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Cycling California & the Pacific Coast

Cycle scenic sections of California’s Highway 1 – coastline, cliffs, waterfalls and marine wildlife



At a glance

11 nights in comfortable hotels and lodges, all rooms en suite
9 days cycling with 100% vehicle support
100% tarmac following scenic sections of Coastal Highway 1
Some hills along the coast but overall the trip is not too demanding

Cycle scenic sections of California’s Highway 1 – coastline, cliffs, waterfalls and marine wildlife

The ultimate US road trip, by bike! This iconic ride takes us through the rolling hills of world renowned wine estates in Napa Valley, alongside towering Redwood trees and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Our route follows Coastal Highway 1 as it twists its way around rocky headlands, crashing waves stirring the numerous Elephant seal colonies that scatter the beaches below. Out of the saddle we explore the many incredible state parks, isolated beaches and prestigious wineries for which the region is so highly regarded, as well as re-fuelling on fine Californian cuisine.

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Type: Land Only

Flight prices available from NeenanCycling. Contact us for details

What’s included

All breakfasts, 9 lunches
All accommodation (see below)
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Local bike hire

Food: All breakfasts and 9 packed/picnic lunches are included, allowing the option to try local restaurants in the evenings. You may wish to bring some of your own energy snacks, or these can be bought locally if required. The food is likely to be a highlight of this trip, with local restaurants offering a selection of great home cooked meals and plenty of seafood along the coastal areas. We recommend that you allow USD20 to USD40 per person per day for evening meals. The support vehicle will carry 3 litres of mineral water per person cycling day (available free of charge).

Start destination: Healdsburg

End destination: Santa Monica

Cycling profile

Day 1

Those on the group flights will be met at San Francisco airport and transferred to our start hotel in Healdsburg, approx. 100km outside of San Francisco. Those on Land Only arrangements should make their own way to the start hotel this afternoon or arrive in time to join the group transfer. Following a short trip briefing this evening, it’s time to get some rest before our first day of cycling tomorrow.

Day 2

After breakfast we transfer to Napa Valley where we’ll spend some time getting fitted with bikes and other equipment. Our cycle route takes us into the heart of Napa Valley, one of California’s finest wine making regions. In Napa there are over 400 acclaimed wineries, many of which are family owned and run. Our view from the saddle will be dominated by rolling hills carpeted with vineyards, usually under a sunny California sky! The Napa Valley vineyards produce some of the finest wine in the USA, including varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We join the Silverado Trail, a scenic route along the eastern side of Napa that compromises more than 40 wine estates. We’ll stop en route for a picnic and there’s an optional visit to a winery for those that would like to sample some of Napa’s acclaimed products!
Transfer approx. 90km.

Day 3

The beautiful vineyards of Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley surround charming Healdsburg, our overnight location, and so it’s from here that we set off this morning to explore the countryside surrounding the valleys. We are likely to see many different types of tree, from towering Redwood to oaks, palm and even cactus on this round-trip along the valley roads. Returning to Healdsburg in the afternoon, there will be some time to explore the pretty town.

Day 4

We transfer from Healdsburg to Russian River where today’s cycling begins. The river flows from the heart of California’s wine country out to the Pacific coast. Following the bends of the river, we’ll take in the vast scenery – much of this area was covered in forest before logging began in the 19th Century. There’s an optional 10km cycle detour in order to visit Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve, where we can walk in the shadow of California’s mighty Redwood trees. By far the tallest living trees on the planet, Redwood’s grow up to 80 metres high, with a lifespan of 500 – 1000 years! Back along the river, our route takes us through Sonoma Coast State Park where the salty coastal region beckons as we join our first stretch of Costal Highway 1 – California’s most scenic road. Today’s final destination is Bodega Bay, a pretty coastal town on a rocky inlet. We will stay overnight in nearby Occidental.
Transfer approx. 10km.

Day 5

We transfer to Tomales where we start our ride following Highway 1 along Tomales Bay to Point Reyes National Seashore. This vast area juts out into the Pacific Ocean and is characterised by rocky headlands, expansive grasslands and windswept beaches. Marine wildlife such as sea lions and Elephant seals thrive in this protected habitat. Migratory birds are also attracted to the area and Grey whales pass by on their annual migration. We spend as much of the day as possible exploring the park and learning about its unique history. Our overnight stop will be in the Inverness area which looks onto Tomales Bay.
Transfer approx. 25km.

