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From desert to mountain to beach to city, California has something for every cyclist. You'll find a variety of topographies and climates. Whether you seek the heights of Mount Whitney or the basin of Death Valley, you will find a variety of plants and wildlife to view from your bike.
The Pacific Beach Boardwalk, San Diego
Cyclists who want a relaxing ride that will give them plenty of time to watch the waves will love the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. This trail is fully paved and connects up with the Mission Bay Bike Path. Be aware that those on wheels will need to watch their speed; this path has a limit of 8 miles per hour. However, cyclists who get out during the week and start early can usually avoid the high traffic of the weekend. There are many places to stop and shop, to sit and relax, or just to pull to the side and enjoy the view. Consider bringing a backpack and some cash so you can treat yourself at one of the many shops along this path. This is a low-stress, high-interest ride, perfect for a comfortable beach cruiser bike.
Marvin Braude Bike Trail, LA
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail, LA, is technically a continuous 21-mile path. However, riders and others who know the region generally split in two. The northern half runs from the Venice Pier to the Will Roger Beach, and the southern half runs from the city of Torrance to Ballona Creek. It's split by Marina Del Rey. This trail is also called The Strand and is nearly always along the Pacific Shore. As it's a paved path, you can avoid getting bogged down in sand or mud. As this trail does travel along some popular beaches, be ready to ride it during the week; weekends can get very busy. It's hard to build up any speed if you're always on the lookout for pedestrians. This trail is excellent for practically any bike type, including a simple MTB.
Rincon Bike Trail, Santa Barbara
Californians love the outdoors, and the Rincon Bike Trail offers serious bikers as well as folks just taking the air some great views and wonderful amenities. It's fully paved and just over 3.5 miles. You can bring a snack and a drink to enjoy while you stop at Rincon Point to watch the surfers ride the waves. Hobson County Park offers a nice place to stop and get a treat to enjoy while you take a break. Because you're right on the beach, you can easily see the Channel Islands and enjoy watching the waves. Be aware that Santa Barbara offers enviable weather, but it can be cool in the morning. While the trail ends at Mobil Pier Road, you can continue to ride on the wide shoulders of Highway 1.
Joe Rodota Bike Trail, Santa Rosa
If you love wine country, you'll love a leisurely ride on the Rodota Trail. This bike path takes you easily from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa. It's fully paved and parallels Highway 12. From this path, you can easily see miles of lush farmland and the surrounding mountains. There is trailhead parking in Santa Rose off of Sebastopol Road, including disabled parking spots. Parking in Sebastopol proper is off Burnett Street near Petaluma and South Main. Like a lot of wine country, this trail offers great sun and cool breezes; be prepared to layer up if you're out in the morning. The trail is named after someone who loved the outdoors and believed in the power of nature. Joe Rodota was the very first leader of the park system of Sonoma County.
American River Trail, Sacramento
The American River Trail is also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. This bike path stretches from Discovery Park to Beals Point. The full route is 32 miles and passes through the Folsom State Recreation area. This is a multi-use and multi-users trail; be prepared for dogs on leashes, pedestrians, and in-line skaters. Cyclists and skaters are expected to use the paved path, walkers are encouraged to use the shoulder, but riders will need to be vigilant as ever. Do be aware that there are multiple horse crossings on the trail; be ready to yield to horses if you come upon them. You can easily take shorter rides on this trail. There are multiple access points, many places to stop and rest, and a lot of nature to see. Be aware that you're passing through a wildlife area. If you're out in the morning, there may be water birds and other wild animals out feeding or drinking.