Category: Santa Monica Mountains

11

Santa Monica Mountains Leg Burner – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood & Corral Canyon


It’s been too long since I hit the Santa Monica Mountains, so it was about time for me to get back out there. Tuna Canyon was high on my list from reading about it on bikeforums and from having driven down it, so that was on the must-do list. The community of Fernwood is up there as well and, having driven through Fernwood, I knew a super steep climb there that I wanted to do as well (Grand View, specifically). This road is even tough in a car – I saw an SUV almost eat it coming down around a corner and almost going off the side. Finally, to round out the climbing, I found some threads on bikeforums mentioning Corral Canyon as a really tough climb in the area. With this in mind, I figured I could get in a 40-50 mile ride with 4-5k of climbing.

Starting out, you can either park near Tuna Canyon (lots of roadside parking) as I did, or you can park at Malibu Bluffs Park (at the intersection of Malibu Canyon Rd and PCH). I would actually recommend parking at Malibu Bluffs Park as this will give you some relatively flat warm-up before starting to really climb. The rest of this assumes Malibu Bluffs as the starting point (by the way, there are water fountains at the park for those needing water). From here, you head east along PCH for just under 7 miles until hitting Tuna Canyon. Note that it will be easy to miss the turn. Tuna Canyon is one-way downhill, so there are few markings for the road from PCH.

Important Note: As mentioned in the comments section, there is concern about descending cyclists running into ascending cyclists around the blind curves (as you might not be able to hear them). If you do decide you must climb Tuna, please keep this in mind and stay as far right as possible on the curves. And, if you descend Tuna (or any other road, for that matter), don’t assume a blind curve is free from obstacles.

Anyway, moving on. The intersection:

From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon

The start of Tuna Canyon:

From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon

Do note that this is technically one-way downhill, so I cannot really recommend that you ride up this. However, if you do decide to ride Tuna, keep a couple of things in mind. First, downhill traffic (very light, thankfully) will not be expecting to see you. Ride as far right as you can and try not to zig-zag. Second, traffic is light – and audible. You will be able to hear any approaching cars or motorcycles. If coming to a blind corner, exercise caution if you hear a vehicle. This might involve pausing for a few seconds until the vehicle has passed. Basically, use some common sense and put yourself in the shoes of a driver not expecting uphill traffic. With that said, traffic is extremely light (expect anywhere from a couple of vehicles to a dozen on your ride).

Anyway, the first part is very skinny, rather sheltered and easy:

From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon
From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon

This quickly changes and the climbing really ramps up:

From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon
From 2010-06-06 – Santa Monica Mountains Cycling – Tuna Canyon, Fernwood, Saddle Peak, Corral Canyon

Read the Full Ride Report

01

Santa Monica Mountains – Las Flores Canyon Climbing


Another ride that I can cross off of my must-do list! This is a steep, strong climb that gives you over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Let’s put it this way – once the grade eases back down under 8%, you will think you’ve found a flat section. On to the ride report!

I parked at Malibu Bluff Park as this meant my descent would drop me right at my car and allow for a few miles of warmup before starting the climb. A rather nice park area:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

But we’ll get back to the park later. I should also note that driving from Long Beach to Malibu at 8 in the morning is not very fun. But missing morning rush hour often means hitting evening rush hour; given the choice, I’d prefer the drive back to be the quick one, so this was acceptable. A couple of hours after leaving Long Beach and I am finally on the bike heading south on PCH. This stretch of PCH is rather unremarkable:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

At least it isn’t as narrow as some of the other sections. 4 miles later and the turn for Las Flores Canyon. Initially, you go through a small residential area:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Don’t be lulled into thinking the rest of the road is this flat (or shaded for that matter!). A nice little community park a few hundred feet farther along:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Very quickly, the buildings get sparse and the grade picks up a bit:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Not too much farther and the scenery gets much more rugged and the road gets steeper. The picture doesn’t do the grade justice, but gives you a nice feel for the road:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

By this point I was starting to get a bit warm. Despite a reasonable low 70s temperature along the coast, Las Flores was devoid of any wind for, basically, the entire climb. And, the only shade you get is at the beginning, before you actually need it. Farther along, looking back:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Ok, I lied about the shade. After suffering a couple of miles of hard climbing, you do get some brief respites:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

That respite, however, led into this nasty switchback:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Getting nearer to the top of Las Flores (but not the top of the full climb) and some more houses are encountered:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Pushing on, and the last hundred feet of the punishment that is Las Flores:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Skyward ho! Finally the intersection with Rambla Pacifico!

