Here's part 2 of my Summer Transit HOWTO series. We've already covered Amusement & Water Parks in part 1, but if you're looking for a day trip with a little less artificiality (and a lot less of an admission fee), you've come to the right place. In many cases, the entrance fees you pay at regional and state parks apply only to automobiles, and pedestrians and cyclists are admitted free. In others, you pay a significantly reduced fee. With that in mind, let's take a look at some car-free outdoor recreation activities.
As with last time, all directions are from downtown Riverside.
The simplest way to get to the beach is by taking the beach train. Once a popular specially-chartered service funded by RCTC, Metrolink has integrated the beach train into their regular service. Two trains daily each morning will take you down to either San Clemente or Oceanside along the IE-OC line, and two trains daily each afternoon will return you back to Riverside. The beach stations are both within a block or two of the sand. Even better, on weekends Metrolink offers the Friends and Family Four Pack, which allows a group of up to 4 people to travel all day for just $29, so long as they travel together. It goes without saying that you can ride the regularly-scheduled IE-OC line to San Clemente or Oceanside on weekdays as well, though note that the San Clemente Pier is not served on weekdays- you can catch the OCTA 191 from the San Clemente station to the beach.
Of course, Southern California is flush with beaches, and perhaps neither San Clemente nor Oceanside fit your needs. Newport Beach is accessible on one very, very long bus trip. Take the 216 to the Village at Orange and catch a southbound OCTA 71, which will take you all the way there. Once at the coast, of course, you can catch the OCTA 1, which travels up and down Pacific Coast Highway, giving you the choice of nearly any beach you can think of in Orange County. You can also reach Huntington Beach by taking the train to Buena Park station and riding the OCTA 29 all the way to the end. The best route to Laguna Beach is via the Santa Ana Metrolink, which you can reach on the IE-OC line, and then the OCTA 83 to Laguna Hills Mall and the OCTA 89 to the beach.
If Orange County isn't your style, Venice Beach in Los Angeles is accessible to you as well, as is Santa Monica. For Venice, take the Metrolink to Los Angeles Union Station (on weekends, take the IE-OC south and transfer at Orange for the OC line, or take the Omni 215 to San Bernardino and catch the San Bernardino line) and catch the Metro 733 Rapid from Patsouras Transit Plaza at Union Station. For Santa Monica, catch the Red or Purple line subways from Union Station to Wilshire/Vermont and catch a Metro 720 or 920 Rapid. (Make sure the bus is headed all the way to Santa Monica- this route often short-turns in Westwood.) For Hermosa Beach or Redondo Beach, ride the 91 Line (or IE-OC and OC Lines, with a change in Orange, on the weekend) to Norwalk Metrolink, then take a Norwalk Transit 4 to Norwalk Green Line station. Take the Green Line to Mariposa station, and catch a Metro 232 down PCH to Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach, or Torrance Blvd. in Redondo Beach. For Long Beach, take the Metrolink to Union Station, followed by a Red or Purple Line subway to 7th/Metro Center and a Blue Line train all the way south to 1st Street. Walk south on Long Beach to Ocean, and then east on Ocean to 1st Pl., where you can find public access to the city's namesake beach.
Riverside is brimming with abundant hiking and cycling facilities. For those who want to start getting in shape, a gentle walk up Mount Rubidoux near downtown is in order. From the downtown terminal, just walk west on University towards the mountain, turn left at Brockton and right at 9th street, and keep walking until you see the park gate on the left. Experienced hikers can also enjoy some of the many more challenging dirt trails that lace the mountain- for one, instead of turning left at the main park entrance, keep walking up 9th street until you see wooden steps in front of you.
For a more challenging hike, with more rewarding views, try hiking to the large C on Box Springs Mountain. The direct trail leaves from Islander Park at the end of Big Springs Rd.- take the 10 to Big Springs & Mt. Vernon and walk west on Big Springs past the municipal pool. The trails begin on the left. Be careful when crossing the railroad tracks.
Trails criss-cross the vast and undeveloped Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. One trailhead is available on Central Ave. just east of Canyon Crest Dr.- take the 16 to Central at Canyon Creek Apts. and walk east on Central to the trailhead. Another access point for public transit patrons is available at the end of Barton Rd. in Mission Grove. Take the 1, 14, or 15 to Magnolia and Beatty, and then take the 20 to Alessandro and Barton. Walk north on Barton to the trailhead.
To get better connected to the river in Riverside, try visiting Martha McLean- Anza Narrows Park. Take the 12 east to Jurupa & Grand, then walk east on Jurupa- the park will be on your right. The river bottom is wild and accessible here, and numerous trails cross it. Also, the last time I visited a picnic bench was placed squarely in the river itself, offering a unique dining opportunity. Note: Unlike most parks, this one (and possibly all RivCo parks) charge pedestrians and cyclists for day use. The fee is $2, doesn't apply to entry before 9:00 AM, and can be avoided by taking the Santa Ana River Trail into the park instead.
If you're looking for water, but not the salt variety, Lake Elsinore is always an option. Take the 22 to the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center. If you'd like to go swimming, take the 7 to Graham & Lindsay and walk south on Lindsay to Elm Grove Beach. If you'd rather go boating, take the 8 to Riverside Dr. in front of Lakeside High School and cross the street to Lake Elsinore Marina and RV Resort. Motor boats and jet skis are available to rent.
There is one option for camping in the local area that is somewhat transit-accessible. The Rancho Jurupa campground in Rubidoux is along the Santa Ana river bottom, and is about a mile's hike in from the nearest bus stops. Take 49 to Mission & Crestmore and walk down Crestmore to the park entrance, or take 29 to Limonite and Riverview and walk down Riverview to 46th, then turn left on 46th and walk to the park entrance. Campsites aren't cheap, but they do include full hookups, cable TV and wireless internet. Primitive camping is available according to the park web site, but very little information is available online. You can contact Riverside County Parks at (800) 234-7275.
If you're up for a bit of a hike (2.2 miles), you can also enjoy Lake Perris State Recreation Area, with camping, boating, hiking, swimming, fishing, and basically anything else you can expect to do outdoors (except mountain biking- bicycles are restricted to paved roads only, oddly). Take 1, 14 or 15 to Magnolia and Beatty, then grab the 20 to Moreno Beach & Via del Lago in Moreno Valley. Turn south on Via del Lago and start hiking- RiR suggests you do this early in the day, and bring plenty of water. Pedestrians and cyclists are free at this park, while vehicles are charged $10 each, so you can enjoy the satisfaction of saving $10 and getting exercise while you do it. Boat rentals are also available, though the park advises that boat quotas will be enforced, especially on summer weekends.
Keep in mind
As with the amusement parks, it's easy to lose track of time when you're out having fun. Figure out when the last bus home leaves, and make sure you're on it. RiR is not responsible for bad planning. Also, the usual caveats of outdoor activities apply- plenty of water, plenty of sunscreen, and plenty of not-putting-yourself-in-dangerous-situations-unless-you-know-what-the-hell-you're-doing. Visitors to Riverside County parks may want to know that some of these parks (Anza Narrows at least) charge pedestrians and hikers, even for day use.
Coming up next, part three of the series will highlight museums, zoos and other attractions around the region.