Should You Bike the 17-Mile Drive or Stay Home?

The Lone Cypress on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California - Should You Bike the 17-Mile Drive?
[The Lone Cypress Tree, which suspiciously doesn’t look THAT lonely with another tree right next to it]
COVID-19 Update: The 17-Mile Drive is CLOSED July 3-5, except to residents or people with confirmed hotel, spa, restaurant, or golf reservations. Beaches, beach parking, and turnouts in the Del Monte Forest are CLOSED to everyone. The 17-Mile Drive will reopen on July 6.

The 17-Mile Drive is located in the very pretty (and very expensive) area of California called Pebble Beach. It stretches between the towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel, and is close to the larger town of Monterey. And, of course, has lots of beautiful coastal views!

Most people drive it (hence the name “17-Mile Drive), but what is it like to bike? Here’s what you need to know about biking the 17-Mile Drive!


A beach, house, and flowers on my bike ride through the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California

The fee is $10.50 per vehicle, but if you want to bike in, it’s free!

However, finding parking outside of the 17-Mile Drive can be difficultΒ as most places nearby require a permit to park. My dad tried to tell me where he’d parked before, but we somehow ended up in a hospital parking lot where we weren’t sure if we were allowed to be.

However, you can also try to park for free on the dirt shoulder part of the road before you hit the entrance, or along Sunset.

We just took the easy way out and just paid to park inside, at the Spanish Bay parking lot, and began our journey there.

If you do manage to find parking outside the fee area, note that you have to bike up/down a decent-sized hill to get in. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty happy we didn’t have to walk back up it after the ride as we were pretty tired!

Two smiling girls with bike helmets on their bike ride along the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Here we are, lookin’ like total newbs. Just imagine this, but next to a bunch of people in nice dresses etc.; the restaurant dress code said “resort casual” and we at least fulfilled the “casual” part!]
BUT, if you eat at one of the restaurants you can get your gate fee reimbursed if you spent over $35 (which is pretty easy to do because everything is pricey here.) And bring a change of clothes. We spontaneously decided to go to a restaurant, but hadn’t brought an extra set of nicer clothing so we ended up looking like peasants in our biking gear among the rich and fancy people.

We ate at The Bench in Pebble Beach and I’m sure we spent over $35 but didn’t know we could get our parking fee refunded! D’OH.

I’d definitely still recommend The Bench, though, as you can sit outside and stare at the beautiful coastal views. And no, I’m not getting paid to say this lol (but shoot, I wish I was) but their food was BOMB, too. We got the butter lettuce salad, margherita flatbread, and a cocktail and shared it all (because we ballin’ on a budget bb!)

A beach and flowers on my bike ride through the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Okay so this doesn’t really have anything to do with these couple paragraphs but pictures that break up the text are a good idea]
There was also a traditional Scottish wedding going on while we were, complete with bagpipes (!!!) so it was quite an exciting dinner.


Ocean sunset with a lone tree in the background seen on a bike ride along the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
So no, you can’t sneak in at midnight. The 17-Mile Drive is open from sunrise to sunset and gates are manned 24/7.

That said, I’d highly recommend staying until sunset if you can because SUNSETS ARE LIFE!


Pink ocean sunset on a bike ride along the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Go later in the evening for views like this!]
Like, avoid the 17-Mile Drive on a weekend, in the middle of the day, and in summer. Especially if you’re biking, since the bike lane pretty much disappeared once you finished the coastal section of the road, which can be really annoying if there’s lots of traffic. It can get really busy with all the cars and huge busloads of tourists!

Just as an FYI, traffic tends to build up right before The Lone Cypress Tree because everyone and their mom and their mom’s mom wants a photo of it for Instagram. And this, unfortunately, is where the bike lane all but disappeared so we had to stop pedaling and walk in the grass.

I’d recommend visiting in the morning, later in the evening (I feel like the most traffic is between 10AM and 5PM), and on a weekday in fall/spring/winter.

But, if you go before 9AM in the morning or after 5PM in the evening on a weekend, even in summer, I think you’ll be fine! However, in the morning, you’re the most likely to get fog, so if you want to avoid that go in the afternoon/evening.

We went smack in the middle of the day on a weekend, so it wasn’t the BEST time…


There are a few different gates to choose from, but I’d recommend starting at the main gate off Highway 1. This will make it easier to go along the route with the map!


Cypress trees along a road during a bike ride on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[So pretty but there are NO BIKE LANES in this section leading to the Lone Cypress Tree which kinda sucks]
The coastal section going from Spanish Bay towards the Lone Cypress has amazing bike lanes!

