Mountain Bike Los Angeles County  by Charles Patterson

Mountain Bike! Los Angeles County Guide Book

by Charles Patterson (Menasha Ridge Press)
Mountain Bike Los Angeles County  by Charles Patterson
Whether you’re new to mountain biking or an experienced downhill or cross-country racer, Mountain Bike Los Angeles County is the must-have bible for the off-road rider in Southern California. Downhills, jumps, and scenic trails fill the pages and promise to keep you bouncing and bounding along in the great outdoors. With at-a-glance information that details trail conditions, difficulty, distance, and more, Mountain Bike Los Angeles County gives you all the information you need to find a great ride nearby. Each route is rated on technical and aerobic difficulty, so you won’t get more, or less, than you want in your ride. Even veteran Angelenos will find themselves surprised at the number of great loops and shuttle runs unbeknownst to them until now. After a broad tour of LA’s mountain bike playgrounds, you’ll know firsthand that SoCal truly is the mecca of mountain biking, and that Los Angeles is the center of it all.

© 2008 Charles Patterson/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Mountain Bike! Los Angeles County" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

Thanks to advocacy groups like the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the Backbone Trail is still open to mountain bikers. This section of Backbone is cherished by many as the best singletrack action in the Santa Monica Mountains. If you had only one day to ride in Los Angeles, this would be the place to go. This section of Backbone has everything—challenging climbs, tricky switchbacks, technical creek crossings and shaded, loamy stretches that look as if they were taken right out of your favorite mountain bike magazine.
Agoura Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 12.2
So, you want to ride singletrack, but you’re not willing or don’t have the time to drive to a far away destination? If that’s the case, go to Will Rogers State Historic Park (SHP) and ride the southernmost end of the Backbone Trail. It’s within 10 miles of Santa Monica, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, and Encino. With 3,570 feet of total elevation gain, this ride features a startlingly high degree of aerobic difficulty.
Brentwood, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 13.7
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Big Sycamore Canyon, located in the northernmost region of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Point Mugu State Park, contains a variety of trails well suited to riders of all skill levels. The pristine, quintessential California beach at the mouth of Big Sycamore Creek is a great distraction for nonriders coming along for the day. Big Sycamore Canyon, in addition to being a great place to bring the whole family, stays drastically cooler than the rest of LA County’s rides on hot summer days. After you experience the Guadalasca and Backbone trails, arguably the most entertaining singletrack in the Santa Monica Mountains, you may not want to go home at the end of the day, and you don’t have to because there are several great campsites.
Thousand Oaks, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 16
El Prieto is probably the most popular singletrack route in LA County. Its considerable technical difficulty and closeness to LA make it attractive to the masses. Although this has become a regular haunt for downhillers, don’t be intimidated on the way up Brown Mountain Road by the their big bikes, full-face helmets, and body armor—any skilled rider on any type of mountain bike can clean this descent. You can even do this ride if you’re a novice as long as you’re prepared to dismount and walk several sections. The heavy traffic this trail receives has damaged it, so all riders should avoid cutting switchbacks and blazing their own lines.
La Canada Flintridge, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8
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One of many wild rides in the San Gabriel area, this route involves a long, sustained fire-road climb up Brown Mountain Road followed by a very narrow and treacherous descent into Gabrielino Canyon via the Ken Burton singletrack. This ride is not for the faint of heart: the terrain is very technical, making the consequences of a routine crash possibly severe. The Ken Burton Trail isn’t well maintained, so it can be clogged with dense foliage in the spring and early summer. If you are sensitive to poison oak, avoid the area completely and stick to the scenic Brown Mountain Road for an out-and-back. In addition, this area often has poor air quality, so check the news for smog forecasts if this is an issue for you.
La Canada Flintridge, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 15
Any utterance of the word “Bulldog” among SoCal local riders will surely elicit groans, sighs, and maybe a warning or two. Climbing the Bulldog Motorway is masochism for all but the most advanced riders but a rewarding challenge nonetheless. Like Sycamore Canyon, Malibu Creek State Park offers plenty of distractions for nonriders and has shorter, less challenging rides, which makes this another great place to drag the whole clan.
Hidden Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 14.6
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This area is close to many other popular mountain bike destinations in the Santa Monica Mountains, yet it doesn’t draw nearly as many fat-tire explorers. Perhaps fewer mountain bikers visit because it is somewhat hard to find, or maybe because it is still largely a secret. Red Rock Canyon offers a phenomenal area for mountain biking, with a unique red-sandstone-addled landscape, clean air, and singletrack that rivals any section of the Backbone Trail.
Hidden Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9.7
On paper, mountain biking Santa Catalina Island appears bittersweet. It may seem that the “hassles” involved—the boat ride, $20 passes, and bike inspection— could overshadow the joys of riding the island. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from the riding appeal—challenging climbs, breathtaking ocean views, clean air, and unparalleled tranquility—a certain inexplicable “magic” about Catalina becomes apparent only after you get there. Riders of the downhill and freeride set will not have their adrenaline thirsts quenched because there is no technical riding or legal singletrack anywhere on this route or the island as a whole. All the terrain is dirt road. The Avalon to Little Harbor Loop is, however, a climber’s delight and, with nearly 5,800 feet of elevation gain, not to be taken lightly by riders in less than adequate cardiovascular condition. Those less inclined toward monstrous aerobic output should opt for the shorter and less demanding East End Loop. Safety Message You have a very good chance of encountering bison on this route. For the most part, they are harmless—just approach them slowly and respectfully, and they will get out of your way.
Avalon, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 28.5
