About a month ago, I wrote an article highlighting where you can go by way of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train. I thought I would do the same for our local commuter rail, the Metrolink. Instead of doing something similar and telling you where to ride to when you get to each station (many of the stations overlap, so check out the Amtrak article for places to travel to), I am choosing to tell you why the Metrolink should really be considered the transportation of choice if you are traveling out of Los Angeles’ Union Station for a Southern California bike tour.
It Is Cheap
For those bargain hunters out there, you can ride the Metrolink trains for $10 all day on weekends. That means for only $20 a weekend, you can travel anywhere the 5 operating train lines (Antelope Valley, Inland Empire-Orange County, Orange County, 91 and San Bernardino) will take you. Unfortunately, the Riverside and Ventura lines do not run on the weekends. But luckily, you can try the San Bernardino line in place of Riverside and Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner for the locations towards Ventura County.
Did you also know that a Metrolink ticket can be used as transferring fare for any Metro train or bus? That means the $10 you spend coming back to Los Angeles goes further in taking you closer to your home. If you are looking to save some money without needing to drive, I can’t think of any better way to do this than to travel on Metrolink trains on the weekend.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I do not recommend taking the Metrolink on the weekdays. It is super crowded, and you will see ticket prices soar. I would avoid making plans during the weekday unless you absolutely cannot avoid it.
The Metrolink makes things very easy when you’re traveling on a bicycle. Some of the train lines, like the Orange County line, includes an entire car for bikes. That means you can have 6-9 bikes fill up an entire car. Even on cars that are primarily for passenger, they have a dedicated area for 2-3 bikes. This means that you are almost guaranteed to grab a spot for you and your bicycle on the Metrolink during the weekends.
Unlike Amtrak, you don’t need to make reservations for your bike ahead of time. Just pay for your ticket and roll your bike on any car. I prefer to find the bicycle car, so you have a better chance of getting a space.
When it comes to bicycles, the Metrolink rolls out the red carpet. They plaster their cars with huge bicycle art on the outside of their car to tell the public that they are bicycle friendly. It’s quite direct and there is nothing vague about it. They encourage you to bring your bikes for your trips.
Using the Metrolink brings you closer to 3 different types of environment: the coast, the desert, and the mountains. You are presented with plenty of opportunities to bike tour to your favorite environment from Los Angeles Union station.
See the Coast
You can take the Inland Empire-Orange County or the Orange County line to visit the Pacific Coast. Spend your time along the beautiful Orange County and San Diego coast. You will be riding the coast for the majority of the way until you reach the San Clemente station. Enjoy the ocean breeze while you are treated to camping options along the way. The Orange County line is my go-to Metrolink line that I’ve used the most whenever I want a quick overnight trip.
If elevation gains are more of your style, you can take the San Bernardino line and get off starting from the City of Pomona to the last stop to visit the Angeles National Forest. If you’re looking for more mileage and elevation gain, you can get off at San Bernardino and ride up to Big Bear or Idyllwild. Enjoy the crisp mountain air as you make your way into the forest for some lush vegetation and switchback riding. I have not challenged myself with these touring options, but it is definitely something I’d like to do in the near future.
The Antelope Valley line will take you real close to the Los Padres National Forest if you want to explore closer to Ventura County. Camp sites at Castaic Lake and other smaller campgrounds can play host to you for a night or two. My knowledge is limited in this area, but I plan to explore further.
Spend Time in the Desert
Are you more of a desert type of rider? You can hop on either the San Bernardino line or the Antelope Valley line again to visit the desert. The further east that you ride from San Bernardino, the closer it is to the desert. Places like Joshua Tree is just a stone’s throw from the station (maybe not that close). I’ve visited Joshua Tree multiple times, but never by way of Metrolink. I am pretty sure this is a possibility if you break it down to a 3 or 4 day trip (although you may want to take advantage of the cheap weekend fares).
The Antelope Valley line puts you out at Lancaster and Palmdale. This brings you closer to the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. It is still some distance to travel to get to each of those destinations, but it is certainly a possibility. Be sure to travel outside of summer months as that can make the trip difficult with the extreme heat conditions. I personally have not traveled through these stations, but have heard many folks successfully traversing through.
There you have it, 3 big reasons why the Metrolink completely rocks when it comes to bicycle touring out of Los Angeles. Let me take this time to remind you that careful planning to many of these destinations are required. Don’t take this lightly as you may find yourself in remote locations without support or even resources for survival.
Take note of the schedule on the weekend. Some destinations may only have 1 train going out so use Metrolink’s site to find out more about their schedule for each originating locations and destination.
I personally have just scratched the surface when it comes to traveling with the Metrolink. I realize my constraint to only one train line is short-sighted, and I plan on exploring the other train lines in the future.
If you have any experiences using the Metrolink with your bike tours, I would love to hear about your stories. Feel free to share below in the comments. If you have your own blog links, that would be incredible to help shed light for me and the readers here.