Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles
Russ Roca and Laura Crawford sold everything they owned in 2009 and have been traveling around the US on bicycle. Follow their current journey on Brompton folding bikes and the train at PathLessPedaled.com.
Union Station in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, is perhaps the last place you would consider starting a bicycle tour. However, in the 6 years Laura and I have been bicycle touring, many of our trips have started by taking an Amtrak train from Union Station to points beyond. The Amtrak Surfliner in California -- which runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo -- lets you take your bike on board without having to box it.
One of our favorite short tours begins in the eclectic college town of San Luis Obispo, heads towards the coast, climbs over a short range, and drops into the vineyards of Paso Robles. We first rode this trip several years ago on our way to the Great Western Bike Rally, a 3-day annual bicycle event that has been held in Central California for the last 47 years.
Hopping on the earliest Amtrak Surfliner train from Union Station heading north is strongly advised, since it is usually the older style train with a luggage car that has plenty of room for bikes. The newer Surfliners have hooks, which can only carry very few bikes on the train. We have taken the train before where the hooks were full and we were bumped off.
The hiker/biker at Moro Bay State park provides inexpensive and convenient camping close to town.
From Los Angeles, detrain at San Luis Obispo where you could spend an evening at the local hostel if you want to explore the town, or grab some lunch before you ride the leisurely 15 miles to Moro Bay State Park. The park has hiker/biker camping. Since you’ll be getting in fairly early, you could ride into town for dinner or get food from a local market. It is a short ride to the beach where you’ll get great views of Moro rock.
A short ride from the hiker/biker brings you to the water where you can get great views of Moro Rock
The next morning, you’ll ride on HWY 1 with a pretty good shoulder. Before you hit the town of Cayucos, you’ll turn on Old Creek Road, which climbs up to a good view of the Whale Rock Reservoir. A little past the reservoir, you’ll turn on to Santa Rita Road, the gem of the trip. You’ll climb and wind your way up a small range on this beautiful, quiet and lightly trafficked road, passing fields of yellow flowers if your timing is right.
Santa Rita road is a small and lightly trafficked road with great views. It may have some light gravel but is a pleasant ride.
At the right time of year, you may be greeted by yellow flowers on the hill.
When you reach the summit, it is nearly all downhill to the small town of Templeton where you can grab a bite to eat before the short final leg to Paso Robles. Spend a night at Paso Robles and explore its downtown and local wineries. You can hop the Amtrak back to Los Angeles the next day. You’ll have to box your bike, so check in early.
Russ at the Summit of Santa Rita road.
This route is nearly rideable all year round and provides a relaxing bicycle escape from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. View the route on Bikely.