7 of the Best Mountain Bike Trails in L.A.

The Ken Burton Trail is the only trail built by and for mountain bikers in Angeles National Forest, and it's just 15 miles from downtown LA.
The Ken Burton Trail is the only trail built by and for mountain bikers in Angeles National Forest, and it's just 15 miles from downtown LA. Jeff Turner
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Savvy travelers know that there’s more to Los Angeles than beaches and Hollywood film sets. Though the City of Angels is home to nearly four million people, it’s also central to plenty of green space–even the iconic Hollywood Sign sits in a public park. With all those parks and trails, it’s no surprise that there’s a ton of phenomenal mountain biking near downtown L.A. See Tinseltown in a whole new light with one of these seven incredible rides.

1. Portuguese Bend Reserve Loop, Rolling Hills

Distance from downtown: 26 miles Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

Located within the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, this ride boasts breathtaking ocean views and some interesting challenges. Like many trails near L.A., most of its climbing is on fire roads, and the singletrack descents—which comprise just over half the trail—are steep and relatively technical. You’ll want a map, as some of the trail junctions aren’t marked. The loop is best ridden from the trailhead adjacent to Ladera Linda Community Center, which allows mountain bikers to finish on a descent.

The views at Portuguese Bend Reserve are breathtaking, but don't get distracted: the descents are steep and technical.
The views at Portuguese Bend Reserve are breathtaking, but don't get distracted: the descents are steep and technical. BC.Space via Wikimedia Commons

2. Backbone Trail, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Distance from downtown: 30 miles Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

The Backbone Trail is a LA-area favorite, and it’s not hard to see why. The Santa Monica Mountains provide the perfect vantage point for views of Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean,and the trail itself is steeped in history—sections of the Backbone Trail run through the 1970s film setting of M*A*S*H.

For flowy singletrack and some challenging technical sections, including a few tight turns, the 14-mile out-and-back from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Temescal Bridge and back can’t be beat. Turn this stellar ride into an even better weekend with a stay at the Jolly Roger Hotel in Marina Del Rey—just a few miles down the road from Will Rogers, it’s the perfect base camp for exploring Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.

3. Ken Burton Loop, Angeles National Forest

Distance from downtown: 15 miles Difficulty: Advanced

Built by the Mt. Wilson Bicycling Association in 1991, the Ken Burton Trail is, to date, the only official trail built by and for mountain bikers in Angeles National Forest. The trail was damaged by the Station Fire in 2009, then reopened after much restoration work in 2015. This 14-mile loop is super close to downtown, and it gets the climbing out of the way at the beginning, which means the flowy cruise back to the car via the Gabrielino Trail is a blast. Can’t get enough of Angeles National Forest? Stay at the iconic Langham Huntington, a Pasadena landmark since 1907, nestled in the foothills just seven miles from the trailhead.

Views of the Gabrielino Trail, San Gabriel Mountains.
Views of the Gabrielino Trail, San Gabriel Mountains. Mitch Barrie

4. Topanga Creek Outpost Loop, Topanga State Park

Distance from downtown: 27 miles Difficulty: Intermediate

This wide-open loop, much of which is on fire roads, begins at the Topanga Creek Outpost. You’ll climb moderate singletrack on the Deer Hill trail, which opens up into a meadow carpeted with wildflowers during the springtime. The highlight, though, is the Mulholland Drive Fire Road, which boasts awe-inspiring views of the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean, not to mention the gorgeous red canyons of Topanga State Park. Don’t let your guard down: the crux of the route is a technical, rocky waterfall section near the end.

5. Cheeseboro Loop, Santa Monica National Recreation Area

Distance from downtown: 34 miles Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

Much of the Agoura trail system is on fire roads, but not this ride, which is part of the remote Sheep Corral Trail. While the trails here aren’t super-technical, there’s no cell service for much of this adventurous loop, and you’ll like be the only one out—especially early on a weekday. The initial five-mile climb on the Palo Cornado Canyon Trail leads to mostly-flat riding through the valley, and there’s a shortcut to the 12.5-mile loop via the Cheeseboro Canyon Trail.

6. New Millennium Trail, Malibu Creek State Park

Distance from downtown: 35 miles Difficulty: Advanced

With jaw-dropping views of Calabasas and its surrounding foothills, the New Millennium Trail is a real gem—and, best of all, sees surprisingly little traffic. Though there aren’t many obstacles on this mostly-singletrack ride, it’s a tough one: steep climbs and tight switchbacks mean it requires some skill to navigate. For some extra fun, make it a loop by adding the Las Virgenes downhill section at the end of the New Millennium Trail.

7. Guadalasca Trail, Point Mugu State Park

Distance from downtown: 47 miles Difficulty: Intermediate

Point Mugu Mountain Biking.
Point Mugu Mountain Biking. Brian Townsend

Malibu’s Point Mugu State Park features more than 70 miles of trail, including the heavily switchbacked Guadalasca Trail. The trail is 3.2 miles each way, and makes an excellent link-up with the Backbone Downhill Trail. Point Mugu is home to five miles of shoreline trail, which means you’ll take in plenty of Pacific Ocean views on a clear day, and the proximity to the ocean keeps the ride relatively cool, but it’s best ridden in the morning or evening during the summer. For an unforgettable experience, finish your visit to Point Mugu with a stay at the seaside Malibu Beach Inn.

Originally written for Discover Los Angeles.

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