23

Mt. Baldy Road to the Ski Lifts!


Mt. Baldy is always an epic adventure. Previously, I wrote a report on the climb up to Mt. Baldy ski lifts via Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road. If you are unfamiliar with that route, I would highly recommend reading up on it: Glendora Mountain Rd, Glendora Ridge Rd & Mt Baldy Rd (to the Ski Lifts!). It is arguably the most scenic, incredible ride in the area. This post, however, is about the more direct way up. First, a few stats:

  • Total Ride: 12.6 miles at 7% with over 4600 feet of elevation gain
  • 2 separate 2 mile long sections at greater than 9% grade
  • Multiple 15% ramps
  • 8.1% average grade for the 7.2 mile long section above the tunnels
  • 8.8% average grade for the final 4 miles above the village (almost 1900 feet in elevation gain)
  • 9.2% average grade for the 2 mile Hogsback section (last tunnel to just before Mt. Baldy Village)
  • 10.0% average grade for the 1.9 mile section from Icehouse Canyon through the switchbacks to Manker Flats (1000 feet in <2 miles!)
  • 14-15% average grade for the final .3 mile section to the ski lifts (230 feet elevation gain)
  • Needless to say, this is a stout climb. It is definitely one of the hardest climbs in southern California. It is long enough that you can’t just power up it (unlike many of the Santa Monica climbs) and it gets progressively harder (just as your legs get tired and the elevation starts robbing you of oxygen).

    For more stats and an excellent elevation profile (broken down into lots of sections and with landmarks noted), check out SoCalVelo’s Mt. Baldy Road Page.

    Anyway, despite all the riding and climbing I do, I had never actually ridden the portion of Mt. Baldy Rd from Claremont to Mt. Baldy Village (generally opting to ride Glendora Mountain Rd and Glendora Ridge Rd). Given how famous this climb is, I was long overdue. I started my ride today at Padua Avenue Park:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    You can also start from the intersection of Mt. Baldy Rd and Mills Ave (the most common starting point). Either way, they are close to each other and both provide quick access to the climb. After turning onto Mt. Baldy Rd, the first part of the climb is easy as you pass through the last of Claremont’s residential neighborhoods:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    The climbing then ramps up a little bit (but at a still moderate grade):

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    Very quickly, the scenery becomes very nice:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    Yup, one other cyclist braving the near 90 degree heat of the bottom section. While a slight breeze kept things almost tolerable, I would recommend an early start in the summer as the climb to the village can get rather hot. I was hoping to pace him for a while, but, sadly, he turned off onto Mountain Ave a short while later:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    At this point, the mountains really start surrounding you:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    Impressive canyon to be riding up:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    Still some nice color along the way:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy
    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy
    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

    Keep in mind that some of the peaks you see as you go up hit 10,000 feet in elevation:

    From 2010-06-23 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – Mt. Baldy

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    33

    CA-39 (aka Hwy 39 or San Gabriel Canyon Rd or CA State Route 39) Climb to Angeles Crest and Dawson Saddle (at 7901 ft!)


    Note: As of March 2014 a rock and mud debris field is covering 39 a few miles south of Angeles Crest at Snow Spring:

    Views: Cycling State Route 39 above the closure gate by Ryan Allison

    The above is a 360 degree photo sphere – drag it around to see all of the scene. If anyone rides 39 and finds that this debris field has been cleared, please do leave a comment!

    This climb is one of the best sustained climbs in southern California. Starting from 1600 feet elevation, 39 climbs continuously to its high point where it intersects with Angeles Crest Highway at an elevation of 6800 feet. From here, the climb continues up Angeles Crest to its high point at Dawson Saddle – elevation 7901 feet! Yes, that’s right – about 6300 feet of climbing without a single descent. In southern California, no less.

    Actually, in the interest of technical accuracy, there are a couple of descents tilting just barely down that do last for a couple dozen feet. For all intents and purposes though, there are no descents for this 22.5 mile long climb. The whole climb averages just over 5.3%, with the majority section along 39 averaging about 5.6%. There is nothing here that is tough with respect to grade – it is only tough because of the rather large amount of climbing involved.

    This alone should be enough to entice those riders who enjoy long, sustained climbs. If not though, there are two other good reasons to try this out. First, it is very scenic – especially late spring/early summer when the mountains are nice and green (this year was probably particularly good since we had a fair amount of precipitation). Second, most of this climb is free from traffic. Yes, all traffic. Due to road damage higher up, most of the road is completely closed to vehicles. Of course, this means, for most of the climb, you are entirely isolated from civilization. Bring more water/nutrition than usual to be safe (a camelback is not a bad idea for this ride). A riding partner would also be a good idea. This situation may change relatively soon though. Word is the road to Crystal Lake, at the very least, is hoped to be opened sometime later this summer. When that happens, there will likely be a snack bar open at Crystal Lake itself, so you will have access to water and food there. For now though, err on the side of caution and pack extras.

