9 Popular Bike Trails in Santa Barbara

Gorgeous ocean views, diverse terrain and a delightfully mild climate make Santa Barbara an ideal place for a bike ride. With bike trails to suit every experience level and ability, you’ll have no trouble finding the right path, whether it’s taking a leisurely ride along Cabrillo Boulevard, climbing a winding road to a spectacular vista or descending full speed down a single track. Check out these popular bike paths and trails, listed in order of difficulty, to decide which ones to explore first.

Need a bike? No problem. There are many bike rental shops around town with everything from beach cruisers to mountain bikes. Check out Wheel Fun Rentals, conveniently located near Stearns Wharf or Santa Barbara BCycle, to rent electric bikes via docking stations throughout downtown Santa Barbara. Rather ride with a group? Cal Coast Adventures and Energized  Bikes offer daily bike tours throughout the city, while Trek Travel and Backroads offer multi-day cycling adventures.

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Easy Bike Trails

For an unbeatable ocean backdrop and plenty of places to stop along the way, start at the Santa Barbara Waterfront. The following trails originate at Stearns Wharf and Leadbetter Beach, and are considered easy because the paths are flat and paved.

Stearns Wharf to Old Mission Santa Barbara
Beginning at Stearns Wharf (217 Stearns Wharf), take an unhurried ride up State Street to Old Mission Santa Barbara (2201 Laguna Street), an iconic historic landmark dating back to 1786. Along the way, turn right on E. Canon Perdido Street to pass El Presidio Historic Park (23 E. Canon Perdido Street), Santa Barbara’s birthplace. Continue up State Street, toward Old Mission Santa Barbara, and take a right on E. Micheltorena Street to marvel at the lush Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (1500 Santa Barbara Street) or, let the kids loose on the wooden castle playground at Alameda Park (1500 Santa Barbara Street). Back on State Street, continue riding away from the ocean and make a right on E. Los Olivos Street. The Mission will be on your left as you pass Mission Historic Park on your right.
: 3 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Cabrillo Bike Path to Butterfly Beach
The most popular bike path in Santa Barbara, Cabrillo Bike Path, runs from Leadbetter Beach to Butterfly Beach. At approximately 4.5 miles long, paved and flat, Cabrillo Bike Path is a great option for families and easygoing rides. Stop along the way for souvenir shopping at Stearns Wharf or at Chase Palm Park (323 E. Cabrillo Blvd) for a picnic. With the ocean to your right most of the way, you will pass the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd) approximately three miles into the ride. Turn right on Channel Drive and follow the road’s curves until you hit Fairway Road, where you will continue straight and back onto a bike path. As you round the last turn, Butterfly Beach will come into view on your right. Be sure to bring your camera as this ride is as picturesque as a postcard.
Length: 4.6 miles one-way
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Downtown Sights
Experience downtown Santa Barbara on two wheels by riding up State Street with this easy, family-friendly ride. Start at the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf, pedal up State Street past the AMTRAK Station and under the freeway. As you emerge on the other side, turn right on Haley Street. Turn left on Santa Barbara Street to pass Architect Jeff Shelton‘s signature creation, Vera Cruz (519 Fig Ave). Continue on Santa Barbara Street, where you’ll pass Santa Barbara Historical Museum (136 E. De La Guerra Street) and Handlebar Coffee Roasters (128 E. Canon Perdido Street), a locally-owned bicycle themed coffee shop. Make a left onto E. Figueroa Street to observe the Santa Barbara Courthouse (1100 Anacapa Street), and then turn right, back onto State Street. When you hit E. Micheltorena Street, turn right to check out Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (1500 Santa Barbara Street) and Alameda Park (1500 Santa Barbara Street). Back on State Street, continue riding away from the ocean and make a right on E. Los Olivos Street. You’ll ride past the landmark Old Mission Santa Barbara  (2201 Laguna Street) on your left. Finally, when E. Los Olivos Street turns into Mission Canyon Road, make a left onto Las Encias Road, and your next left onto Puesta Del Sol, where you’ll find the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta Del Sol). As you ride back down State Street, toward Stearns Wharf, stop at Paseo Nuevo (651 Paseo Nuevo), a beautiful outdoor shopping mall, to check out the tiled Spanish steps.
Length: 3 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Intermediate Cycling Trails

Gear up with one of these longer, slightly more difficult rides. Refuel along the way by stopping for lunch at one of the recommended spots.

