Synonymous with Hollywood, beach bodies, celebrity and Arnie, California is world-famous. But the third-largest US state is much more diverse than one might believe, if media were gospel. Yes, the film and television industry play a large part in the success of the economy and notoriety of this sunkissed Pacific region, but California is more than good looks alone. Beyond the facade lies a land of natural splendour and rich biodiversity, as well as a veritable deluxe platter of options for cycle touring this great state.

Bordering Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, California is home to a multitude of landscapes, culture and climate. Covering over 900 miles from north to south, this thinly stretched state bounds across arid desert, cool mountain ranges, temperate ancient forests and of course, glorious golden coastline as far as the eye can see. Much of the population can be found in the iconic centres of Los Angeles or San Francisco, and what fantastic urban landscapes to explore by bike. Cycle by the Golden Gate Bridge, with views out to atmospheric Alcatraz or tackle the steep streets if you dare! Many diverse and hip neighbourhoods of both cities offer immersive delights to be sampled by bicycle, try Venice Beach to Santa Monica in L.A for cruisey beachside cycling at its finest.

Between San Francisco and L.A lies the central coast region and taking main stage here is 'Big Sur', a rugged, isolated and windswept lashing of coastline, its sparse habitation providing the picturesque antidote to metropolitan madness. This region, bordering the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, offers superb cycle touring of California in the raw and is a pristine part of the country to explore, intentionally restricting development and actively discouraging mass tourism, something you'll note from the lack of restrooms and lay-bys  along the route. In a culture built on consumerism and capitalism, Big Sur is a breath of fresh air, quite literally, in such a prime development spot. Fill your lungs and pedal hard!

From the northern border of California down to Big Sur, the legendary Coastal Redwood trees can be found. Growing to over 100m tall and often 5m wide, there are many places to hike, drive or wander amongst these forest giants as you roam the western reaches. Over on the eastern side of the state, where the great Sierra Nevada mountains reign supreme, you'll find the kings of the land, the Giant Sequoia trees. Not quite reaching 100m in height, these ancient organisms can spread to around 9m wide, making them the most massive tree on earth. They can also live to be 3000 years old. To see and be in the presence of these beauties is a truly remarkable and humbling experience.

Yosemite National Park

Photo by Mihaly Koles on Unsplash

Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site within California, is one place to witness these incredible Giant Sequoias, as well as the teeming natural beauty on display in technicolour. Home to a stunning array of biodiversity and soaring landscapes of immense proportions, Yosemite features colossal waterfalls, epic cliffs and mountains, immaculate lakes and glaciers, all with natural wilderness in abundance. You can experience a slice of Yosemite by bike, although note that this is possible only on roads and paved pathways, no trail or MTB riding is permitted off the marked byways.

Further south still lies the extreme and extraordinary Mojave desert with the inhospitably-named Death Valley within its boundaries. The Mojave desert region actually extends into neighbouring Nevada and Arizona and even further inland to Utah in one corner. Joshua Tree National Park is included in this desert landscape, as are the Joshua trees themselves, with cycle touring a pleasing way to visit sections of this fascinating part of the state. Basing yourself in Palm Springs, you can travel via Coachella out to Bodego Springs and the Badlands by bike. Time it right, or wrong perhaps, and you could find yourself in the midst of the annual sensation bringing revellers to this part of the world in their droves for the seminal Coachella festival. 

For more conventional kicks, California is blessed with a plethora of wine regions lighting up the map, some of the more popular headliners are located just north of San Francisco in Sonoma County with Napa Valley sitting pretty next door. Both are wonderful regions to explore by bike as you sip and pedal your way through exceptional countryside, treating the old taste buds along the way. Wherever your west coast adventure takes you, be sure to spend some time discovering this bountiful state by bicycle from the mountains to the sea.

Best Seasons:May - October
Popular Locations:San Francisco, Big Sur, Yosemite National Park, Mojave Desert