Angeles National Forest is filled with trails of all sorts which, traditionally, have been enjoyed by hikers and equestrians. These trail blazers who, along with hunters and pack trains, started to study the area a century ago are no longer alone. Today mountain bikers roam these areas as well, especially so given the degree of difficulty on some runs and the chance to discover awesome flora and fauna when peddling along others. That said, Angelenos looking for a day away from the fray of city life will enjoy hitching their two-wheeler ride to their vehicle for a one-tank trip that won’t be forgotten in this wilderness area on the fringe of the City of Angels.
Situated along the highest ridge of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles Crest Highway was originally a route intended for fire access and is now dubbed the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway. Today, this decidedly picturesque mountain road runs 66 miles starting from La Canada Flintridge, its western border located about 13 miles from downtown Los Angeles, along the two-lane segment of California State Route 2 to State Route 138 north of Wrightwood, its eastern border. Some segments of this stretch of highway hit above 7,000 feet, making this mountain-rural road one of Southern California’s highest and, in turn, a challenging ride for mountain bikers.
Rules of the Road
Mountain bikers are welcome to take on all 557 miles of Angeles Crest trails sans the 157 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (officially designated as a footpath and horseback riding trail) and those paths that exist in wilderness areas. That said, when biking these parts, remember the right-of-way goes to hikers and to horses, so yield to both, and realize that equestrians in particular are often leery of mountain bikers spooking horses. With that in mind, be observant when you cross paths with a horse by slowing down and keeping your distance.
Related: Guide To LA County Historic State Parks
Angeles National Forest
701 N. Santa Anita Ave
Arcadia, CA 91006
The Angeles Crest Highway doubles as the French Alps in the movie “Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo,” and convincingly so given the look of that part of the film. It also served as a take on the same place in the fun flick, “The Love Bug.” In the racing scenes, mountain bikers may notice that rolling along this often steep thoroughfare was hard enough for a car, let alone for a bicycle. Seriously seek out a map before picking which parts of your one-tank adventure to ride on two wheels and which you should choose to drive. For many, picking the actual off-road trails for mountain biking is best, leaving the highway driving to vehicles that will get you there faster and with less stress. For more information, check out the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association.
The Cosmic Cafe
Mount Wilson Observatory
466 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada, CA 91011
At the end of certain trails and before you head back to Los Angeles, stop by The Cosmic Cafe. It’s located right in the pavilion overlooking the lot at the entrance of the Mount Wilson Observatory. Not only is the setting awesome, but the sandwiches are yummy and the cold beverages hit the spot, especially after all that peddling.
CBS Local Insider’s Tip: Try the frito pie and/or the chicken pesto sandwich; both are absolutely stellar. Check the link above for a map of the area so you don’t get lost before you get the chance to refuel.
Angeles Crest Highway 2
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
At either end of a day biking the Angeles Crest, unwind and fortify at the family owned Newcomb’s Ranch, said to be the only casual dining outfit in the vicinity. Located some 27 miles from La Canada and the 210 Freeway, this hangout is known for its large selection of local draft beers. Its breakfasts here are hearty — try the lumber jack omelette — and full of get-up-and-go for the sporty set taking on the wilderness and beauty that is the Angeles Crest. Leisure activities to enjoy with fellow bikers are abundant here, ranging from rowdy games of pool to sing alongs by the baby grand.
Related: Best Campgrounds In The LA Area
Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.