But once you turn the corner, leave the coast, and head into the forest towards the Lone Cypress Tree, the bike lanes pretty much disappear. So, just keep that in mind!

There were times when my friend and I had to get off our bikes and walk in the grass beside the road (looking at you, Lone Cypress) because the traffic had built up and there was no space for us to get by the cars.


Bike Route Map on the 17-Mile Drive in California
[Our route along the 17-Mile Drive – you can see the drive itself continues above the point “The Beach” but it looks like it’s mostly inland]
So, we spent too much time at dinner (because we were so enthralled with the wedding lol) and ended up just taking a short cut on Forest Lake Road instead of finishing the whole 17-Mile Drive.Β You can see our route on the map above.

However, I don’t think we missed much since we had finished the coastal section, and it looked like it was mostly forest and houses in the inland section from what we could gather. So, pretty much the same scenery that we saw along Forest Lake Road.


A girl on a bike with the ocean behind her on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Layer up kids! Even though it looks warm here, it was windy AF.]
Just because it’s in California doesn’t mean you’ll get good weather! The coast, especially in Northern California, can often be foggy and cold. We were lucky and treated to nice weather but it was still super windy. Like, I almost got blown off the road a few times lol.

So, make sure you check the weather, and even if it seems like it’ll be warm bring layers! It can get very cold very quickly in the evening.

Even if you decide to go in summer, again – check the weather!! The coast is fickle and you can get beautiful sunny days in winter and rainy days in summer.


Squirrels in Monterey, California
[These baby squirrels were so adorable! This was in May, so it was babies abound]
Omg, don’t even get me started. If you’re a wildlife lover like myself def bring a good pair of binoculars because you’ll see birds and seals and maybe even otters or dolphins!!!!

We saw otters playing in the surf near the Lone Cypress Tree, Pelicans, Cormorants, and SO. Many. Gulls. And an adorable ground squirrel family, too.

I also enjoyed the different habitats you see on the 17-Mile Drive – the coast and the forests of pines and cypress trees. And all the nice ass houses. We rode past a school at one point, and I was just like, what in the world must it be like to go to school and get your learn on in such a pretty, perfect place??


The Lone Cypress Tree on a cliff overlooking the ocean during a bike ride on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[The Lone Cypress is really not THAT lonely I feel like. But anyway this is where we saw one of the Sea Otters!]
You can either grab a map at the entrance, or look at the online one here. Here are some notable stops you may want to check out:

  • The Lone Cypress, duh
  • Seal Rock
  • Bird Rock
  • Spanish Bay


A pink and white road bike on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[My trusty steed]
So, we brought our own since we were just driving from San Jose, but you can also rent bikes nearby. Seems like Pacific Grove Adventures has some good options, and you can even rent e-bikes, too!

The going rate seems to be $25 for a half-day, and $35 for a full-day.

A girl on a bike drinking water from a CamelBak hydration bladder with the ocean behind her on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Stayin’ safe with our helmets and hydrated with our water]


My friend and I didn’t find biking the 17-Mile Drive THAT difficult, but the wind really can make it a lot tougher that it should be.

There are also some hills, but we don’t bike very often and we were fine. Expect about a 900 ft change in elevation overall, though.

And if you do get tired, there are lots of beautiful places to stop and rest!


It really is a damn beautiful bike ride, and if you don’t end up paying to park it’s free, so – you can’t really complain!

However, the crowds really can be ANNOYING. Like, you may be riding alongside huge tourist buses if you go during peak season between 10AM-5PM.Β So just something to keep in mind.


The Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Trail might be another good option if you don’t want to deal with the crowds you may encounter on the 17-Mile Drive. It’s 29 miles, and you get a good glimpse of the change of scenery between Castroville (lots of ag fields) and the coastal views of Monterey.

This article breaks down some good sections of The Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Trail bike trail, and gives you a few other ideas, too. Just a disclaimer that I have done absolutely none of these rides but I hope they’re awesome if you do try them. Can’t go wrong with biking along the coast, though, I think.

But this experience just reminded me that I NEED TO DO MORE BIKE RIDES. I LOVE BIKE RIDING SO SO SO MUCH.

Scenery along the 17-Mile Drive near Monterey, California

One day I’d love to do a longer distance bike ride in which I camp in between or stay in cheap accommodation/with friends for a week or something (I feel like that’s called something specific but I’m blanking off the top of my head. A bike tour, maybe?).

