« When the Distance is not What You Think | Main | Pedaling Smiles Across America »

November 27, 2004

Harbor Blvd.: Riding Thru the Heart of Orange County


As I stand with my bike on Harbor Blvd. and Whittier Blvd., at Constitution Plaza, La Habra, the whole of Orange County is spread out before me to the south.

When folks from the North ( Los Angeles County ) venture into this territory, on street level, they do so by way of 3 entrances:

1. Hacienda Blvd. (Rd.)/ Beach Blvd.

2. Fullerton Rd./Harbor Blvd.

3. Brea Canyon Rd. (Brea Blvd.) to State College Blvd.

All 3 take you on a journey through the North County, and 1 goes all the way to the beach itself.

But only 1 goes straight down the middle, and penetrates the beating heart of the OC itself, Costa Mesa.

Come with me as I take you for a ride....

The staging area: La Bonita Park, in La Habra, on Idaho St. between La Habra Blvd. and Whittier Blvd.

The official start of the ride: Whittier Blvd. and Harbor Blvd.

Getting there:

By Car:


1. The routes I mentioned. Then you head east or west to Idaho St., accordingly

2. Whittier Blvd.

3. Various Freeways that will bring you eventually to Beach Blvd. so you can travel north to Whittier Blvd.

By Bus and Bike:


1. Foothill Transit #285 to Beach and Whittier, then a short pedal east to Idaho.

2. Metro #684 from Pomona/Diamond Bar to Brea Mall, transfer to OCTA #29 to La Habra and Idaho, and then a short pedal north on Idaho.

3. Coming from the south, west, or east, you can connect with OCTA #29 on Beach anywhere from PCH northward by using any number of busses.

4. OCTA #'s 47, 53, 57, 59, all go north to Brea Mall, and connect with the #29.

The #43 goes north the full length of Harbor, even connecting with the #29, all east/west busses, and the Foothill Transit Bus, but you will want to save riding it for the return trip to the park, especially if you came by car or Bus.


From the staging area at the park ( restrooms can be found on south side of Parking Lot ) ride the short distance north to Whittier Blvd., turn right and head to Harbor Blvd. ( Distance 1.65m )

START: Harbor Hlvd. and Whittier Blvd., in  La Habra.

END: Harbor Blvd. and Newport Blvd., in Costa Mesa.

Approximate Distance: 21 Miles


Harbor Blvd. begins in the foothills of La Habra Heights, the offspring of Fullerton Blvd. in the city of Industry over the hill, and the ride through La Habra itself is a ride past strip malls and apartment complexes with occasional glimpses of cities to the east.

The wind is blowing heavy at my back as I pass between the Albertsons Distribution Center, and the Beckman Coulter complex, heading south toward the 1st, and waht truned out to be the only challenge on the whole route.

From Imperial Highway the rider must wind his way through the foothilss of north Fullerton.

The leisurely ups and downs of this stretch take me past entrances to several well to do neighborhoods, the Brea Dam, and a huge hill known as Camp Hillcrest.

Riding the few blocks through downtown Fullerton I am treated to a glimpse, in all directions, of an eclectic mix of old and new buildings, and established, and newer businesses, and shopping opportunities.

I admire the stately Springfield Banquet Center Building, and the worn down, yet still majestic, old Fox Theater ( Recently saved from the wrecking ball ).

Home to colleges, museums, eateries, antique stores, Farmer's Markets, and a major Transit Hub, the downtown area is well worth exploring on foot, or bike.

As I leave Fullerton I pass the Metro Center Shopping Complex, and the 1st group of strip malls anchored by Big Box Retailers that are numerous along the length of Harbor.

I stop, over looking the freeway, to enjoy the view, to the east, of the Mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, covered by an overnight coating of Snow.

When most folks think of Anaheim they think of Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, the Angels, and occasionally the talented Mighty Ducks of the NHL, but the 1st thing to greet the visitor traving south on Harbor is the huge sign on the northern end of La Palma Park:

Wilkommen in Anaheim 1857

The fancy stuff is further south. For now I just enjoy the view of the park.

For the next half mile I pass what is the only purely residential stretch of Harbor Blvd.

On what must surely be a coveted bit of Prime Real Estate are block, after block, of modest, old wood frame homes with shingle roofs, and homes of a bit more recent ( but not by too much ) materials, another park, and the grounds of St. Catherine's Military School.

They are the inner lines of some of the oldest residential sections of the city, and as I ride along this narrowed highway the well kept lawns provide a quiet contrast to the hustle, and bustle, of what's to come.

Shortly, Harbor opens wide again, the better to gobble up all the traffic from tourists, and those who cater to them in the large area surrounding Disneyland.

Over the next mile the homes give way, grudgingly, block by block, to small businesses, and small motels, until I pedal over Interstate 5 to behold......

a Tourist Mecca spread out before me.

Straddling the Interstate I turn around to look back toward La Habra, and then take another look at the mountains to the east.

To look to the south is to look directly into the belly of the Beast known as America at Play, and America on Vacation ( the world, too, for that matter! ):

Disneyland Resort.

On my right are the parks themselves, with the Old Matterhorn thrusting proudly toward the heavens defiantly daring anyone to deny its right to still exist amid all the change of the last 50 years.

