing and whale watching tours, rent all sorts of watersport gear (including paddleboards), and stroll for miles along state beaches.
San Francisco, California
Voted one of the most bikeable cities in the country, San Francisco is home to a thriving cycling culture. And that pedal-powered population has pushed the city to rebuild its infrastructure to accommodate two-wheeled machines. They’ve added miles of bike lanes and restructured traffic flow at pinch points like Market Street. Although many people (ok, my friends) think riding in San Francisco is too dangerous, several recent upgrades are making the City much more bike-friendly. I still see a lot of bike accidents in San Francisco as a bicycle accident lawyer, but I do believe significant efforts are being made to improve safety conditions.
Tourists love the kitschy shops and wonderful eateries in San Francisco’s historic neighborhoods like The Mission, Haight Ashbury, and the Marina District but there’s also plenty of natural beauty here too. Bike and hiking trails crisscross beneath the Golden Gate Bridge with scenic vistas of San Francisco Bay and the Marin headlands beyond.
Don’t Ruin Your Vacation–Bike Safely!
The last thing you want to do is ruin your cycling vacation by getting into an accident while you’re away. As a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco I’ve seen far too many people injured because they either didn’t know the rules of the road or didn’t ride with caution. While much of California is a cyclist dream destination, bikers still need to be wary of drivers and other road hazards wherever they go. So bike smartly and bike safely.