New suburban arterial streets in south Carlsbad and north Encinitas -- nearly every one striped with bicycle lanes -- invite you to take a spin on two skinny wheels. The looping route described here covers 16 miles (though many shortcuts are possible) and should take 1 to 2 hours of riding time. This is a beautiful Sunday early-morning ride, especially in the winter, when the morning sun spills over the mountains to the east and the hushed air retains the chill of the night.
Park near the intersection of La Costa Avenue and Coast Highway 101 in northernmost Encinitas. Roll north on the Coast Highway (which becomes Carlsbad Boulevard) down past South Carlsbad State Beach. Ongoing road construction narrows the northbound lanes through here, but hopefully your early start should make the passage through here safe enough.
When you reach Poinsettia Lane at 1.4 miles, turn right, pass over Interstate 5, and turn right at Batiquitos Drive, 2.2 miles into your ride. Roll down and up several times on Batiquitos, flanked by new houses, passing various access points to the Batiquitos Lagoon shoreline on the right. At 4.6 miles, you reach Aviara Parkway. Turn right there, and right again at El Camino Real, a major intersection at 5.4 miles. Swoop down out of the suburbs and into a patch of open space fronting Batiquitos Lagoon.
At 6.6 miles you'll make a left at La Costa Avenue (major intersection) and start a long and tedious climb up into the coastal hills. Reach Rancho Santa Fe Road at 8.8 miles, turn right, and continue to Calle Barcelona, on the right at 9.5 miles.
Follow the gentle curves of nearly traffic-free Calle Barcelona though a half-completed housing development, and arrive back at El Camino Real, 10.8 miles. Make a left there, glide a short way over to the next intersection (Olivenhain Road on the right, Leucadia Boulevard on the left), and turn right. The brand-new section of Leucadia Boulevard on the right swoops uphill and crosses Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. Make a right just past the golf course on Quail Gardens Drive (12.2 miles). Pedal north on this serene, narrow thoroughfare, enjoying near and distant views of newer and older housing developments covering the coastal hills. Quail Gardens Drive soon pitches downhill on a long, wide curve; make no turns as its name changes to Quail Hollow Drive.
Quail Hollow Drive ends at Saxony Road, 13.6 miles. Turn right and finish the downhill run to La Costa Avenue (14.4 miles). Follow La Costa Avenue west, back to the coast highway in Encinitas, clocking in at just short of 16 miles for the loop you've covered.