On my left are block after block of hotels, motels, shops, and eateries.

Unseen from this vantage point, but glimpsed on my way through, are more of the same to the east, west, and south of the main Blvd., and attractions.

Even after the Parks close down for the night this whole region is alive with people, and traffic, as workers, and tourists, come and go.

Outside of Disneyland Resort, itself, the busiest places are parking lots, and the Transit Hub off Harbor Blvd. and East Shuttle Lane.

Bus, after bus, after bus, from those connected with the resort ( even Cast Shuttles ), the hotels, and the city to the various Mass Transit, and Tourism, Agencies, pick up, drop off, and shuttle around the enormous numbers of people in town on any given day.

You can stand on the corner, here, all day, people watching, and never be bored by what you see, and maybe over hear.

And yet.... amidst all of this excess is a small reminder of the agricultural heritage of this area:

Near Convention Way, and Harbor Blvd., is a large open field, well tended, and cultivated, and the popular Fujishige Farm Produce Stand, with its fresh fruit, and veggies for sale.

I had to smile, and laugh out loud, at he the contrast.

Fantasia finally gives way to reality again, at Chapman, as the Crown Plaza Resort Hotel, on my right, passes the baton to the Target store on my left, and I enter the city of Garden Grove.

There is nothing much to this stretch as I pass small stores, fast food joints, strip malls, trailer parks, empty lots, and a small, dingy looking, night club that claims to be a Humdinger ( Hey, that's the name on the building. Honest! ).

As I leave Garden Grove I begin to see the 1st of the big Auto Dealerships that make the last leg of Harbor so famous.

The next legs of the ride are thru areas shared by both Fountain Valley, and Santa Ana.

I guess one didn't want to give up its place at cash generating table that is Harbor Blvd. to the other, and so they share.

Santa Ana gets a handful of Auto Dealers, several strip malls, and a huge Shopping Center with a Wall Mart as its center, and Fountain Valley gets a couple of auto dealers, a couple of strip malls, a Smart and Final, Taco Bell, Sizzler, and Subway.

They both get a number of Mexican, and Asian, eateries as well.

Everyone is happy, including the merchants, and their customers.

Leaving Fountain Valley, for one more short ride through Santa Ana, I cross over the Santa Ana River and its popular Bike Trail, near Warner.

The ride continues past Business Parks ( actually several neighborhoods grouped together for blocks on either side of Harbor ) before entering Costa Mesa, the heart of Orange County.

And, boy, what an entrance!

As I head toward the 405 Frwy., on the left I see Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, National University, and Ikea., and on my right the grounds of the Whittier Law School, after a few more Business Parks.

The next few miles are a blur of Auto Dealerships broken up by 5 large Shopping Centers anchored by Target, and Asian Market, Home Depot, K-mart, and Office Depot.

Oh, and I can't forget the Hospital for the Mentally Disabled, and the Public Golf Course that are next door neighbors!

The end of the ride is dominated by 1 huge decades old Shopping Complex.

It is called Triangle Square, and its design is majestic, and sits on a plot of land bordered on 3 sides by !9th Street, Harbor Blvd., and Newport Blvd., with the start/end of the 55 Frwy. just off the south east corner.

The place is not as dead as it looks when you go there to shop, and is slowly making a comeback after years of being ignored by many shoppers.

Its current tennants include an Edwards Theatre, a Barnes & Noble,  The Gap, Niketown, and a Virgin Megastore, and there's a Borders across the street as well.

Oh and, the new kid in town, a hugely popular Night Club.

People from all over Southern California come a lot to the Sutra Lounge.

Judging by the number of of Stretch Limos, parked each night in the parking lot of the empty shopping center across the street, the place is not just hip, but expensive, too.

And Loud!

I can hear the music, and the chatter, from a half block away as I pass by each night on my way home from work.

If you are on a budget, and looking to mingle with a crowd of young to middle age, though supposedly less hip folks then across the street are the The Goat Hill Tavern, The Helm, or Mimi's Cafe, plus the El Matador, and Cafe Ruba afew blocks west on Newport.

Your wallet will thank you!

This bike ride, non-stop, would take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

For obvious reasons it took me 4 1/2. :-)

There is a lot to see if you choose to make a day of it so don't be afraid to do so.

For your return, depending on how you got there are several options.

You can ride your bike back up Harbor, or you can go half a block north of 19th to catch the northbound OCTA #43 or #55.

The Southbound #55, west on 19th, will take you to PCH, or your can also ride west on 19th about a mile and a half to Placentia Ave. to catch the Northbound #47 or take the east bound #71 on Newport, at 19th.

With proper planning getting home will be no problem.

November 27, 2004 in Riding Orange County | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Harbor Blvd.: Riding Thru the Heart of Orange County:

» All about cycling in the OC from sara and mike's blog
Sara found this site awhile back and I was so impressed that I felt that I had to mention it here. The site is found at http://www.sneakeasysjoint.com/thecyclingdude/. While it has all kinds of general info for cyclists everywhere, there are several great [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 30, 2006 3:44:20 PM


Nice description of your ride---felt like I was there. ;)

Posted by: Susan | Nov 28, 2004 11:33:26 AM

Post a comment