Author Topic: touring route for california  (Read 5453 times)

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Offline awbikes

touring route for california
« on: January 19, 2012, 09:57:12 pm »
I have 14 days to tour using San Fran. as a starting and ending point. Any recommendations for cities to visit and roads to take/avoid. I need to include wine country in the route. A loop would be preferable. Would like to ride approx 50 miles a day as I am looking to do some visiting and not just put on the miles.

Offline CMajernik

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2012, 11:30:59 am »
If you want to plan your own route you should take a look at Krebs Cycling Maps. They are suitability maps for the areas around San Francisco.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline cgarch

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2012, 06:23:50 pm »
I can probably help you out here. Since I'm currently unemployed and always looking for something bike-like to do, tell us this info:
Time of year for your trip?
Camping or moteling?
How far are you willing to go astray?
What interests you?

I live in the north bay (Sonoma County) and know the better part of the bay area. Wine Country has lots of options, most of which are pretty delightful but there are plenty of steep roads and narrow shoulders. Pick well.

Santa Rosa

Offline awbikes

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2012, 09:18:54 pm »
Hey Craig thanks for the assist. Will be staying in hotels and using  the"warm showers" network. I was thinking of being on the road ten to twelve days straight perhaps making a loop of maybe 4 to 5 hundred miles and ending back in San Fran. Time of year will be first two weeks in June. Would like to sample the coastal road some but wife is a little intimidated by it.

Offline raybo

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2012, 12:47:31 pm »
Making a loop starting and ending in San Francisco can be a challenge as you have to find a way to cross the bay.  That can be done on the Golden Gate Bridge, a ferry from Vallejo,  BART from Oakland or the road south along the Peninsula. While it would be possible to ride a loop that starts/ends in SF by using the GG Bridge and the Vallejo ferry, it isn't necessarily the best use of limited bike touring time.

Are you bringing bikes or renting them?

"Wine" country is not a clear destination as all of California seems to be growing wine grapes these days!  Do you mean Napa and St. Helena?  Or, do you just want to spend the day visiting wineries and sampling wine?  Riding from SF to Napa requires some local subtlety as there is lots of traffic on the direct routes and since Napa is a valley, non-direct routes involve some up and down.

One idea might be to ride from SF to Petaluma (1 day) and then ride from there to where you want to do your wine tasting. After that, if you want to ride on the coast, my recommendation would be to head toward the Russian River, say Guerneville to meet Highway 1 at Jenner.  You can then ride north as long as you want, turn around, and then ride south all the way to SF.

Highway 1 in this area is the only way for the communities on the coast to get goods delivered and there will be some semis on the road.  Since the road has no, none, nada, zippo shoulder, you will need to ride with a mirror and be willing to pull off and let some of them pass.  This should allow you to ride Hwy 1 without too much problem.  The views are well worth it.

Since you wish to stay in hotels, you will need to plan carefully as there aren't that many towns on this section of Hwy 1, the hotels are often high priced B and Bs, and reservations will likely be required (certainly on the weekends). You do know that June in SF is fog season?  It is possible that the time you spend on the coast will be cold and foggy.  Be prepared for that by carrying a couple of layers of cloths and some blinking lights.

Another idea might be to rent a car, drive to a nice town with an inexpensive hotel, spend a couple days there doing day rides, and then move to another town and repeat.  This lets you ride in the best parts of the area without worrying about fog or getting to a town with hotel vacancies.

Have a great time.  It is a beautiful part of the world.

Visit the on-line bike touring archive at

Offline awbikes

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2012, 10:03:56 pm »
Hey Raybo thanks for the info. it is helping me formulate a plan. We have been to San Fran once and driven the pacific highway so that experience and what you have said tells me we only want to spend a little time on it. We are not really into wine but thought wine country would be scenic and worth a look. Mainly we are interested in the open road, scenic countryside and quaint towns with great coffee shops and if we are lucky not too many tourists. I guess what we saw of Calif. when we were there two years ago has made us want to return. By the way the reason for San Fran is to fulfill an obligation we have there and then hit the road. Also we will be bringing our own bikes.

Offline Bclayden

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 10:32:42 am »
Some good advice above.  South of SF is also good touring but with fewer town and road options.  All very nice though.

I've been riding in N. Cal for many years and had good luck using the train to get me back.  You can get N. to Seattle, S. to LA or E. to Reno and be back the next day via Amtrak.  Bike friendly too with a few restrictions.  Amtrak won't actually get you to SF proper, it's across the Bay in Emeryville where you end up but it is possible to get back over to SF via BART with your bike.

A train ride back is a great way to end a fun adventure.  Just an "outside-the-box" idea. 

If the train's not suitable you could also ride, for example, S. past Big Sur to Santa Barbara and pick up a one-way car rental to get you home.  I've done this too and it works well.

Offline cgarch

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2012, 01:13:06 am »
What I'm thinking is that you could do a figure 8 loop. Do a south of SF loop for a week, followed by a north bay loop for the second week. The south bay loop may not be as interesting as the north bay loop but that's just my prejudiced opinion, being a north bay guy.