Day 6

Today’s ride takes us from Point Reyes back to Coastal Highway 1, through Samuel Taylor State Park and past Muir Beach and the Muir Woods National Monument where we’ll stop for a short walk. Scottish born John Muir, who the Muir Woods area has been named after, was one of the earliest pioneers for ecology, conservation and land protection. Returning to Highway 1 we will pass through the small town of Sausalito, overlooking Richardson Bay. The day ends with one of the most iconic rides of this trip as we enter San Francisco from the north by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Day 7

We spend this morning getting to know San Francisco by visiting Union Square, North Beach, Russian Hill, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque cities in North America. At just 7 miles long, it is a densely populated city, with 43 steep hills overlooking a calm bay and golden beaches. We’ll explore the city by foot and minibus, rather than navigating the hills on our bikes! In the middle of the afternoon we’ll transfer to our next destination, the Monterey Peninsula. We stay in nearby Salinas.
Transfer approx. 185km.

Day 8

Our day starts on the famous 17 Mile Drive, a scenic route along the edge of the Monterey Peninsula that passes through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, with scenic viewpoints along the coastline of the rocky headlands below. Back on Highway 1 we cycle one of the most beautiful sections of the famous road, which curves around the cliffs as waves crash onto the shore below. En route we’ll stop at Point Lobos State Reserve where seals, sea lions, sea otters and thousands of sea birds reside. Point Lobos was once described as ‘the greatest meeting of land and water in the world’ by landscape artist Francis McComas. Our accommodation tonight is in a wonderful country lodge in Big Sur, within the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – enjoy a short walk through the Redwoods at the end of the day!

Day 9

Cycling directly from our accommodation we re-join Highway 1 for another incredibly scenic section of road that passes straight through the Big Sur region. We reach Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after a well-respected pioneer, where we’ll join a trail to McWay Falls. This is the only major waterfall in California that empties straight onto a beach by the Pacific Ocean, and was once a favourite viewpoint of Julia Pfeiffer Burns. The McWay Falls is now one of the most photographed sights in Big Sur. Back on bikes our ride continues to San Simeon, a small town surrounded by the history of Hearst Castle. Built for the famous newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, the hilltop castle is now a State Historical Monument. For those that would like to visit the castle (optional extra), it’s possible to miss the end part of today’s cycling (around 20km) in order to fit this in before the group transfer to Santa Maria.
Transfer approx. 125km.

Day 10

Rather than riding coastal from Santa Barbara, we are starting the day with a short climb into the foothills above Santa Barbara, where will ride along the ridge line with scenic views of the coast below and past some of the finest homes, farms, and ranches of Santa Barbara. We’ll descend to our beach side picnic stop at the coastal town of Carpinteria. After lunch, our route starts to climb 350 metres over the Casitas Pass. Our reward for the long ride is the wonderful view of Lake Casitas from the top and then a great ride downhill towards the lake. We’ll take the River Bike Trail back towards Ventura, an affluent beach town typical of California.
Transfer approx. 105km.

Day 11

There are various optional excursions to join this morning in the Channel Islands National Park. The park consists of 8 islands off the coast of Southern California, some 14 miles out to sea. A 3 hour excursion focusing on wildlife can be taken around Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island, where it’s usually possible to see seals, sea lions and birds. Alternatively, join a 3 hour whale watching excursion, where guides specifically look for whales and dolphins – it’s possible to see Orca and Minke whales throughout the year, whereas Humpback and Blue whales only enter the area between June to September. Many species of dolphin are likely to be encountered! In the afternoon we ride towards Santa Monica on the western edge of Los Angeles, before transferring to our hotel.
Transfer approx. 45km.

Day 12

Depending on the time of your return flight you may have the opportunity to visit Los Angeles today! Clients on group flights are then transferred back to Los Angeles airport for their flight home. Land Only clients are free to leave at any time today.

