Note: Last time we checked, Butano campsite was shut down due to fire damage indefinitely, sorry ya’ll.
If you’re trying to do a short bike tour out of San Francisco, this route to Butano State Park might be a good one to get away from the city. This particular ride takes you from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach down to Butano State Park Campground via Pacific Coast Highway South, a round trip of 110 miles.
The link to my Strava route is located at the bottom of the page for your reference …
What I’ve realised after not owning a car for 5 years is that in current times there are three different modes for travel. These forms of travel don’t have much deviation in speed amongst humans, and in theory everyone can participate. They are walking, cycling, and obviously any sort of automobile transportation where the deviation becomes even smaller because you have less control of the speed and your movement is dictated by some sort of automobile, which is dictated by the traffic laws of the city and/or state.
Butano State Park is one of my favorite over night rides because of its proximity to San Francisco and its beauty. The campsite is nestled amongst Redwoods within the heart of the park and only 7-10 miles east of Pescadero Beach.
The ride takes off from Ocean Beach and hugs the coast line until you begin to make your way through Daly City neighborhoods via Skyline Blvd where you will encounter a few moderate hills and then a big bomb that sends you down to Pacifica. The ride down PCH 1 heading from north to south will always be a little easier because you’re catching that tail wind.
Once you reach Pacifica there are two ways to go, a quick pass through the corridor before the tunnel (tight shoulder and heavy traffic) or the old hiking/biking trail (Planet of the Apes trail) that goes around the mountain ( way more fun and safe).
First option is : The corridor, a 1 mile stretch with very limited shoulder.
Facing South …
The corridor definitely gets a little tight so keep your pace going and make yourself visible. As you can see in the image above, there is a lot of traffic. In these types of situations it will obviously be more safe to ride with a group of riders only because you will be seen better. If you’re not riding in a group make sure to keep moving and find the balance of using the shoulder and “taking-the-lane“.
The “other” way is via an old hiking/biking trail aka Planet of the Apes trail. The photo below is the entrance to the trail, which starts off at at the end of a neighborhood street. Of course this is my preferred way mostly because it’s way more fun to ride and the views are spectacular. Although, every time I go this way I get a little sketched out because you have to walk your bike through this oddly vegetated area with a fence. Don’t worry, it’s the right way, keep going and make sure to double check your map so that you know you’re on the right path.
I wouldn’t recommend taking this route it if you’re on anything smaller than 28mm sized tires. This trail doesn’t get much maintenance and is scattered with pot holes and missing portions of the trail due to recent landslides.
The trail eventually comes to a fork, go right at the fork, and stay right, when you reach the second fork, go right again. You should eventually drop down onto PCH 1 South via a small farming neighborhood nestled amongst a grove of eucalyptus.
After you drop down off the back road you’re pretty much hugging the shoulder all the way down to Half Moon Bay where you will have plenty of options for food or groceries.
If you’re riding alone, The Happy Taco Taqueria, located right next to New Leaf Market is a great option for lunch that allows you to keep your eyes on your bike. Most of these areas are moderately safe but I would never leave my touring bike locked up with any bags attached. If you must, just walk your bike through the store, but never chance it by leaving it out of sight.
Continuing south via PCH 1 you will pass plenty of beaches including Montara State Beach, San Gregorio and Pomponio, all beautiful and unique in their own way. Eventually you reach Pescadero Beach, which is considered to be the most popular by the locals. The waters in these parts are still very cold, but if you dare you can definitely take the plunge into deep blue during the warmer summer days.
At Pescadero Beach you will go east onto Pescadero Creek Road. To your left you will have stunning views of Pescadero Natural Marsh Preserve (see photos below).
You will quickly reach the main street of Pescadero. The town has a quaint little grocery store, only one, the other grocery actually burnt down a few years back so if you’re on a budget I recommend you stock up at New Leaf Market or Safeway as you pass through Half Moon Bay. The prices are just a wee-bit inflated since all of the competition has been burnt to the ground.
From camp to center of town is about 5 miles so make sure you stock up on food and all other needs before you head into camp.
The bike campsite at Butano State Park can hold at least 6-8 tents. 99.9% of the time the reserved sites will all be occupied if you’re riding over the weekend. That’s the perk of bike camping, it’s reserved for cyclists so it’s always first come first serve.
Butano State Park is run over with families during the weekend so it can get a little loud. My recommendation is to try and land here on a weekday when all of the children are in school and the parents at work :] . Luckily, this evening and the following morning we had peace so the boy’s had themselves a good night of sleep.
The next morning we headed back towards San Francisco. Back tracking towards Pescadero we stopped in at our favorite coffee spot on Main street, Downtown Local. Downtown Local really is local; great coffee, great pastries and great place to park the rigs with a view …
After coffee and pastries, we began our journey back towards San Francisco. The ride back is little more strenuous because you lose the tail wind but the upside is that you can easily ride up into tunnel and bomb the super tight corridor down into Pacifica skipping the hiking/biking trail. From there you’re pretty much back tracking towards the city the same way you came in.
With that being said, I hope this quick over night get a way helps you find some time to relax and find peace in the natural beauty around San Francisco and the Bay Area.
I would rate this tour a 6.5/10 on the difficulty scale, 10 being the most difficult.
Link to my route …