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The East End Loop is the perfect introduction to mountain biking on Catalina Island. It features a priceless panorama of the city of Avalon, Avalon Canyon, Avalon Bay, and the East End, as well as some demanding climbing, for which the island is renowned. The route concludes with an exciting descent down Renton Mine Road, with fabulous views of the big, blue Pacific as a backdrop. Safety Message You have a very good chance of encountering bison on this route. For the most part, they are harmless—just approach them slowly and respectfully, and they will get out of your way.
Avalon, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 12.75
The Cheeseboro Ridge/Sulfur Springs Loop is the perfect after-work excursion because it mixes just the right amount of technical descending, aerobic climbing, and desert and chaparral scenery into a nice, compact package. For this reason, this route is a staple of the North Valley XC scene and even entices regular visitors from other areas. Of all the rides in SoCal, Cheeseboro Ridge has the potential to be the hottest so riding this route in the late afternoon or early morning is a far better option than attacking it midday.
Agoura Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9.4
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The Chilao Flat area provides a mountain bike experience that is vastly different from that of the other routes in the San Gabriel Mountains. Instead of 2,000-plus-foot climbs and steep, vertigo-inspiring descents, the Chilao area provides two separate loops that, although aerobically challenging, are characterized by mild climbs and descents through a hilly rather than mountainous pine forest. Deep in the heart of the Angeles National Forest, the Mount Hillyer Loop is more technical than its mellower sibling—the Vetter Mountain Loop, which is also covered in this book. Perhaps the perfect time to enjoy this route would be before or after a mild snowstorm in the winter. Just make sure you bring your all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Sierra Madre, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8.7
More aerobically challenging than its previously profiled sister ride, the Vetter Mountain Loop provides an adventure uncharacteristic of the other routes in the San Gabriel Mountains area, lacking sweat-drenching, painful 3,000-foot uphill grinds and dangerous, cliff-edged, narrow-switchback descents. Instead, the Vetter Mountain Loop offers a laid-back, up-and-down trot that stays within 1,000 feet of its starting elevation the whole way, and any spill will result in dirty clothing rather than untimely death.
Sierra Madre, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 12
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This is the crown jewel of SoCal riding—a mountainside littered with a mosaic of sandstone boulders, some as small as VW buses and some as large as ten-story apartment buildings. The sandstone is incorporated into the riding surface of this route, creating technical subtleties that require you to be spontaneous and creative with your line-picking to avoid the dreaded “endo.” Riding this route without crashing demands close attention—so proceed with caution.
Hidden Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 11
At only 3.1 miles in length, with no technical subtleties, this route barely qualifies as a mountain bike ride. All new mountain bikers, however, need short routes like this to get “broken in.” Added features include the Tree People park facilities and this park’s central location, right between West Hollywood and Studio City. Is 3.1 miles not enough for you? Try doing six laps!
Beverly Hills, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 3.1
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Just 6.5 miles long, the Dead Cow/China Flats/Suicide Loop is scarcely a test of one’s aerobic capabilities on a mountain bike. It is, however, a challenging test of two-wheeled technical prowess. If you have any doubts about this particular skill set, avoid this route entirely. To complete this trail with grace, you must be a stellar technical climber and downhiller, which are two terms rarely uttered in the same breath. A dab-free day in this area is a medal of honor bestowed upon few mortals, or rather, immortals.
Westlake Village, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 6.5
The Eagle Rock/Eagle Springs Loop, a relatively manageable climb, provides a great place to turn novice riders on to the sport of mountain biking as well as a fun route for experienced riders with limited time. This ride includes a visit to Eagle Rock, perhaps the premier geological wonder of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Hidden Hills, CA - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 5.5
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To be such a short route, the Echo Mountain/Sam Merrill loop really packs a technical and aerobic punch. With the perfect blend of scenery, vigorous climbing, vertigo-inspiring cliffs, and challenging switchbacks, this may be the perfect after-work ride because it can be finished in less than two hours. If it does become part of your post-clock-out regimen, don’t ever lose respect for the danger that this trail presents—complacency can cause severe injuries and even death on the Lower Sam Merrill Trail.
La Canada Flintridge, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7.2
It’s baffling that so few people ride Edison Road to Zuma Ridge. Perhaps the reason is that the trailhead is concealed on the side of Kanan Dume Road and closed with a fence that, ironically, has a sign welcoming users. Lift your bike over the fence and do this route, because it is one of the wildest, most aerobically challenging rides in the Santa Monica Mountains. Its lack of trail traffic and remote location ensure you a good chance of seeing rare wildlife such as bobcats and horned toads.
Malibu, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 11.2
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For all intents and purposes, this area can be referred to as “Sycamore Canyon Lite.” It has all the environmental appeal of the Sycamore Canyon area of the northern Santa Monica Mountains, but in a more compact, manageable package. The described route is 14.4 miles and encompasses virtually all the terrain that Crystal Cove State Park has to offer. Minus the very technical, albeit short, descent on Redtail Ridge, all the other ascents and descents in the area are mellow and friendly. The trail maps posted on signs at virtually every intersection add to the area’s cordiality. Although some maps are fading and difficult to read, they make the terrain very easy to navigate and have catchy names for each section of trail like “I Think I Can Hill” and “The Missing Link.” All these elements create a vibe of user-friendliness that makes El Moro Canyon/Crystal Cove State Park a great place for newbie riders.
Newport Beach, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 14.4
The Five Deer Trail is a surprisingly pristine singletrack within the highly popular off-highway-vehicle (OHV) area called Rowher Flats. Although there are many great trails located within OHV areas in SoCal, none have lighter OHV traffic than Five Deer Trail because of its elusive location and sliver width. Even if you do find yourself dodging a few dirt bikes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better piece of singletrack anywhere in the vicinity of LA County.
Lancaster, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 11
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