Touring recomendations near San Francisco?
My Fiance and I are hoping to do a 6 day tour on our tandem at the end of August.
We are new to touring and are hoping we might get some recommendations on where to head out and where to camp somewhere near San Francisco. We are experienced hikers, love to camp but have never done it by bike.
Initially our (my) thoughts were to leave our front door in San Francisco and head into Marin. The problem is, I'm not so confident we are up to the challenge of hilly Marin county towing a trailer, on top of that camping reservations seem highly competitive. Additionally, I will mention I'm considerably more enthusiastic about this trip than she is. So making this a positive experience for the both of us is VERY important to me.
In short, Marin is a touch too hilly, San Mateo has limited camping (I think). Anyone have experience in the Napa/Sonoma area? The idea of combining a tour with some farm visits and wine tasting sounds great. Ideally we're looking for a semi flat, low traffic area with plenty of camping options. (aren't we all?) Can anyone help?
Thanks in advance,
End of August will be hot in many inland areas.
Why not consider the coast?
There are many good side trips that most cyclotourists miss. There is camping at Butano, and some beautiful hikes in the area. There are giant redwood forests. There are waterfalls. There is the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which is open to bikes for some distance if you start from Hwy 1. The temps along the coast stay more pleasant. There are some low-traffic times and side trips.
I don't think you will find anything perfectly flat or close to flat that is pleasant in August.
North to south is best for tailwinds.
If you take it slow, the hills aren't so bad; and if you don't push her or yourself beyond the appropriate limits, and find the right pace and attitude, the riding can remain pleasant and enjoyable.
Thanks the tip. Butano looks beautiful, we were in Pescadero County Park just a couple of weeks ago.
I hadn't considered what the heat would be like. Maybe the coast is the way to go...
Is there a typical route that most cyclotourists travel? That I'm just not aware of?
What about references, like a good book or website describing some possible routes?
Or is this kind of thing a bit like hot air ballooning, you go where the wind takes you?
The Pacific Coast Bicycle Route more or less follows the coast from Canada to Mexico, and is considered one of the premier bike routes in the world. Most cyclists follow the routes outlined in a popular book,
Originally Posted by michaelofnsh
I haven't read all twenty-two reviews, but there is some interesting information there as well,
There are many possible side trips and alternative routes that are not covered by this book, though.
There is also the NorCal forum here at bikeforums.net:
Originally Posted by michaelofnsh
And a Southern California forum, in case you end up riding farther south:
You could ride down, and take Amtrak back up -- San Luis Obispo would be one Amtrak possibility. The most beautiful sections of the coast are probable between Monterey and Morro Bay (which is near San Luis Obispo, which has an Amtrak Station).
People on the forums above could answer some questions. You could also try searches within the touring forum.
You can also do it more like hot air balooning, serendipitously -- or combine the two approaches, or mix them with others.
Some of the best tips can be found when you get there, from locals who are familiar with their areas.
"Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall is the standard reference. In addition, the Adventure Cycling Association sells good, if pricey, maps of the coast. As Niles mentions, wind will be blowing from north to south at that time of year. An ideal trip might be to ride south along the coast for 5-6 days, then hop on Amtrak for the ride back. You can probably ride from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo in 5 or 6 days, riding about 50 miles/day on average. A decent amount of climbing to get through Big Sur, though.
Another option would be to ride out and back. Winds pick-up later in the day, so you'd want to start early on the return trip and maybe plan to stop earlier. San Francisco to Monterey or Carmel might be one possibility. Ride from SF to Santa Cruz on the first day, then down to Monterey or Carmel on the second; you'll have a nice tail-wind at your back. Include an extra stop or two on the return trip, say at Costanoa, Half Moon Bay, Butano State Park, or one of the other parks/towns along the coast. If you find that the wind is too much, you can alwasy climb over the Santa Cruz mountains, coast down the hill to Cal-Train and get home that way.
FYI, the coastal routes are also amenable to "credit card" touring, where you travel with minimal gear (e.g. tools + 1-2 days worth of clothing), eat in restaurants, and sleep in hotels. If your fiance likes to ride, but doesn't like to "rough it" this might be something to consider. Carrying less weight also makes getting up hills a lot easier...
