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.
We talked with local MTBers Hans Keifer and Jim Hasenauer, who wrote Where to Bike: Los Angeles Mountain Biking along with Steve Messer and Mark Langton to get the down and dirty on the following seven L.A. rides. Check out their book for more info on rides around LA.
1. Ken Burton Loop, Angeles National Forest
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 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 L.A., 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 Langham Huntington, Pasadena, Los Angeles, a landmark hotel since 1907 that's nestled in the foothills just seven miles from the trailhead.
2. Portuguese Bend Reserve Loop, Ranchos Palos Verdes
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 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.
3. Topanga Creek Outpost Loop, Topanga State Park
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 27 miles Difficulty: Intemediate
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 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.
4. Backbone Trail, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 30 miles Difficulty: Intemediate/Advanced
The Backbone Trail is a L.A.-area favorite, and it’s easy to see why. The Santa Monica Mountains provide the perfect vantage point for views of Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. 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 Ridge and back can’t be beat. Some sections are closed to mountain bikes, so pay close attention to signage.
Turn this stellar ride into an even better weekend with a stay at the Hotel Erwin in Venice. Located just a few miles down the road from Will Rogers, it’s the perfect base camp for exploring the Venice Boardwalk and the Santa Monica Pier.
5. Cheeseboro Loop, Santa Monica National Recreation Area
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 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 Comado 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 L.A.: 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. Avoid crossing private property by using the Bark Park Trail and the Grasslands Trail to connect to Malibu Creek State Park.
7. Guadalasca Trail, Point Mugu State Park
Distance from Downtown L.A.: 47 miles Difficulty: Intermediate
Malibu’s Point Mugu State Park features more than 70 miles of trail, including the switchback-heavy Guadalasca Trail. The trail is 3.2 miles each way, and makes an excellent link-up with the Backbone Downhill Trail. 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.