After the popularity of the Hike & Brunch post, it seemed natural to pair Orange County bike trails with places to grab a beer afterwards. The good news is that there are bike trails all over Orange County, but for those of us who aren’t wearing branded spandex yet, there are lots of beginner to intermediate options of varying lengths, from the 1.8 mile Quail Hill loop to the full 50 miles of the Santa Ana River Trail roundtrip.
Here are some of the best rides that you can try in Orange County, along with a craft (or maybe just cold) beer to cap your ride with after.
1) Fullerton Loop Bike Trail – 12 miles
The Fullerton Loop bike trail has two key advantages: 1) it starts right in the middle of everything, and 2) despite its urban location, it offers steep climbs and varying terrain. You can make it a 12 mile single loop or tack on a few extra miles as needed.
Your Beer: Grits Fullerton established itself pretty quickly as an excellent brunch spot and they have plenty of craft beers on tap and are open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday. Plus Chef Cody Storts is giving OCExplore readers a bonus: let him know you read this post when you come in after your bike ride, and your first beer is on him! Free beer is valid if you come in straight off the loop, still in your gear and on your bike. (This might be a limited time offer, get on it while it lasts)
2) Quail Hill and Shady Canyon Bikeway – 7.4 miles
Combining the Shady Canyon bikeway (start at the Shady Canyon trailhead) with the Quail Hill loop gets you just about 8 miles and some scenic, wide-open views of the mountains, a tiny lake and developed areas. There are dirt paths, paved roads and bridges, and plenty of variety in the terrain to keep you occupied.
Your Beer: Out of all of Irvine Company’s nearly identical shopping centers, Quail Hill always feels just a little special to me. It’s surrounded by peaceful, undeveloped land and the Shady Canyon park and trails, so grab a beer and sit outside any of the several restaurants at a place that feels decidedly unhurried.
3) Santa Ana River Trail – 25 miles (one direction)
Plan anything from a 5 miler to a 50 miler or more on the Santa Ana River Trail, which is mostly paved, flat and starts in Huntington Beach and ends 30 miles later at the Prado Dam in Chino Hills. This graphic will give you ideas on which ride to take. The Santa Ana River Trail is popular with bikers, joggers and even rollerbladers, so some stretches may get crowded, especially on weekday mornings, but you’ll make up for it on long, quiet stretches of the trail.
We would be remiss not to mention that homeless communities on the trail remind us viscerally of the separation that still exists between those with housing and the estimated 2,000 people in Orange County that go to bed without permanent shelter. (Here’s one local making a difference through art)
Your Beer: There are plenty of places to start or finish your ride and thus tons of beers to finish off your bike ride here, but if you finish in Huntington Beach, then by all means head to Ways & Means Oyster House for a $20 Bucket O’Beers.
4) San Juan Creek Trail – 6 miles
While the trail itself doesn’t have that much scenery, its starting point at Doheny State Beach offers a perfect place to end your ride, and do some leisurely surfing after on the gentle breaks of Doheny. Mostly paved and driving a straight path through San Juan Capistrano, use this guide to extend it to a 10 mile ride.
Your Beer: Where else but the Boneyard Cafe? The prices are totally reasonable for getting a beer and a full meal if you want it right on the sand at Doheny, although it’s mostly bottled and nothing too extensive in terms of selection. But considering your oceanfront, warmed-by-the-firepit views, you won’t want to leave.
5) San Clemente Single Tracks – 5 miles
The San Clemente Single Tracks network of trails is reserved for the more advanced riders, but included here as the most scenic South County option, and you can definitely make this ride longer than 5 miles. There are so many cool features and pieces to this trail, and as Mountain Bike Bill says, you’ll need more than one ride here to figure it all out.
Your Beer: The serious beer menu at HH Cotton’s. Enjoy your beer and bask in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that San Clemente is known for at this new spot.