Coolin' off in Cali:
Eight Great Coastal Rail-Trails in California
The summer heat can be torture by August, and air conditioning can only provide a temporary relief. Eventually, outdoors lovers will, well, want to go outdoors. And when you do, we have the perfect trails for you.
California's Pacific Coast provides an incredible mix of waterfront rail-trails. With crisp winds cruising in from the ocean, and often direct beach access for a quick splash, many of these pathways promise a refreshing alternative to the usual summer slog.
So cool off on these eight California coastal rail-trails and breeze through the worst of August's heat.
Bayshore Bikeway (Silver Strand Bikeway)
This 12.5-mile trail in San Diego County begins at the Coronado Ferry. You'll pass through Tidelands Park right along San Diego Bay, as well as the sandy dunes of Silver Strand State Beach on both sides of the path (the water in the bay is much warmer for swimming). You can hit up restaurants and trailside cafes along the way, or enjoy bird watching at the National Wildlife Refuge. After the trail's end in Chula Vista, you can turn around or complete the loop home on bike lanes through San Diego.
Ferry Point Bike Path
Encircling the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, this 4.75-mile pathway offers a short plunge into history. Along the trail you can see old trains, ferries and troopships from World War II. The artifacts date back to when passengers and freight were shipped to San Francisco, and later when troops set out for duty during the war. Along the trail, you'll find exhibits and information about the region's history.
Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach
When you're in San Francisco and need an escape from the city, you can't beat the Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach trails. The connecting pathways cover 6.8 miles and pass numerous museums, sports fields and botanical gardens. You can start at the corner of Fell and Baker streets and arrive at Golden Gate Park via the Panhandle. Once at the beach, take a left to connect to Ocean Beach Trail, which guides you along the shore to the San Francisco Zoo.
San Francisco Embarcadero
Nearby, another San Francisco trail begins at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and stretches 5.8 miles along the harbor. The former State Belt Railroad tunneled under Fort Mason. Today, the rail-trail travels over the hill at the fort—not through the tunnel, unfortunately—and back down at Chrissy Fields. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, the Aquarium of the Bay and Pier 39 are all along the trail for you to enjoy. The pathway then follows Embarcadero Road up to the end point at South Beach Park.
Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail
This 3.5-mile trail parallels the Pacific Ocean near San Mateo. It affords visitors access to several beaches, including Venice Beach, and all along the route you can observe birds like blue herons, red-tailed hawks and red-winged blackbirds. If you enjoy water sports and crashing waves, pause at Mavericks, a famous surfing spot where waves can reach 50-feet high! On the other side of the trail is an equestrian path. While the ocean views are awfully distracting, don't forget to turn your head sometimes to see the green fields and meadows on the other side of the trail.
Hammond Coastal Trail
In Northern California, the Hammond Coastal Trail provides you with everything a good biking or hiking trip needs. You start at Mad River Bridge, a 1942-built steel structure, from which you are likely to see local marine wildlife such as seals, sea otters and a wide array of bird species. After a short, steep section, enjoy Hiller Park, where you'll find ample beach and ocean views. North of White Widow Creek, the trail descends to sea level. This section can be challenging, but the smooth final segment at Clam Beach County Park is worth the effort.
Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail (Monterey Bay Coastal Trail)
Winding 18 miles along the Monterey shoreline, the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail begins at Pacific Grove, where you'll coast right along the shoreline. You can stop at world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, which features 12 different species of sharks. Afterwards, you can leave the trail briefly to head through Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck's same-titled novel. After passing Fisherman's Shoreline and Wharf, the trail passes the busy Del Monte Road before it gets separated from the street by a eucalyptus forest. From there on, you'll find 10 inland miles before arriving in Castroville.
The Shoreline Pedestrian Bikeway
This five-mile trail in Los Angeles is made up of two bike lanes, a pedestrian lane and multiple restroom and water stations. But this pathway has much more to offer. Head out to the Marina Green Park breakwater, where the trail starts, and cycle along the beach and Belmont Pier to finish at Bayshore Aquatic Playground Park. Along the trail, you'll find a great number of tourist attractions and impressive views, including Long Beach Harbor, the cranes in the port, the beach, San Gabriel River flowing into the Pacific, and a number of oil islands.