Discover why Monterey, CA Is Heaven On Earth for Cyclists
Is there such a place as Heaven on Earth? For many people, including cyclists, Monterey County on California’s central coast might be that place.
Its scenic beauty has adorned thousands of postcards, calendars, and tabletop books, and its weather ranges from comfortable to glorious year-round, with an ideal 70 degrees the average high in summer and rain nearly unheard of from May to October.
West coast historic sites, enticing eateries, touristy delights, and some great bike routes round out the perfection.
Go For a Scenic Cycling Tour
The city of Monterey and neighboring cities Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea enchant visitors and beckon to cyclists.
Photo courtesy of SeeMonterey.com
Hotels, motels, and inns abound in this world-famous, tourist-oriented area, but for those driving in for the day, centrally located parking lots and structures offer immediate access to key bike paths and provide a perfect starting point for bike rides.
Points of interest include historic Cannery Row and its world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lovers Point Park, Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pebble Beach golf courses, and idyllic 17-Mile Drive which meanders along the coastline between Pacific Grove and Carmel.
Photos courtesy of SeeMonterey.com
How much of this can be enjoyed by bicycle, though?
Thanks to the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail and 17-Mile Drive which follow the water’s edge for miles and offer countless vistas, cyclists have access to all of the attractions listed above and can sightsee as well or better than those in vehicles and on foot (be prepared to share the Rec Trail with pedestrians, surreys, and other bicycles). In fact, once cyclists reach 17-Mile Drive, a private road and one of the world’s most scenic wonders, they have the advantage – free entrance while vehicle drivers must pay a toll.
Photo courtesy of SeeMonterey.com
Here’s a way to get as many as 50 miles, out and back, with breathtaking views every pedal stroke of the way and only occasional need to shift down a gear or two for mild climbs:
- From the town of Marina, just north of Monterey, ride the Rec Trail along beaches and past towering sand dunes into Monterey with its myriad tourist attractions (use caution around sightseeing tourists!).
- Continue on to Pacific Grove’s picturesque Lovers Point where the Rec Trail returns you to roads with ample shoulders, and make your way along Ocean View Boulevard and Sunset Drive to the north entrance of 17-Mile Drive.
- Once on this private road, you’ll encounter Pebble Beach’s multiple golf courses, more mind-boggling ocean views, and probably a few tranquil deer. You can even grab a bite to eat at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
- Continuing on 17-Mile Drive brings you to the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which seamlessly blends high luxury with quaint charm. This is another chance to dine, or continue just south of town to Carmel River State Beach, which has public restrooms.
- Only about three miles farther south along Highway 1 you’ll reach spectacular Point Lobos State Reserve, also with free admission for bicycles.
Bike Rental Monterey
Need to a rent a bike while you’re in town?
Hybrid and cruiser bikes can be rented from multiple locations in the heart of the area for about $10 per hour or $25 for a half-day, while tandems and e-bikes run $20 per hour or $50 for a half-day.
Below are some of the best places to rent a bike.
Need More Challenge? Join A Group Ride.
Velo Club Monterey welcomes anyone to join them and offers advice on a variety of routes.
“For visitors, unless they’re super-high-powered cyclists, we recommend our 31.5-mile Saturday morning ride which starts at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and takes riders to Pebble Beach,” says the club’s president, Mark Kaufmann. “We do offer faster, more competitive rides, but those aren’t ideal for anyone who isn’t familiar with the area.”
However, if you are a strong rider and want another chance to join up with the club, try their Tuesday morning “No Real Job” ride, which also begins at Fishermen’s Wharf and takes riders on a 31-mile route through the old Fort Ord property (a former Army base) out toward Laguna Seca Raceway and includes some hearty climbing.
“For this one, you need a road bike and to be able to climb, as there’s a two-mile climb that’s fairly steep at the top,” says Kaufmann. “This ride can draw 20 or 30 riders, and we always regroup along the way. Riding on the former Fort Ord property is great because it’s closed off to vehicles with the exception of some rangers, security, and work trucks.”
If you’re still looking for a challenge, try the club’s 26-mile Jack’s Peak route, a loop which begins at Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf and takes riders uphill to Jack’s Peak Park, back down through Carmel, out past Point Pinos Lighthouse, and includes almost 2,300 feet of climbing.
Photo courtesy of SeeMonterey.com
For anyone interested in riding with Velo Club Monterey or trying these routes on your own, bring your own bike or rent a carbon road bike from Work Horse Bicycles in Monterey.
Here are the routes:
- Saturday Morning ride route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/12199644
- No Real Job ride route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/12213013
- Climbers route to Jack’s Peak & Aguajito Rd.: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/15805657
Visit Monterey During Sea Otter
Monterey County is home to the world’s largest bicycling festival, the Sea Otter Classic, held each April at Laguna Seca Raceway. Launched in 1991, this four-day festival and exposition brings together hundreds of vendors and thousands of bike enthusiasts, including 10,000 pro and amateur athletes and 70,000 fans, and offers multiple cycling races and events for road cyclists and mountain bikers.
Photo courtesy of SeaOtterClassic.com
As a spectator, Sea Otter is a lot to take in. A map of all 450-plus vendor booths helps with navigating. Wear comfortable shoes, and if you’re a shopper, prepare to carry your haul – deals, discounts, samples, and freebies abound. The bike industry is represented by suppliers of sports nutrition and the latest in kits, shoes, and helmets to companies promoting cutting-edge bikes, components, and more.
If you’d like to race, Sea Otter offers everything from cross-country, downhill, and dual slalom races for mountain bikers to road, circuit, and criterium races for road cyclists, both pros and amateurs.
If you’d like to ride but not race, sign up for the Gran Fondo Carmelo, Gran Fondo Pacifico, Mountain Bike Tour, or Gravel Grinder Tour.
Jennifer von Geldern writes for numerous publications on a variety of business and recreation topics. She feels her road bikes are family, and enjoys cycling throughout Northern California on club rides and paid centuries and metric centuries.