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Southern Tier trip planning

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WS Member Аватар пользователя WS Member
Southern Tier trip planning

Hello Fellow Travelers,

A couple years ago I rode the AC Northern Tier route. (See my blog at Now I am thinking about the AC Southern Tier route in 2022, traveling from San Diego to St. Augustine. Do you have thoughts to share about this trip? Best time of year? Highlights along the way? Have you written about a trip on this route? Other recommendations?


Jim. [email protected]

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Southern Tier

Hey James - My plan for this year was to start at the Mexican border and shoot north up the spine of the Sierras and Cascades Mountains.  In my calls to both the Sheriff's Office and Border/Customs I was advised that due to the open border situation, the hills are full of bandidos and they would love to have your survival gear, even killing you for it.  Your route follows that border for many miles.  Since discretion is the better part of valor, I'm beginning further north.  Your call.  I've done the Northern and the Southern routes and would advise you to do the Pacific Coast ride down the PCH, from Olympus N.P. to San Diego.    Fantastic.

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Conventional wisdom is the

Conventional wisdom is the Southern Tier is best done in the Fall or early Spring. Extreme heat in the summer argues strongly against a summer ride. And winter can be bitterly cold and windy, and some passes in Arizona or NM can get snow.  It is not as cold as the northen routes, but we still get some nasty winter weather, either wet in the east or cold in the west.

That being said, I have seen a few determined souls do it in winter and summer.  But they must adapt to the conditions and it is no easy ride those times of year. Some days will be easy but there is bound to be some weather issues in the off season. In summer, you will need to get up before daylight and try to get most of your miles in before noon.  In winter, you may have to hunker down for days to ride out a rain storm or brutal winds.  Or a mountain pass that is snowed in.

I am in Austin, TX and the best time to ride thru Texas is from about mid-March thru mid-May.  The weather is at its best then, and the spring wild flowers are lovely. 

Most organized bike rides in the south are either Spring (April, May)  or Fall (October), for good reason. Take your clues from that.

Having hosted many Southern Tier riders over the years, the Texas Hill Country and Austin are a highlight of the trip for most people.  It is about the mid point of the ride and most riders enjoy resting a few days (or more) in Austin.  A detour to New Orleans is also recommended.  

I am familar with the route in Texas and Lousiana but otherwise have not personally traveled the other portions by bike.

WS Member Аватар пользователя WS Member
Southern Tier

I live in the Phoenix area and host Southern tier cyclists every year.  I'm pretty familair with the section from San Diego to the Arizona/New Mexico border.  The vast majoirty of cyclists travel eastbound to take advantage of the prevailing winds, but you can get a crosswind or headwind any time.  I'm sure you are aware of that from the Northern Tier.  I would say mid-February to March is a good time to start in San Diego.  It isn't hot in the desert.  You barely exceed 4,000' elevation in California and Arizona and don't get snow at that elevation often in February or March.  Even if you do, it melts in a day or so.   Snow is more of an issue in New Mexico where you climb to 7,000' or 8,000' (depends on which route you take at Silver City).     

There is very little to see in terms of man-made stuff between San Diego and Phoenix.  It is the wide open spaces and landscape that people comment about most often.  Of course the random encounters with the locals and other touring cyclists are always fun too.    San Diego is a blast and worth a few days before you head out.  Phoenix is big and takes most people a full day to cross it.   Lots to see depending on your interests.    If you are not already familair with trip journals in Crazy Guy on a Bike you should check them out.  There are a lot of Southern Tier journals there from years past.     Feel free to contact me if you make the trip and need a place to stay or want local information. 

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Hi Jim,

Hi Jim,

Sorry, just seen your post; hope this reply isn't too late. We cycled the Southern Tier from SD to St Augustine, with some detours! I published a book all about the journey in November 2021. I'll email you with some detailed info.



WS Member Аватар пользователя WS Member
Southern Tier

Hello Chris,

a friend and I are getting ready to do the southern tier from San Diego to St Augustine FL. We are starting April 1. Any advice or anything would be appreciated. I did see one comment about riding close to the border being dangerous now?



WS Member Аватар пользователя WS Member
Southern Tier

Hi Jack,

We left San Diego on Thanksgiving in 2016 and arrived in St Augustine mid-February 2017 (including a detour to Key West). I'd imagine it'll be very hot leaving in April but at least you won't get the snow we had in Louisiana! Other tips:

  1. Look out for 'goatheads'; the nasty seed pods that fall from cactus and will rip through your tyres
  2. Chat to the Border Patrol guys; we got questions multiple times while hugging the border in New Mexico, but when we explained calmly what we were doing they were fine about it. We also got followed by a border control helicopter a few times but realised all we had to do was wave at it and it flew away
  3. Heed tornado warnings; we got stuck in a campsite in Florida and narrowly avoided a tornado
  4. Prepare for long days in the desert; you don't want to be wild camping along the border for obvious reasons, so you need to accept that some days you'll be doing long distances between campsites
  5. Don't worry about costs in the desert; the campsites in the Southern Tier were amongst the cheapest we went through
  6. On the other hand, the Keys are horrendously expensive; if you decide on a detour to Key West beware it's really expensive
  7. Avoid ATV rec areas in the Californian desert; we had some pretty awful days being surrounded by noise and smelly ATVs, which we could have avoided by riding one road over
  8. Be sure to ride 'the Loop'; a dedicated bike path around Tucson with art dotted along it
  9. Stick to the A1A on the east coast; amazing quiet road that hugs the Atlantic

If you send me a message with your email address I can send you a spreadsheet with all the places we stopped at between SD and St Augustine.

Hope that helps,


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Great ride, ignore the xenophobic, fear mongering comments

Left Florida in Nov '21, arrived in LA in February '22. A little cold in parts of Texas, so found a blanket to use with summer sleeping bag. Wonderful deserts West of Pecos River, artwork around Marfa

You see borders agents and Gov Abbots wasted taxes on National Guard hanging along border. And yes, you see poor people entering the US under the radar. And like most caring people, you observe locals offering food, water, clothing and money to ease their journey.

I followed to Rio Grande for empty roads, but rough pavement. Dropped into Mexico twice to avoid congestion and freeways. Mexico's road equal most of US. A bit cheaper. Wild camp the whole time.

Happy trails, Peter