Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful beaches, iconic architecture and award-winning wine country, but it’s also a great place for cycling, with temperatures staying between 50 and 80º year-round.
From the beach to the mountains
There are rides for all types of riders. Bringing the kids? Wanna ride to lunch at the beach? We’ve got you covered.
Make every moment an adventure
Leave the car at home and take the Pacific Surfliner with service from San Diego, Irvine, Santa Ana and Los Angeles.
When you’re not riding you and your vacationing companions can stay downtown near Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants and attractions – ride State Street’s electric shuttle everywhere you need to go – the perfect complement to your sustainable travel vision.
Gateway to the Santa Ynez Valley
Extend your visit with a train ride to Guadalupe to the north. You’ll ride rural, bucolic roads through wine country to Los Olivos, your hub for days of superb riding experiences.
A great morning wake up ride!
You’ll get your heart started – a tidy 16.4 miles long, this ride takes you up 800 feet above Santa Barbara for spectacular views from winding Mountain Drive.
This route is accessible to most cyclists that enjoy a good climb.
At 17 miles long, this ride takes you up 800 feet above Santa Barbara for spectacular views from winding Mountain Drive.
Your descent passes through upscale Montecito’s gated estates, historic hotels, and dining venues. Return to the start past Santa Barbara Cemetery, the Bird Refuge, and East Beach.
On the left: way above the city and ocean, the views are spectacular. On clear days you can see the Channel Islands 25 miles off shore.
Ride counter-clockwise for a more gradual ascent.
photo credit: Jeff Clark
The most iconic and toughest route is up Gibraltar Road.
Gibraltar is home to the spectacular Amgen Tour of California Stage finish in 2016 (where, bonus – the road was recently repaved).
Known by locals as the “Santa Barbara Alpe d’Huez,” Gibraltar is a world-class cycling climb featuring approximately 3,000 feet in elevation gain over the course of 7 miles. Your reward for reaching the top? Expansive, unparalleled views of the Santa Barbara coastline – and well-earned bragging rights.
With grades varying between 7% and 15%, not to mention some technical descents, this ride is best suited for experienced cyclists.
For one of the most scenic routes, begin at the Dolphin Fountain at Stearns Wharf, the oldest working wooden pier in California (that once belonged to Hollywood legend Jimmy Cagney and his brothers). Follow the bike lanes on State Street and take some time to warm up – your climb begins in short order at the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara (known as the “Queen of the Missions” for its exceptional beauty).
While cool coastal breezes abound in Santa Barbara, suffice to say it can get warm 3,000 feet above sea level. Depending on your skill level, climbing Gibraltar can take 40 minutes to over an hour. Be sure to bring two water bottles (on warmer days, perhaps even three) and dress in layers – it can get chilly during the descent!
Looking to test your climbing skills against other cyclists? Enter the Santa Barbara 100 ride in October – which features 100 miles of riding including a time trial up Gibraltar for KOM and QOM status.
If the thought of climbing 3,000 feet is a bit daunting, or if you’re simply short on time, cyclists can ride to the “No Shooting” segment – roughly one-third of the way up, where the road flattens out and the switchback points to the east. Up for a slightly bigger challenge? Try the No Shooting repeats segment on Strava.
Want lunch at the beach?
Try this easy loop ride. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views, great food and beverage!
Your destination is the Boathouse on Hendry’s Beach. There’s lots of bike parking here, a repair station and a pump, too. Refill your water bottle before you depart. After lunch explore the new observatory – stairs behind the restaurant take you to a beautiful lookout.
Every experienced cyclist can enjoy this ride up and over the Mesa. Follow the route clockwise – the climb up Shoreline Drive is the most gradual way to ascend onto the Mesa.
Start from the Dolphin Fountain at Stearns Wharf, heading west on the beach bike path. Beautiful views to your left appear as you climb gradually to Shoreline Park. A left at Cliff drive sends you down to your destination, Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach.
After lunch refill your water bottle then turn onto Las Positas Road at the roundabout then right onto Modoc Road. Once on the westside your route is well signed – you’re on the Crosstown Route. Ride through quiet westside neighborhoods as you make your way to the W. Anapamu Street bike/ped bridge over the 101 Fwy.
