It’s that time of year where Californians pull out that spare cycling jacket, break out the toasted marshmellow gels and find the crunchiest leaves to ride through. Yes, it’s true. Seasons do exist in the Golden State, and we’re here to tell you a few of the best places to take in the sights, scenes, and smells of fall by bike. There are countless places to explore this time of year, so we’ve created a list of a few notable spots.
Great Western Loop
For most professional road cyclists, the offseason is almost over, and it’s time to start putting in those necessary base miles. Southern California is a choice location to log in the long hours of training and this iconic route around San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is known for its magnificent views, smooth roads, and low traffic. There is also plenty of gradual climbing on this 42-mile route, so be sure to grab snacks and drinks at the Lyons Valley Trading Post, a frequent stop on this route which starts and finishes near Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego.
When it comes the smell of Christmas, the coastal redwood trees of the Avenue of the Giants highway in Humboldt State Park is unsurpassed. With the tourist season done and dusted, it’s a perfect time to take a scenic bike trip and experience the formidable 30-story trees that take over the 31-mile stretch of road. When planning your visit, the National Park Service recommends you call ahead to check on conditions. You can find more information at www.parks.ca.gov.
An apple a day
With 14 acres of apple farms, five-pound pies, an apple butter festival and more, it doesn’t get more “fall” than Oak Tree Village and the surrounding Oak Glen apple and berry farms in the San Bernardino Mountains. Open all year, now is the time to go ride and visit all this apple and berry haven village has to offer. Head to Apple Annie’s bakery for a slice of homemade pie, visit the nearby Candy Kitchen for a caramel apple and there’s even a petting zoo for non-apple enthusiasts.
The riding in the San Bernardino area is some of the best in the state. It’s also home to our friends at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the oldest continuous stage race in America. Nearby Redlands has a multitude of bike paths if you want to stick to the city, but if you’d prefer to get some climbing in, set your GPS toward Oak Glen, elevation of almost five thousand feet. We promise the views, and the apple pie stops, are worth it.
Rivaling Mount Baldy as a legendary California climb is Mount Palomar, located inland from Carlsbad near Escondido. Another Tour de France style ascent, which the Amgen Tour of California has featured in the past, the uphill grind to the 6,140-foot peak and Palomar Observatory is 13 miles one way if you start on Highway 76 near Rincon. Hardcore cyclists can opt to make a loop out of it, starting in Escondido and venturing through Ramona and Cleveland National Forest. Those who’ve completed it say it rivals a Tour de France stage, so stop at Dudley's Bakery or Julian Apple Pie factory in Santa Ysabel along the way for a well-deserved break.
Glendora Road Loop
Sound familiar? We hope so because it’s played host to some of the most exciting stages of the Amgen Tour of California. Located in the Inland Empire, it can be a surprise to find out how good the riding is just outside Los Angeles. If you’re not quite ready to pretend to be Andrew Talansky battling it out with Rafal Majka on Mt. Baldy, check out the nearby Glendora Road Loop, which was part of the Mt. Baldy queen stage last year. The 35-mile loop, which starts in Glendora, works its way from Sierra Madre Boulevard, turns up to Glendora Road, then East Fork Road and back down on San Gabriel Canyon road toward the starting point is simple. You’d never know you’d be riding in Los Angeles.