The Santa Ana River Trail has earned its moniker as Orange County’s bicycle highway.
At 30 miles long, it travels through eight cities and connects two counties, completely uninterrupted and carfree. Used by commuters, cycling users, equestrians, and pedestrians, this popular route is one of the most traversed trails in Southern California. Whether you decide to make this a casual, all-day affair, or race through with your local club, the Santa Ana River Trail is a challenging, satisfying bike ride.
Lots of bridges to cross on this ride. No matter what time of the day, or season, the wind is always a factor on this ride. Which way and how hard is it blowing are the perennial questions. As a rule, the wind blowing off the ocean makes the return trip seem like an uphill ride despite the fact that you are riding downhill to sea level. The exception to this is when Santa Ana wind conditions exist and blow offshore, then it is an opposite day. How hard is it blowing? Generally speaking, the earlier you ride, the less wind you will encounter.
Out of convenience, I usually start at the ocean end of the route and try to get an early start. If you want to ride with the wind at your back on the return, consider starting this ride at Yorba Regional Park. For the purpose of the ride log, begin at the intersection of the Santa Ana River Trail with the beach bike path as it loops downhill under Pacific Coast Highway. Be alert when entering and exiting here as pedestrian traffic can be heavy, especially in the summer.
At 2.40 miles, cross the pedestrian bridge to follow this ride or else you will find yourself passing over gravel paths and a more difficult crossing upriver. There are countless parks and green spaces along the way, including Talbert Nature Preserve which is crisscrossed by trails best suited to mountain biking or hiking. With over 170 acres, the preserve is divided into zones that reflect the various changes along the river, from marshes to grasslands. At the turnaround is Yorba Regional Park with miles of shaded bike paths and manicured green spaces.
For those looking for an even greater challenge, the Santa Ana River Trail does continue on for another seven miles.
How to Get There By bus, OCTA route 1 and 33 both make stops at the Huntington Beach State Park, near the start. By car, take Pacific Coast Highway to the Brookhurst Street and turn into Huntington Beach State Park. Turn left upon entering and drive to the most southerly parking lot.
Food and drink
While there are a number of parks along the route to re-fill water bottles, there is no easily accessible dining option. Near the ride’s start is colorful Main Street Huntington Beach, and in the other direction, you will find options along Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.
46.419 km / 28.843 mi
245 m / 805 ft
121 m / 397 ft
137 m / 451 ft