Cut over to Victoria Street where several restaurants and bars have popped up in the shadow of the Arlington Theatre. Lastly, turn right onto the State Street bike lane, which will lead you back to the Stearns Wharf.
Goleta Beach Park
Goleta Beach Park
Lunch at the beach?
Let’s ride to Beachside Cafe in Goleta Beach Park.
Explore the Westside
Out and back, from The Dolphin Fountain at the beach, it’s a 20-mile round-trip route from downtown Santa Barbara to Goleta Beach Park, half off-road.
Everyone will enjoy the quiet Obern Trail. You can have a conversation while you ride and you can ride 2-abreast.
Some cyclists won’t want to come back – your destination and the route there are sublime, so take your time.
It’s 20-miles, out and back, from Santa Barbara to Goleta Beach Park. The miles seem to fly by when you’re off-road on the very flat Obern Trail.
Watch for the Vitamin D overdose symptoms – big smiles as you sample food, wine and beer at The Beachside Cafe.
When to go
Go mid-week and depart around 10:30am as the restaurant can get busy at lunchtime.
Budget 3 hours, one to get there, one to linger, and one on the way back – what an afternoon!
History, culture, architecture and produce, too – Santa Barbara has it all and there’s nowhere better to see these sights than on this downtown ride.
This easy, urban (shall we say cosmopolitan?) ride takes you to all of Santa Barbara’s top sights. You’ll work up an appetite as you pedal gently uphill from the harbor, so it seems quite logical to end the route at The Arlington Theatre where you can indulge in dinner and a show.
Family-friendly, suitable for all ages and abilities – this ride will have some huffing and puffing on the final stretch up to the Mission.
Riding with children? Consider an early morning departure to avoid mid-day congestion on city streets.
February marks the beginning of spring at the Santa Barbara Courthouse – it’s when the teacup magnolia trees are in full bloom.
Whatever season you’re visiting you’ll find this landmark worth a long visit. Take the 2pm daily docent guided tour and visit the clock room just below the observatory level where all of Santa Barbara unfolds below.
Start at the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf, pedal up State Street past the AMTRAK Station, under the freeway and as you emerge on the other side turn right on Haley Street then left on Santa Barbara St. and you’ll pass architect Jeff Shelton‘s signature creation, Vera Cruz.
Along this route you’ll pass by the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Handlebar Coffee, The Santa Barbara Courthouse, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Mission, The Natural History Museum, The Alice Keck Park and Memorial Gardens, then last stop at Restaurant Row, Victoria at State Street in the shadow of The Arlington Theatre.
Santa Barbara Sunday Ride
Some rides should start uptown, right? This one does, at the iconic Arlington Theatre.
This has been my favorite route for out of town visitors. Most of the time they’re arriving late, or leaving early, but they’re happy to see the best of Santa Barbara and that means we’re riding bikes.
This route tastes many of Santa Barbara’s most delicious destinations. Do it in an afternoon then return uptown for dinner.
Take your friends – this ride is suitable for all ages and abilities.
Start at The Arlington Theatre and proceed to the County Courthouse – arguably Santa Barbara’s most popular attraction. From the tower you will get your bearings as you overlook all of the city. Moving on, maybe it’s time for coffee, so let’s head straight to Handlebar Coffee for a pick me up. Next we’re heading back to State Street to ride the bike lanes all the way to the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf, turn left along the bike path. Here you’ll enjoy ocean views as you ride at a relaxed pace. Be courteous to the many pedestrians who choose to walk here with you.
If it’s Sunday you’re in for a special treat – the Arts and Crafts Show along Cabrillo Blvd. at Chase Palm Park. Browse these treats as you walk your bike, please.
Next we’re heading to the Marina, but let’s take the scenic route – turn onto Chapala St and spend a few moments exploring this charming neighborhood.
Get back on the bike path and follow it to the Shoreline Beach Cafe where you’ll sit on the sand while washing down a fish taco. Proceed up the hill on the protected bike lane till you reach Shoreline Park. Here ocean views abound. Watch surfers ride the waves at Leadbetter Beach below.
Next you’re retracing a few steps and heading over to City College where spectacular views await.