    This time, I parked just above the OHV area along 39 – about 10 miles north of Azusa. You can also park in Azusa and add those 10 miles to your ride. The 10 mile stretch is scenic, rolling hills that gradually climb upwards (starting elevation ~800ft, finishing elevation ~1600ft). You get nice views of Morris Reservoir and San Gabriel Reservoir along the way, including ~1 mile long descents next to each one. However, traffic is heavy (especially on weekends) along these sections and the shoulder is often narrow, so I find it to be not so pleasant. I rode this section the first time I did this climb, and would still semi-recommend it as the scenery is pretty cool. However, if you want to skip this warm-up and start right at the point that the traffic dies down and the climb actually starts in earnest, park where I parked. There are a couple of large parking areas right after the OHV area. They are easy to spot – right after the OHV area and the first true parking lots that you see. There are a few lots – all right below and above West Fork (West Fork, by the way, is a paved road that is also closed to vehicles and is a popular hiking and cycling road…about 15 miles round trip for that section…I haven’t tried it but plan on adding it in next time). On this Sunday, there were probably a hundred or so cars parked around this area – quite popular! Note that you will need a Forest Service Adventure Pass to park anywhere around here – $5 for a day pass and $30 for an annual pass. Worth the money, in my opinion, to support areas like this.

    Starting from this parking area, the scenery is immediately beautiful:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Cloud cover provided shade for much of the first part of the climb (nice to have given an 80 degree starting temperature):

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    There are a few stretches that stay straight as an arrow for longer than expected given the ruggedness of the mountains:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Looking up the canyon:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Beautiful pavement here:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Truly a beautiful valley:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Right after the last shot:

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Talk about a scenic backdrop for this road! Even better, the permanent closure for cars is just slightly ahead. The previous section is also often closed to cars – but, at least on this June Sunday, was open to cars (although the traffic level was very light). Just after the gate that closes the road to vehicles (duck under or around with your bike):

    From 2010-06-13 – San Gabriel Mountains Cycling – CA-39 to Dawson Saddle

    Amazing. A road like this, in scenery like this, all to your self.

    Read the Full Ride Report

    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

    14

    Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road Climb


    If you like to climb, you need to find your way to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara arguably has the most easily accessible, tough and scenic climbs in southern California. I’ve already written about the Old San Marcos/Painted Cave climb – one of the toughest around – so now it is time to tackle Gibraltar Road.

    To start, you have a couple of options. You can start at Tuckers Grove Park and give yourself a few miles of warm up. You can also start at the Santa Barbara Mission and give yourself no warm up. Either works for a starting location, but I would recommend Tuckers Grove – this gives you some rolling hills to warm up with and lets you finish with a great descent. If you start at the Mission you will climb immediately and finish with rolling hills. Anyway, the rest of this assumes you start at Tuckers Grove.

    From Tuckers Grove, you head east on Cathedral Oaks. After passing 154/San Marcos Pass Road, Cathedral Oaks turns into Foothill Road/192. This whole time you will be climbing and descending – this is some rather rolling terrain. A couple of miles further and you turn right onto Mission Canyon Road. Pass by Rocky Nook Park on your left. Right after, turn left onto Mountain Drive. If you were to ride a bit farther on Mission Canyon you would see Mission Santa Barbara (definitely worth visiting – it is one of the most beautiful California missions). As soon as you turn onto Mountain, the real climbing begins:

    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling

    This section of Mountain is pretty cool with an impressive rock wall spanning much of the length on the right side. After about a mile you will join up with Foothill/192. About 3/10s of a mile later you will turn left to stay on Mountain while 192 continues on to the right. This left turn is right before/at Sheffield Reservoir. Take a breather here and rehydrate as the climbing is unforgiving from this point forward. From here, ride a few hundred feet up before coming to a 4 way intersection. The left will take you along Las Canoas – a wonderful, albeit short, road to ride. To the right Mountain Drive continues along – also quite worthy of riding – lots of rolling hills with some decent climbs and amazing scenery along the way (if you have some extra time I would highly recommend exploring it). The middle choice, however, is your choice for today. This is the start of Gibraltar Road. The next 6.5 miles will give you almost 2600 feet of climbing with few breaks (your breaks will basically be sections that are not quite as steep as the surrounding sections). Anyway, the very start of Gibraltar:

    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling
    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling

    Shortly after this section you pass by El Cielito Road – from this point on you do not pass another intersection until finishing the climb at Camino Cielo Road. Right after El Cielito:

    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling

    Still some green on the hills from all the rains last season:

    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling

    Lots of other cyclists on the road today:

    From 2010-05-31 – Santa Barbara – Gibraltar Road & E Camino Cielo Cycling

    A panorama from this section:

    From HQ Panoramas

    Make sure to click on the link to see the higher resolution version. From there you can click the Download tab and choose Download Photo if you would like to download the full size, original version of the panorama (8271×2670 pixels in size…so yeah, pretty large).

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