Prices & Dates

Customer Feedback

California

Summary:
Great trip although tougher than expected. Some serious climbs. Expensive. San Francisco visit disappointing

Rating: 4

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
First view of Pacific and Hearst Castle visit.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Friendly helpful and easy going. Typical American clean shaven lads.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Bring plenty of cash

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Scenery and cycling spectacular but with some adjustments could be amazing.

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Cycling California and the Pacific Coast

Summary:
This was an amazing bike tour through a great variety of Californian land and town scape. The cycling was not always easy but it was always enjoyable. I cannot imagine a better way to visit and feel part of that wonderful state if only for a short while.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Standing on the mountain overlooking San Francisco. We had climbed over 800 feet very fast and the reward was that unforgettable panorama.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Mike and Brian were great motivational leaders who worked hard to keep us on the pace without making us feel pressurised.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Get some training on hills, take some good sunscreen, a decent camera and enjoy the trip.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
my advice to future adventurers would be to arrive in San Francisco a few days before the start of this cycle tour rather than have to start cycling in full jet lag mode. A couple of days in LA at the end would allow time to see more there …especially Hollywood.

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Stellar Ride!

Summary:
Beautiful rides and great variety of scenery of California. Covers quiet country roads among vineyards, to riding along rugged coastline, to passing through some interesting neighborhoods of luxury homes. The roads were in mostly great condition with moderate traffic. Good balance of some challenging rides followed by easier days. Our guides were really helpful and worked hard to make the trip a success.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Arriving in San Francisco riding across the Golden Gate Bridge, ride in hills above Santa Barbara and climb to Lake Casitas, and the coastal beauty pedaling along Big Sur.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Leaders were fantastic. Knowledgeable, friendly, and worked very hard to accommodate everyone's ability on rides. They adjusted the trip as needed to provide a fantastic experience. Also arranged great lunches, provided and even a barbeque one night with local oysters.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Bikes provided were very good condition and provided all equipment needed (pumps, spare tubes, etc.), but saddle a bit hard. Suggest upgrade or bringing your own saddle pad cover.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Great balance of rides, good variety of comfortable accommodations. Included lunches were plentiful with lots of variety, breakfasts were mixed–some outstanding and a few uninspiring. Shorten the last day's ride enroute to Santa Monica to get there earlier–last ride did not match the other amazing rides and would give more time in Santa Monica. Overall, a really great trip.

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Activity Levels


Activity Levels range from Leisurely to Tough, the grading takes into account the daily cycling distances and terrain, as well as any technical riding skill required. We also consider the number of cycling days as there can be a cumulative affect from tiredness on a longer trip and the type of accommodation used, as this can also influence your day to day recovery.

If you are in any doubt, please give us a call on +353-1-607 9900 or email us.


Activity level 1 - Leisurely Activity level 1: Leisurely

If you can ride a bike and enjoy gentle exercise, these are an ideal introduction to a cycling holiday. No routes are entirely flat, so expect some short climbs and descents. Maximum daily height gain is approximately 250 metres and daily distances rarely exceed 50kms (32 miles), any longer days are often optional.


Activity level 3 - Moderate Activity level 3: Moderate

Most people who enjoy a weekend riding at home will enjoy a Moderate trip. You need to be in good health and reasonably fit. Ideal for occasional cyclists, or as a more relaxed trip for fitter riders. Moderate off-road trips require no previous experience. Distances rarely exceed 70kms (43 miles) per day.


Activity level 5 - Challenging Activity level 5: Challenging

For any ride at this level, fitness is important. Challenging trips require confidence in your ability and physical condition. They are equivalent to an extended period of cycling at home. Previous mountain biking experience is essential for Challenging off road trips as they will involve some technical riding.


Activity level 7 - Tough Activity level 7: Tough

Previous experience of the cycling style or surface is a must as these routes have long cycling days and tougher terrain on both road and off road trips. You need complete confidence in your fitness and technical ability to cope with difficult or steep terrain, rough surfaces and longer distances. Ideal for those seeking a challenge!


Split grades

In order to provide more accuracy, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or ‘split’ grade, for example 2: Leisurely/Moderate.


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