Six Sensational Bike Trails in The South Bay and Coast
By Kathy Chin Leong

As soon as our kids could walk and talk, we decided that bicycling was a good way to get everyone outdoors and exercising while enjoying scenery at the same time. We discovered that the Bay Area is rife with excellent bicycle paths, separated from the main throes of traffic.

We didn’t have to worry that we’d become roadkill, and thanks to bicycling proponents, taxpayer dollars, and the support of city officials, everyone can have access to free, paved trails safe enough for tricycles, beginning bicyclists, and bike trailers. Here’s a list of six proven favorites:

Coastside Trail, Half Moon Bay : We have biked here several times as a family, and once  with a motley crew of five families, enjoying every cycling minute. This scenic 3-mile trail parallels the length of four beaches with plenty of  coastal access segways.  It runs from the pick up at Francis Beach to the termination point at Mirada Road. 
Flat and easy to tackle, the trail lures enthusiasts to scenic vistas with sand, water, fishing boats, and surfers galore. It cuts through the tiny village of Pillar Point where you can stop and partake in a steaming bread bowl of clam chowder. Note that it can get windy in this part of town, so bring light jackets that you can put on at a moment’s notice. For more info, look up www.penbiped.org/easy-rider.html or www.parks.ca.gov .

Monterey Recreation Trail : Some 14.7 miles of glassy smooth trail sailing carries you from Sand City to Monterey to Pacific Grove in a continuous paved stretch. On a clear day, you can bike forever. Be forewarned that best times to go to Monterey are in the spring and fall for sunny days.  Cyclists also share the road with roller bladers, baby strollers, and pedestrians. So relax.

The path not only outlines beaches, but goes past the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Premium store outlets. A favorite stop is by the wharf where you can listen to music, visit with the dancing monkey, and meander through the various knick-knack shops and candy stores. See www.montereyinfo.org or www.trailcenter.org for more details.

Los Gatos Creek Trail, Los Gatos: This woodsy stretch involves both hills and flat surfaces, slicing through Campbell, Los Gatos and San Jose.  Kids learning to ride can join up on the paved part of the trail near Vasona Park. 

The section along Vasona is flat, but interesting. Your children can visit the Billy Wildcat Railroad at neighboring Oak Meadow Park and expend more energy on the play structures. Bring a sack lunch for picnicking.  See http://pages.prodigy.net/rhorii/lgcrktr3.html .

Shoreline Park, Mountain View : Everyone loves Shoreline Park for its windsurfing, paddleboating, kiteflying, roller blading, and yes, bicycling. It is always windy here, so make sure those baseball caps are on securely. This is a nice 7-mile ride along the natural marshes to enjoy views of egrets and avocets. Be on the look out for herons, rabbits and other small animals. Lots of interpretive signs explain ecological concepts throughout the park. Look up www.ci.mtnview.ca.us/citydepts/cs/shoreline.htm .

Sawyer Camp Trail, San Mateo: The 6-mile trail itself winds along the Crystal Springs Reservoir, where the water sparkles like diamonds in the noonday sun. Deer and rabbits are often visible. Picnic tables beneath shady trees are a welcome respite, and riders should prepare for the steep hill towards the end of the trail.

At the 3.5 mile point, cyclists wind up in the Jepson Laurel area where the oldest and largest California bay tree stands with a commanding presence. It is not surprising that this hidden jewel is the most popular among those in the San Mateo County Park System. One popular pickup point for the ride is on Skyline Boulevard near Black Mountain Road off Hwy 280. See www.bahiker.com/southbayhikes/sawyercamp.html for more information.

Sunnyvale Baylands Park, Sunnyvale : Teaching your kid to ride a bike? Sunnyvale’s newest park, Sunnyvale Baylands, is ideal for tykes to practice balancing and pedaling. The one-mile circular loop is great as you pass play structures and jungle gyms. This spot is perfect for your 4-year-old learning the ropes.  The entire park boasts over 70 acres, and features clean bathrooms, giant play structures, and enough of a breeze for successful kite flying. Call 408/730-7751 or log onto www.ci.sunnyvale.ca.us/baylands .

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WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO…

*Inflate bike tires and tote pump with you.
*Bring water bottles.
*Wear well-fitting helmets at all times.
*Bring a bike lock if you are going to stop somewhere.
*Wear sunglasses on a neckchain or loop.
*Strap on a bike bag to carry water, lunches, and miscellaneous gear.
*Have one parent ride in front of the kids and another behind the children for safety.
*Take frequent water breaks during your ride.

NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES :
Sunnyvale Baylands Park – www.ci.sunnyvale.ca.us/baylands
Sawyer Camp Trail, San Mateo - www.bahiker.com/southbayhikes/sawyercamp.html
Shoreline Park, Mountain View - www.ci.mtnview.ca.us/citydepts/cs/shoreline.htm
Coastside Trail, Half Moon Bay - www.penbiped.org/easy-rider.html
Monterey Recreation Trail - www.montereyinfo.org or www.trailcenter.org
Los Gatos Creek Trail -  http://pages.prodigy.net/rhorii/lgcrktr3.html

Kathy Chin Leong is editor of BAFT and frequently writes for Bay Area Parent. 

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