Here's a suggested North Bay loop. Get out the map.
SF via Ferry to (or coming out of the south bay loop) Vallejo, ride up 29 (and some other roads) to Napa. Vallejo to Napa will suck but there's no other really good way to do that (unless someone has suggestions).
Napa to Calistoga via Silverado Trail and some other side roads. For side roads consider going out to Chiles and Pope Valley and come back over the hill into St. Helena. Calistoga then is a likely overnight.
Continue north of Calistoga on CA 128 to Jimtown thence to Healdsburg. Or on up to Geyserville and then come back to Healdsburg.
Consider staying in Healdsburg for two nights, using the next day to do some loops in the area, or join the local bike club, for some local flavor. Moseying around Dry Creek Valley is pretty sweet and there are some great Zins in the neighborhood. If you like beer, Bear Republic Brewing is there and well worth the stop.

Couple of options from Healdsburg:

1) Ride Westside Road to Guerneville. Don't take Sweetwater Springs unless you like climbing. Ride to Bodega Bay. consider two nights in Bodega Bay so you can ride to Occidental, Valley ford, Freestone before continuing on back to SF. Don't miss the bakeries in Tomales and Freestone - seriously - look for the bikes.

2) Ride to Sebastopol then up to Occidental (Graton Rd. or Occidental Rd. either one works, Graton rd is preferred). Stay in Occidental. Again consider staying 2 nights in Occi and do the Coleman Valley loop to Bodega Bay -> Bodega -> Freestone -> back to Occidental. Next day, Occidental -> Freestone -> Valley Ford -> Tomales -> Pt. Reyes Station -> SF. There are more steep climbs on this route, and don't take CA 1 from Valley Ford to Tomales, even though it is the ACA route. Lots of traffic, narrow road with no shoulder and steep climbs. Locals don't ride this stretch and neither should you. Take either Franklin School Rd or Whittaker Bluff. Both have steep stretches but zero traffic and great views.

3) Ride directly out to the coast on Skaggs Springs to Stewarts Point. Skaggs is hors de categorie (sp?) in steepness and nasty climbs but spectacular. If you're heavily loaded I would skip this. Lodging is a good guess and I can't offer any suggestions. However CA 1 south has some great scenery and wicked climbs. After you reach Bodega Bay you would continue as described in option 1.

I don't have a good south bay loop, but thinking out loud, the thought that goes through my mind is something like this: SF -> Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz around through Watsonville ->Morgan Hill -> San Jose; over Mt Hamilton and on to the Mines Road to Livermore; Livermore up through the San Ramon Valley to Martinez (or Crockett?); cross the Carquinez Strait (bike routes on both the Carquinez and the Benicia Bridges) and make your way over to Vallejo to pick up the route above.

Give that some thought and let me know what you think.

Santa Rosa, CA
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 01:19:38 am by cgarch »

Offline valygrl

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2012, 08:49:41 am »
Suggested South Bay loop:

SF - Santa Cruz - Monterey - Big Sur - over Nacimiento Road (very steep) - King City - Pinnacles National Monument - Hollister or San Juan Bautista - Monterrrey or points north - Santa Cruz - San Francisco.

This is too long for "half" the trip - but it's an absolutely stellar ride, I've done the loop from Carmel.  I did it in late May and the wildflowers were out of control, June might be getting hot on the inland part but will be good on the coast.  It might be good for the whole 2 weeks if you slow it down a little, which would be reasonable, you could spend extra time in Carmel or Big Sur, both lovely.

If you want to extend a southern loop, you could continue up from the Hollister area towards the east side of the coastal range and up through Los Gatos / the peninsula, or even over to the east bay out towards Calaveras Rerservoir/Sunol and come back to the Peninsula on the Dumbarton Bridge, which has a dedicated bike lane.

The only other bridge you can ride is the Golden Gate.  If you are in Oakland/East Bay and want to get back to the city/airport fast, you can take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) with your bike during non-commute hours by just rolling it onto the train (elevators make it all-rolling, no carrying), no boxing it up.

Personally, I find the wine country is not that great, there's a lot of traffic concentrated on few roads.  On the other hand, there is lots of great riding in Marin, north of Sausalito, on quiet country roads.  I don't know these well enough to make suggestions, and I would warn you that they are generally very hilly (which it sounds like maybe you are less psyched on).

As someone said above, the Krebs maps are worth getting - they indicate services, safe cycling roads and gradients.

Offline cgarch

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2012, 12:39:11 pm »
Valygrl's route is an excellent route. I've ridden that several times and it does not disappoint. I posted some pics from this area on a discussion at CGOAB last year regarding the CA 1 closure at Big Sur. and scroll down.

Not sure I 'd agree with Wine Country not being that great. If you're in Napa that would be correct, but Sonoma County has many more roads that are quiet and very pleasant and away from the busier Marin roads.

Offline awbikes

Re: touring route for california
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 07:13:19 pm »
Thanks to all the info. it should be helpful and is a lot to digest. It sounds like I have my work cut out for me. Still  undecided if I will stay local or do a 3-4 day trip to Sonoma county then over to Amtrack and go to Seattle.