Top Scenic Bike Trails in Southern California

Southern California is one of the best places, if not THE best place in the continental United States for bicycle enthusiasts. The options available are seemingly endless when it comes to locations, scenery and difficulty. Regardless of experience level, there is a trail for every rider and, in most case, quite a few. So, if you’re looking for a place to ride in SoCal, check out this list of trails for all different riding styles and don’t forget to comment and let us know what your favorite SoCal trails are!

Beach Trails

If anything has great bike trails beat in California, it’s great beaches, and when the two converge it can make for an amazing day outing. There are trails that literally span miles of beachfront and offer access to some of SoCal’s most popular tourist areas.

South Bay Bicycle Trail

The South Bay Bicycle Trail offers 22 miles of paved bike path. It runs from Will Rogers State Beach all the way to Torrance County Beach and virtually barely leaves riders without a view of the water. In fact, the majority of the trail is right on the beach with just a few diversions onto city Streets.

The trail provides access to all piers as well as The Strand at Venice Beach. Bicyclists, joggers, roller skaters, pedestrians and any other non-motorized vehicle share the trail. The surface throughout is concrete and smooth asphalt.

Huntington Beach Bike Trail

The Huntington Beach Bike Trail follows two of California’s most picturesque beaches – Newport and Huntington – and offers access to a variety of communities, piers and city streets. There are a variety of parking options along the trail but parking IS a challenge.

There are services galore from one end of the trail to the other so carrying a lot of supplies is not necessary. Bring a water bottle and plan to stop at one of the many food kiosks and cafés along the way to refuel.

River Trails

For riders who prefer a more diverse landscape (and who don’t mind sharing their riding space with a variety of other kinds of riders and pedestrians) will greatly appreciate the options available throughout SoCal.

The Santa Ana River Trail

The Santa Ana River Trail is a shared byway for cyclists, pedestrians and even equestrian enthusiasts. It’s a massive trail that spans three counties with trailheads in Orange county at places like Huntington Beach State Park and Yorba Regional with another eight in between.

The trail is also split into three regions: the Upper, Middle and Lower. The Lower Trail is situated mostly in Orange County and provides the most rustic riverside biking experience. The middle trail is the most urbanized section and the Upper Trail is the most challenging, traversing mountain passes and ascending into high elevations.

San Gabriel River Bicycle Path

The San Gabriel River Bicycle Path runs North-South from Whittier Narrows to Seal Beach. It is part of a 60-mile loop of bike trails extending north out of L.A. County and back. Popular entry points include The Angeles National Forest, Foothill San Gabriel River, Santa Fe Dam and Santa Fe Springs Park. The trail offers wonderful views of the San Gabriel River and San Jose Creek, Parking issues can be avoided by using public transportation. Both buses and trains along the trail are capable of towing bicycles.

Mountain Trails

These trails offer some of the most breathtaking views but their elevations and terrain can make for a challenging riding experience. Only intermediate to experienced riders should attempt some of the mountain trails in this area, but some of these offer great riding experiences for the whole family. The advantage to these areas is that they do have established trails.

Back Bone Trail Santa Monica Mountains

There are a lot of trails right at our backdoor here in Santa Monica. One of these is the Backbone Trail starting at Point Mugu State Park and kind of follows along the Santa Monica Mountain crest to Will Rogers State Park. This is a fun trail with a lot of variety, up, down, rocky and smooth and is generally classified as a “hard” trail. This trail is 8 miles and generally ridden as a loop. Find out how to get there.

Check out this video preview of the Santa Monica Back Bone Trail:

Sullivan Canyon Trail Santa Monica Mountains

Another popular trail (for both riders and walkers) is the Sullivan Canyon Trail which runs from North to South in the Santa Monica Mountains East of Will Rogers State Park. This is an 8.5 mile loop and not too difficult – just fun.

How to get to the trailhead: From Sunset Boulevard, 2.3 miles west of the 405, turn north at the light onto Mandeville Canyon Road. After 1/3 mile turn left onto Westridge Road. Drive uphill on Westridge Road and turn left on Bayliss Road. Make another left on Queensferry and find a place to park. Just a heads up there’s no parking right next to the trail head, but it’s just a short walk down to the trail head.

Want to see what the Sullivan Canyon Trail has to offer:

Topanga State Park

Need a mountain biking escape from LA? Have you been to the Topanga State Park Mountain Biking Trail Lately? There are a lot of great trails for pretty much every level of rider. Check out www.BikeMapDude.com for a complete visual of trail maps in Topanga State Park.

A little video tour of Mountain Biking in Topanga State Park:

Malibu Creek State Park Mountain Bike Trails

Going back to Santa Monica, we told you there were a lot right in our own back yard, we can’t leave out the Malibu Creek State Park. There are a wide variety of trail combos here, some that intersect with the Back Bone trail and even a beginner loop. Due to the wide variety of combinations, we’re going to send you over to the BikeMapDude for detailed trail maps.

Here’s a nice little video showing what Malibu Creek Trails have to offer:

Point Mugu State Park

Point Mugu State Park has some really nice trails that are fun, scenic and not too difficult. Point Mugu is about 45 minutes up the coast from Santa Monica and definitely worth the drive. View Trail Maps Here.

Check out this video of the fire road trail at Point Mugu:

Big Bear Adventure Park Snow Summit

Ride Down the Face of Snow Summit
So Cal’s only lift served Bike Park is coming to Snow Summit this summer! We have teamed up with Gravity Logic, a leader in the mountain bike industry to design all new trails for mountain bikes with no restrictions other than the 45 lb. bike weight limit.

Killer Downhill Mountain Biking Trail at Snow Summit – Check it out!

Scenic Trails

San Gabriel River West Fork

The San Gabriel River West Fork ascends into the mountains and provides some amazing views and activities along the way. Peaceful rivers and waterways and level trails make for an enjoyable ride for most experience levels. It is also a great area for trout fishing and spotting blue herons, which are in abundance all along the trail. The trailhead is just outside Azusa near the San Gabriel Dam.

Chino Hills State Park

Chino Hills State Park offers a network of trails with varying difficulty levels set on 13,000 acres. Maps are available at their web site and at the park entrance. Check the website for operating dates but even when the entrance is closed, there are entry points to the trail that are available year-round. Cyclists and hikers agree that Chino is one of the best areas for a variety of trails and also for a quiet, back to nature environment. In all, Chino Hills offers more than 65 miles of trails suitable for biking and hiking.

There really is nowhere like SoCal to find such an eclectic array of options for the cycling enthusiast. From densely populated tourist areas to remote mountain passes, anyone’s ideal riding environment is within a travel-friendly distance here. Visitors to these areas should investigate the transpiration options available in these areas and make an effort to give back to these wonderful environments. Using public transportation where available is a great place to start.

Download a Santa Monica Mountain Biking Trail List
(list provided National Park Service)

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