Obern Trail to Goleta Beach Park
Make this ride as easy or as difficult as you desire. Paved and flat with just two gradual climbs, the length is what determines the level of difficulty of this trail. Starting at Stearns Wharf or at the top of State Street, turn left onto W. Victoria Street and then left again onto W. Micheltorena Street to cross El Camino Real Freeway. Once over the freeway, navigate to San Pascual Street, which will lead you to Modoc Road. Follow Modoc Road until you see the Obern Trailhead on your left. Follow the trail until it ends near Sandspit Road, where you’ll find Goleta Beach Park, a perfect half-way point to enjoy an oceanfront view before heading back downtown the way you came.
Length: 10.5 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete with a dirt trail that runs parallel to the paved trail in some places

Mesa to Hendry’s Beach
Start at the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf and head west on the beach bike path. Enjoy beautiful ocean views to your left as you gradually approach Leadbetter Beach. Switch to the street bike lane at the corner of La Marina, gradually climb Shoreline Drive then turn left at Cliff Drive. Continue down Cliff Drive until you see a large parking lot on your left. At the end of the parking lot, you’ll find Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (2981 Cliff Drive),  plenty of bike parking, a repair station and even a pump to fill up your tires. Park your bike and after enjoying lunch, follow the stairs behind the restaurant to the observatory for a breathtaking lookout.
Length: 4.3 miles one-way
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Want a longer route?
After lunch, head back toward Cliff Drive, but make a left onto Las Positas Road. Turn right onto Modoc Road and follow signage for the Crosstown Route through quiet westside neighborhoods. From San Andres Street, make a left on W. Anapamu Street. Cross the pedestrian bridge at the end of W. Anapamu Street and cut over to Victoria Street. Make a right on State Street into the bike lane, which will lead you straight back to Stearns Wharf.
Length: 9.9-mile loop
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete

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Elings Park
Located just a few miles outside of downtown Santa Barbara, Elings Park (1298 Las Positas Road) overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is home to more than nine miles of mountain biking trails. Beginner and intermediate riders should consider hopping on the Elings Loop Trail, a 5.2-mile ride that circumnavigates the park. If you’re in the mood for speed, hop on the Downhill Trail, which cuts through the center of the park, zipping down 220 feet of elevation in 0.7 miles.
9 miles
Trail surface: dirt

Santa Barbara to Ventura
Strong riders will enjoy this classic ride along the ocean and through beach towns like Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria and Mussel Shoals. The length of the ride determines the level of difficulty. Beginners can take a shorter out-and-back approach rather than the full distance. Start at Leadbetter Beach along Santa Barbara’s Waterfront and follow the bike path toward Stearns Wharf. Enjoy ocean views until you hit the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd) when the trail turns inland. Follow Channel Drive past the Santa Barbara Cemetery before turning back toward the ocean. Continue on Channel Drive to Butterfly Beach until you turn inland again and Channel Drive turns into Olive Mill Road. Ride over Highway 101 and make a right on N. Jameson Lane. Follow N. Jameson Lane until you arrive in Summerland. Turn right onto Ortega Hill Road which shortly turns into Lillie Avenue, then Via Real. When you arrive in Carpinteria, make a right onto Santa Ynez Avenue to ride over Highway 101 again before making a left onto Carpinteria Avenue. Eventually, you’ll be riding along the ocean again, through Mussel Shoals, and finally, into Ventura.
Length: 32 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Hard and Advanced Cycling Trails

Only serious cyclists should consider riding one of these unforgettable, but also more difficult, trails. The tight switchbacks and steep climbs on both of these trails pay off with magnificent views at the top.

Old San Marcos Pass / Painted Cave Road
If you love a challenge, climb the winding Old San Marcos Pass and Painted Cave Road for gorgeous panoramic views, but make sure your brakes are in good shape – the ride back down can be dicey. Start at N. San Marcos Road and after three miles, cross Highway 154 onto Painted Cave Road. Follow Painted Cave Road as it grows steeper and steeper, to E. Camino Cielo Road. If you still have energy, turn right on E. Camino Cielo and ride an additional 8.4 miles to Gibraltar Road.
Length: 5.5 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 2,392 feet
Average Grade: 8.3%
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete

Old Mission to La Cumbre Peak (Gibraltar Road)
Experienced cyclists will earn serious bragging rights by climbing this 6.5-mile trail which boasts a 3,000-foot elevation gain. Start at Tucker Grove Park and ride east on Cathedral Oaks, which turns into 192/Foothill Road, to start a 5.8-mile warm up. Turn right onto Mission Canyon Road and once you pass Rocky Nook Park (610 Mission Canyon Road),  turn left onto Mountain Drive, where you’ll start to climb. Stay left to continue on Mountain Drive until Mountain Drive makes a 90 degree right turn and you’ll continue straight onto Gibraltar Road. From there, it’s just 6.5 miles of climbing between you and the top!
Lengths: 12.3 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet
Grade: varies between 7% and 15% with some technical descents
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete

*DISCLAIMER: Biking is an inherently dangerous activity. Please research all trails before embarking, and properly prepare yourself and your group with helmets, ample water, food, medical supplies, and anything else you may need to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.

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