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Looking back down along Rambla Pacifico:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The half hour it took to get here sure felt like longer! I was (and still am) quite happy that I was able to make it to this point without a single break. So, I took a much-deserved 15 second break here before turning right to continue the climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

This section was rather exposed as well! A little farther and you get a glimpse of Saddle Peak:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Great views along the way:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Pretty quickly and the final part of the climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Schueren is a nice little finishing climb:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Nice views once again:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

And, finally, coming up to the saddle:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

This section is currently being completely rebuilt. Luckily, most of the work has been finished. The road section in the above photo was dirt just a few months ago. Anyway, for this loop, everything is in place. If you were to head east towards Fernwood though, you might not be able to get through. Fair warning.

Finally, some descending! Down Stunt:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Stunt is a nice descent. A couple of technical sections, but, all in all, I was able to carry some decent speed. A few miles later and I connect with Mulholland for a brief section before heading left on Cold Canyon Road for a fun, short descent:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The rest of Cold Canyon contains a few short uphills and the residential area of Monte Nido. A nice little ride before connecting to Piuma and then Malibu Canyon Road. Malibu Canyon is one of the relatively high speed, well-trafficked canyon roads. Descending is not too bad, but I definitely would prefer not to ascend this road. While the traffic is not enjoyable, the canyon itself is pretty cool:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

Note that you get to go through an old school tunnel:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

And, finally, back to the park:

From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling
From 2009-07-15 – Malibu – Las Flores Canyon Cycling

The park makes for an excellent place to cool down, refill bottles and stretch out sore muscles. Very pleasant.

Las Flores is a tough climb, but definitely worth doing. I think I still prefer Deer Creek or Decker for the views, but Las Flores is tough to beat if you want a sustained, tough climb (for the Santa Monica mountains). And the views get pretty good once you get to a decent elevation.

Here is the full loop:

For a better idea of the steepness of Las Flores (click View Elevation):

While the overall average is a solid 8.3% for Las Flores, this includes the relatively flat first mile. Cutting out the first mile (as in the above route), and you are left with 2 and a half miles at about 10.5% (!) with lots of up to 20% pitches. Oh, and the middle mile averages about 13%. Fun!

And here is the route/elevation profile for the full climb up to the saddle:

Check out the elevation profile for that to get an idea of the full climb. Not too shabby!

Now, get out there and ride this!

2

Santa Monica Mountains – Deer Creek, Yerba Buena, Decker (& Decker Edison), Encinal (aka lots of steep climbing)


Finally made it out to the Santa Monica mountains for some climbing. Amazing area; I need to to some more climbing out there! Started by heading up PCH, then up Deer Creek. Really steep all in all, but pretty short so more than doable. Amazing views too – you immediately start climbing hard, so within a few tenths of a mile, you get great views of the Pacific.

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)
From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)
From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

After the two miles of hard climbing, it eases up and you even get some small descents (and a cute one lane road too).

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

Descended down Yerba Buena…was slightly concerned about that after reading reports about the road surface sucking…was not actually that bad. Take the lane, watch your line and all is good. I actually quite enjoyed it. Was able to maintain 25-30 mph on this descent, so I can’t complain!

After getting back to PCH, headed down to Decker for some more punishment. After heading up a mile or so, I took a detour onto Decker Edison to the end of that road (about 0.7 miles long). Why? Because it was even steeper. Makes it more fun :) The first few feet are quite steep:

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)
From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

And, there is a longer steep section after a couple tenths of a mile that will hurt a bit! But, the views are definitely worth it:

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

And, of course, Decker itself has some nice views:

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

Finally, hitting Encinal Canyon, I headed on down. Encinal was a nice, sweeping descent:

From 2009-05-27 – Malibu Cycling (Deer Creek, Decker, etc)

Anyway, great ride with some steep climbing (Deer Creek is 12%ish, with Decker being not too far behind), but short enough that it won’t kill you. 30 miles total riding for the day. I need to get out there some more..wish Long Beach to Deer Creek wasn’t an hour plus drive!

All the pictures from the ride are here.

Want to punish yourself with this ride? Here you go (click View Full for a nice, big version of the map):

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