L.A. Beach Bike Trail (7/17/13)
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail takes you on an incredible 21.5-mile journey along some of Southern California's finest beaches. It's northern terminus is at Will Rogers State Beach, near Temescal Canyon Road in Santa Monica. To the south, the trail ends at Torrance County Beach, just short of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The entire trail, except for a 3.7-mile jot around Marina Del Rey and a 1-mile bypass of the King Harbor marina at Redondo Beach, is right on the beach. The beaches are all wide, and some of them, quite deserted before noon. Although I guess I had an inkling, I was nevertheless taken by just how much sand there is along this 20-mile stretch. I had visited parts of some of these beaches before, but had never seen every inch of every one of them before.
The trail consists entirely of paved surfaces. Some portions are shared with pedestrians, and some are marked as "bike only," though you're likely to be frustrated if you think that pedestrians will respect the "bike only" markings. This fact will be especially obvious coming through Venice Beach and Santa Monica in the afternoon. Of course, pedestrians must cross the trail to gain access to the beach, so you need to be alert to that in any case. Unless your aim is to "people watch," you will be better off making this trip in the morning hours on a weekday. I did it in July, but I presume wintertime would be less crowded.
I began my trip at Will Rogers State Beach and headed south. Make things easy for yourself and just pay the $9 to park in the beach lot, rather than trying to find an empty spot somewhere along PCH. I entered at the gate at Temescal Canyon Road.
You'll be riding past many sand volleyball courts at the start. In the summer, on weekends, there are sometimes doubles tournaments held here, which can be fun to watch, but don't tarry too long because you've got a 40-mile round-trip ride ahead of you. Along Will Rogers and the following Santa Monica Beach, are several beach cafes, if you need some food or a cup of coffee to get you going.
The first major point of interest that you will come to is the Santa Monica Pier. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and carnival rides, but you don't have time for that, so file it away for future reference, and continue riding the trail as it passes under the pier. After about 6 miles, things really start to get interesting, as you arrive at Venice Beach. Lots of shops, food places, and characters here. The beach trail ends at Washington Blvd. where you have to make a left turn onto the boulevard and follow it for about 0.9 mile before getting onto the bike path around Marina Del Rey. There's a lot of traffic here, but the bike lane is well-marked and pretty wide. Keep an eye out so you don't miss the trail veering off to the right from Washington Blvd. (I have included a picture of what this looks like). The trail is pretty well marked as it juts in and out around the marina, so you shouldn't have any trouble navigating through this beachless portion of the trail. You will eventually join up with the Ballona Creek bike path, heading back toward the beach. This is a long straight-away with water channels on both sides. After about 0.7 mile, you'll arrive at a bridge crossing the channel to your left. Cross the bridge and turn right to rejoin the trail on the beach.
These beaches, Playa Del Rey, Dockweiller, and El Porto, right after the marina are some of the most deserted you will come across on this ride. In the late morning hour when I passed by, there were quarter-mile stretches without a single person. Along here, you'll pass the end of the runways at LAX, where you're guaranteed to see airplanes taking off overhead, and the DWP Scattergood power generating station.
Next up is Manhattan Beach. The people density starts to increase. Soon you'll see the Manhattan Beach pier, but before that, you'll began riding along what is called The Strand. This is a stretch of expensive beach residences in Manhattan Beach and the next city, Hermosa Beach, where the patio furniture looks like it costs more than the furniture in my whole house. The residents seem to be used to the fact that a continual stream of pedestrians and bikers are passing right in front of their homes. A low wall separates the bike path from the patios, so you can see everything going on, even inside the houses. I guess I could put up with it to live at this location.
Hermosa Beach is the next city. Pier Avenue runs into, naturally, the Hermosa Beach Pier. The Avenue is a car-free zone with lots of shops and restaurants, an interesting place to rest, or make your ultimate destination, if you're getting tired. The day I came through, there was a volleyball tournament going on at the end of Thirteenth St., just north of the pier. At one busier spot along here, signs warn you to walk your bike when accompanying lights are flashing. The day I went through, it wasn't required, but if required,