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Sure it’s got Hollywood and Silicon Valley but cycling in California will show you just how much jaw-dropping natural landscape this state has to offer. The third-largest state in the USA, California’s geology is incredibly diverse and that means you can find gorgeous flat routes, undulating hill trails and gloriously difficult mountain rides.
Blessed with mountain ranges, cycle routes in California can take you to heady heights as well as provide you with endless foothills to climb up and whizz down. Cycleways take you along California’s phenomenal Pacific coastline for hundreds of miles and along dirt tracks through desert scrubland. With a monumental central valley, you can enjoy flat rides along rivers and through preserves.
Californian cities are often very bike-friendly too, with plenty of cycle paths that lead you from place to place, coffee shop to coffee shop.
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Perhaps there’s no better way to start talking about cycling in California than pedaling across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. From the hilly city, crossing the bridge places you right in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and you can ride along the Pacific coast or along the bayside.
Los Angeles is a paradise for cyclists wanting to have a permanent sea view. You can ride for miles along beachside cycle paths, car-free and with plenty of cafes to pause at. Out of the cities, coastal cycle routes in California get wild and rugged too. The Big Sur coast is famed for its astounding, jagged beauty; so if its big views you’re after, you’re guaranteed them here.
Lake Tahoe, on the Nevadan border east of Sacramento, is a hotspot for cyclists of every type. Extreme climbs and matching descents challenge even the best of riders while paradisiacal trails around the lake will make your heart soar. Ride through towering forests of Douglas Fir and enjoy the family-friendly cycle routes under the watchful gaze of huge mountains.
In the Santa Monica mountains just north west of LA, you could cycle for hours and never see a car. Instead, you might catch the pros training on the exceptionally challenging ascents, which always give way to breathtaking descents where the brakes will be your best friend.
In Mt. Tamalpais State Park, ride through exceptional scenery with redwoods, lengthy climbs and jaw-dropping ocean views. Routes here are never easy but they are the kind that are so incredible, you won’t even mind the fourth climb of the day.
Wherever you enjoy bike rides in California, there are a few things to bear in mind. Under-18s must wear helmets by law and it’s advisable that if you’re on a bike, a helmet is on your head whatever your age. Unlike many places, Californian law requires cyclists to hug the edge of the road rather than take up a dominant road stance. Remember though, if you’re no fan of cycling in traffic, the state has plentiful traffic-free and quiet routes you can choose instead.
When you go up into hilly and mountainous areas, you may quickly find yourself totally alone and without any mobile phone signal. Being prepared with snacks, water and tools is crucial. In mountains, descents can be hair-raising so always check the health of your brakes first.
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Explore more of United States of America: Browse the best Cycling Routes in other regions.