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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!

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