Look for state parks with "Hike & Bike" campsites. These are set aside for non-motorized travelers (sometimes motorcyclists are let in as well) and are not reservable. Although the rangers have the option to declare them full, in my experience they rarely do that. Instead they allow overflow bike campers to set up camp in normal picnic areas, etc. as long as they take down any tents during the day (say by 9 or 10 am). Generally the stay in these sites is limited to a couple days since they're intended for travelers - not for extended stays in one park. The fees are around $3 - $5 per person.
One that's just north of SF is at Samuel Taylor Park and the H&B area is very nice. One spot is surrounded by a perfect ring of redwood trees with room for a few tents in the middle.
For a tour of a few days I'd suggest heading south (with the prevailing wind) as suggested above down the coast. There are H&B sites at Half Moon Bay, New Brighton (south of Santa Cruz in Capitola), Sunset State Beach, Veteran's Park in Monterey (may have to push the tandem up the hill - but it's pretty short), Big Sur State Park, Kirk Creek (nice but didn't have safe potable water this spring), San Simeon, and Morro Bay Park. Then get a bike box and tickets for the Amtrak train back from San Luis Obispo. [Their boxes are pretty big but I'm not sure if they'll fit a tandem even with wheels removed - I've heard from others about taping two boxes together to get the tandem on the train.]
This is sounding better and better. Thanks.
Just ordered the book and checked with Amtrak. Now to consult the stoker
Certainly the most critical part of trip planning.
Originally Posted by michaelofnsh
BTW, you can see the map and some pictures from my last ride down the coast at:
That was to ride down to a bike rally in Paso Robles, but we followed the usual coast route from SF down to San Simeon before heading inland.
Nice report. What was your average mileage and what would you say was the harder parts. Thanks.
I plan this trip with some leeway just in case there's bad weather on one day. So I keep the mileage down to still get us to the rally in time if we're delayed. The first day has the most miles with about 75, but the second day was only about 45 to allow time for sight seeing in Monterey. The third day I would have preferred to stay at Big Sur State Park, but the campground was closed this spring for bridge construction (finished now), so I had to ride on to Kirk Creek for about 70 miles. Then another short day of 40 miles to San Simeon before heading inland to Paso Robles (30 miles up and over the coastal range).
Originally Posted by michaelofnsh
The steepest hill is to get up to Veterans Park campground in Monterey (one year we kidded a tandem couple after seeing them walk up this hill - turned out that they had ridden all the way from Vancouver and this was the first time they had walked a hill). But it's pretty short, and you may avoid it altogether if you choose other overnight spots. There are more sustained climbs farther south with the highest coming right after the Big Sur campground. It's an elevation gain of about 300 meters and there are a number of smaller climbs later that day until you reach Ragged Point and get a nice downhill and downwind push into San Simeon. Then it's pretty easy from there through Morro Bay and into San Luis Obispo.
Beautiful, any words for Ms. Stoker?
Just to hop on the bike and start pedaling.
It really is a beautiful coastline and a very popular route for bike touring. It's great meeting other cycle tourists along the way and you tend to meet them again at the campgrounds with time to share your experiences. The Hike&Bike spots frequently have quite a few nationalities represented which adds to the interest.
FYI, check out one way rental cars, that might be less expensive and less hassle than the train. I agree with the recommendation to ride south on the coast and then take motorized transport back.
I did a great loop tour out of Carmel once - down the coast, over the mountains at Nacamiento Fergusson Road (near Kirk Creek), past King City, to Pinnacles National Monument, San Juan Bautista, back to Carmel. I would highly recomment it EXCEPT that Nacamiento-Fergusson road is a huge climb - probably not fun on a tandem.
Try using the Vallejo Ferry from downtown San Francisco as a quick way to get to Napa. I've got a few routes posted at gpsies.com.
I suggest riding towards the hot springs. Harbin Hot Springs is a hard day out of San Francisco, with the Vallejo Ferry. You could stop at an intermediate point in the Napa region and make it a two day trip.
I've always enjoyed reading this blog, which has quite a few trips planned out http://bikeandhike.wordpress.com/
+1 to Samuel P Taylor. If you just need to get out of the city it is a great overnighter. Take an extra day and ride to the point reyes lighthouse.