Climbing from the ocean up a beautifully manicured road to a rocky peak is many cyclists’ dream. If this is your daydream, then Malibu is the place for you. Nestled where the Santa Monica Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean, Malibu is the place made famous by Barbie and Cher, but it is also famous in the cycling community. The contrast of ocean and mountains is quite stark. With 40 miles of seaside riding along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and a maze of mountain roads make it so cyclists can ride whichever terrain they desire.
What Makes It Great
For the climbers, the ascent up Latigo Canyon Road is, perhaps, the most enjoyable in the region. Many riders start in Santa Monica, which makes for a nice warm up along PCH, it is 11 miles from Topanga Canyon Road in Santa Monica, so if you want to shorten the prelude then simply start closer to Latigo. The climb up Latigo Canyon is variable, with short periods of steep switchbacks, long low-grade sections and slight descents. The entire road is 10 miles long, but the first summit is ~6.5 miles from PCH, after which there is a descent and second climb to the interchange at Kanan Dume Rd. Altogether the climb is 2100 ft. but because the route is so twisted and variable it doesn't have a very high suffer factor. You are constantly thinking about what is around the next corner instead of any ache on the legs. The route is full of epic sandstone outcrops and ocean views around each corner.
At the top you have options. Turning around and descending the curvy road is a wonderful option. The pavement is smooth, on camber and you've already seen it. If you want a longer loop then turn right on Kanan Dume, then, after a half mile, turn left on Mulholland Highway. Stay on Mulholland, after 5 miles of twisty roads you will hit a stop sign; continue straight onto Decker Canyon Road. Decker takes you back to PCH via a steep and breathtaking descent. This is where every other car commercial was filmed and for good reason. At the bottom, turn left on PCH and head back to the car.
This is the ride with the most corners and diverse views. If you love leaning into the twisties and then stopping to take a photo, this is for you. There is minimal elevation gain after the Latigo climb and the total lap is approximately 50 miles, depending on where you park.
Who is Going to Love It
Visitors and locals are elated by this ride. It is great for anyone with moderate fitness that loves curvy fast roads. If you are just looking to see the best of the Santa Monica Mountains then this is the lap to do.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is available along PCH, in most areas. There is ample space just north of Topanga Canyon Road. From Topanga, ride north for 11 miles, Latigo Canyon will be on your right. The roads are best in the morning when there is little to no traffic. The summertime afternoon, with the sun beginning to set over the ocean, is perhaps the most picturesque.