There’s something about knowing you’re doing it yourself (I mean the bike is helping, but you know what I mean), and not relying on a car, and there’s the wind rushing by, and the sunshine on your face, and the struggle, and the feeling of absolute and whole-hearted accomplishment at the end of each day.

The 17-Mile Drive just wasn’t enough (although for us, it was more like 13 miles LOL).

A beach and flowers on my bike ride through the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
When I was in Belgium, I met these two guys in my hostel that were biking all throughout Europe for a few months, and either camping or staying in a hostel each night. I thought that was BADASS. And such a good work out, too. Like nothing could mess with my legs after that.

Something just appeals to me about long distance (but not too long lol, we’re talking like a couple of months max) hiking and biking. It all just seems so glamorous (even though I know it’s really not lol) and romantic – the notion of doing it yourself, of getting from point A to B by your own volition. And struggling but growing and just feeling more WHOLE, if that makes sense.

Every time I spend time outdoors, I feel like I get to know myself better, I become more grounded, I’m reminded of what’s really important, and I feel so free.

A beach, house, and flowers on my bike ride through the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
[Another super beautiful view and more breaking up the text shenanigans]
Okay, so that was a total digression, BUT. Do you have the same crazy urge that I do? And if so, where do you want (or did you) to go? Let me know in the comments, because I’m dying to do something of the sort and always looking for awesome places to go.

And let me know if you end up biking the 17-Mile Drive, and what your thoughts were!

And while you’re at it, why not head to SLO to see the Madonna Inn or some of my other favorite California destinations? Might as well πŸ˜‰


Biking the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California - All you need to know!

Biking the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California - All you need to know!

Biking the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California - All you need to know!

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20 thoughts on “Should You Bike the 17-Mile Drive or Stay Home?

  1. I cycled the 17 mile Drive with my boyfriend on a tandem and it was spectacular! The views were breathtaking! I highly recommend cycling this scenic ride.

    1. Ok, I should really get to biking it on a tandem bike! Seems to be quite a popular thing! Glad you enjoyed it πŸ™‚

  2. Nice! Cycling in sounds like the perfect way to see the area slowly as you arrive. It looks like SUCH a pretty region. At not too hilly for a cycle!

    p.s. What were the squirrels doing on the beach? I don’t think I have ever seen babies on the ground like that, rather than up a tree!

    1. Yes, I think cycling is definitely an awesome way to see the area πŸ™‚ It’s nice to feel the fresh air all around instead of being cooped in a car! Although, sometimes it was not as nice when it got super windy haha.

      There are two different types of squirrels in California (and probably other places but idk haha): ground squirrels and tree squirrels. Ground squirrels live in burrows in the ground, while tree squirrels live in trees. πŸ™‚ So, those were ground squirrels!

  3. Awesome post! I’ve driven the 17-mile stretch but riding a bike through would be extra fun! Will definitely choose this option next time. Great tips on eating at the Bench and bringing a change of clothes! 😁

  4. This looks like a bit of work, but worth it for the views. Love your pictures. A friend of mine at work also loves cycling and biked through Europe last year for 6 weeks. That’s something I’d love to do for sure, but maybe I should start with a trip like this and work up!

    1. Wow, your friend’s trip sounds amazing – I’d love to do a bike trip like that! Idk if I could do it for all 6 weeks, but would love to for like a week or something. And yes, you can def start small and see how you like it!

  5. This seems really fun! I’m a bike commuter, so I ride every day but always in the city. I’ve always wanted to use my bike more for recreation but I’m so intimidated by going out on my own in a new place! This seems relatively easy though so it would be a good first bike trip.

    1. Ohhh I miss that – I used to bike everywhere in college! Tt wasn’t really a big city though. I’d be terrified to bike somewhere like San Francisco!

      And yeah, I feel you – it’s hard to know what the bike lanes will be like etc. before you go! I can get a little intimidated about that, too.

  6. I lived in the SF Bay Area for almost 30 years and always loved visiting this spot a few times a year. Not sure I would be brave enough to bike it, that is pretty impressive – not the distance, but the weather which unpredictable and the cars – tourists looking at homes and places to park don’t always watch out for bikers. But I will attest it is a great way to see the drive!

    1. It’s such a beautiful place! I totally took it for granted growing up in San Jose. And yeah, the weather can definitely be a pain sometimes, that’s for sure. And the tourists can be, too, that’s why if I were to do it again I’d go on a weekday or early in the morning!

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