Bike to Mission San Juan Capistrano

Difficulty: Intermediate / Advanced

Distance: 65 miles

Road Type: Paved

Topography: Flat / Rolling

Start Location: Oceanside Pier

Route Description

Make once in a lifetime memories by cycling from Oceanside to San Juan Capistrano.  As an extension to the Bike to San Onofre State Park route, the Bike to San Juan Capistrano route gives riders the opportunity to explore 18 additional miles of South Orange County and provides you with a variety of things to do and see as you end your cycling journey.

The route begins at the Oceanside Pier, passing by the quaint Oceanside Harbor and riding through the natural terrain on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. There is very little traffic as you ride through Camp Pendleton, but riders need to be aware of military vehicles of all types.

As riders exit the North side of Camp Pendleton, you will pass through San Onofre State Beach and San Clemente before reaching San Juan Capistrano.

The City of San Juan Capistrano is a quaint community complimented by the famous Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Los Rios Historic District and a variety of shops and restaurants perfect to explore.

If you don’t feel like riding your bike back to Oceanside, you can also catch the train from the San Juan Capistrano station (via AMTRAK or Metrolink) . More than just a train station, The Depot is a historical treasure with beautiful architectural details.

The difficulty level is ranked at intermediate / advanced due to the distance from Oceanside and the rolling hills that are included along this route.

Important: As you leave Oceanside, you will need to bike through Camp Pendleton to get to San Juan Capistrano. Please note that all visitors to the base, including cyclists, must apply for base access and receive approval before admittance will be granted onto base. Approval can take approximately 7 days. Review Camp Pendleton’s Base Access Procedures. Additionally, a valid photo ID and helmet are required by all riders for entry onto Camp Pendleton. While on base, ride single file, stay on the designated route and strictly observe stop signs and red lights.

Interest Points Along the Route

Oceanside Harbor
Oceanside Harbor is one of the most picturesque locations in Oceanside; offering wide sandy beaches, a Cape Cod-style Harbor Village and a variety of recreational activities such as stand-up paddling, kayaking, boat rentals and boat charters. Visitors are invited to explore the Harbor for unique shopping and dining experiences.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is the largest West Coast expeditionary training facility for many active and reserve Marine, Army and Navy units. Camp Pendleton contains the largest undeveloped portion of coastline in Southern California. (Description Source)

Santa Margarita Ranch House National Historic Site
The Santa Margarita Ranch House is a complex that includes the Santa Margarita Ranch House, the Ranch House Chapel and the Bunkhouse Museum. Historic artifacts at the complex document pre-history through Mission and Rancho periods, the 1942 purchase of Camp Pendleton and reflect the WWII and the Korean War.  See website link for tour information. (Description Source)

San Onofre State Beach
The San Onofre State Beach is a popular California Beach for visitors to take in the scenic views and participate in recreational activities such as surfing, kayaking and swimming. The park has many restrooms and a kiosk at the north end to collect auto parking fees (no charge for cyclists). (Photo Source)

Mission San Juan Capistrano
The 7th of the 21 California missions, Mission San Juan Capistrano invites visitors to enjoy guided and/or audio tours of the grounds, rotating exhibits and historical re-enactments. There are also a variety of daily activities including bell ringing in tribute to Friar Junipero Serra, Native American basket weaving and adobe brick making classes. (Description Source)

Los Rios Historic District
A mix of private homes and local businesses, such as small cafes, gift shops and The O’Neill Museum, this charming and historic neighborhood is a wonderful place to explore and to feel like you are taking a step back in time. Located directly across the railroad tracks from the San Juan Capistrano train station. (Photo Source)

Step-by-Step Bike Route Directions

  • From Oceanside Pier, go north on N. Pacific
  • Turn right onto Harbor Drive South
  • Continue up the hill and veer right to continue onto Harbor Drive
  • Cross under I-5 and to continue on Vandergrift Boulevard (Harbor Drive becomes Vandergrift Boulevard) (carefully merge right through traffic to the shoulder)
  • Enter Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton through the Main Gate (valid ID and helmet required)
  • Continue on Vandergrift and turn left on Stuart Mesa Road
  • Continue on Stuart Mesa Road and turn left onto Las Pulgas Road
  • Exit the base through the Las Pulgas guard station and cross under the railroad tracks
  • Turn right onto Old Pacific Highway Bike Trail
  • Continue on Old Pacific Highway Trail to San Onofre State Beach. The park is approximately 3 miles long and has many restrooms and kiosk at the north end to collect auto parking fees (no charge for cyclists).
  • Continue on old Coast Highway bike/pedestrian path to left at Cristianitos Road
  • Take almost an immediate right on Avenida Del Presidente to Avenida San Luis Rey
  • Go over I-5 and turn left onto El Camino Real
  • Continue onto El Camino Real until it becomes Coast Highway
  • Stay on Coast Highway (or turn left at at Avendia Califia turn right at the next street S. Ola Vista then follow the bicycle route signs) through San Clemente
  • At Camino Capistrano use the crosswalk to access the bicycle path on the west (beach side) side of N. El Camino Real
  • At the end of the trail turn left over the railroad tracks
  • Immediately turn right onto the path into Doheny Beach State Park
  • Stay on Park Lantern until it turns left then crosses the San Juan River
  • Turn left on bike path immediately after crossing the San Juan River.
  • Initially, the bike path heads toward the ocean, then makes a U-turn to go alongside the north side of the San Juan River. Continue to exit left onto Camino Capistrano.
  • Continue straight up the street to Mission San Juan Capistrano
  • Return to the Oceanside Pier by retracing your route OR by taking the commuter train (via AMTRAK or Metrolink) from the San Juan Capistrano station.

Featured images courtesy of Mission San Juan Capistrano