Head for the Hills

With temperatures cooled down, now is the perfect time to hop on a mountain bike and take a ride in the San Gabriel Mountains. Thanks to an explosion of high school teams, adult competitions, and interest during COVID, mountain biking has become one of America’s fastest-growing sports, and the trails in the hills around Pasadena are some of the finest in Southern California.

For Newcomers

Cherry Canyon

Featuring a network of interconnected trails, Cherry Canyon in La Cañada-Flintridge is an ideal place to try out the sport. After a fire-road ascent, you’ll have the choice of going down the same way or opting for a series of singletrack trails, where rocks and roots make for a manageable introduction to technical riding. Cherry Canyon consists of a web of trails, but whichever route you take, you’ll be climbing at least 275 feet over at least half a mile.


For a Moderately Challenging Tour

Gabrielino Trail

Up above the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Gabrielino Trail winds its way along the Arroyo Seco and makes you forget you’re anywhere near Los Angeles. Pretty quickly you’ll feel as though you’ve got the mountains all to yourself. Most people stop after 3.6 miles and 675 feet of elevation gain at Switzer Falls, but the complete trail runs a total of 26 miles. 


For Thrill Seekers

Also above JPL is El Prieto, one of Southern California’s most famous rides. The trail is steep, the turns are tight, the rocks are everywhere, and a minor mistake could mean a serious tumble down the slope. If you’re not sure whether you can handle this beast of a ride, watch mountain-biking influencer MTB ALAN try it out on YouTube while providing commentary all the way down. Getting to the El Prieto descent will take over 1,100 feet and 3.9 miles of climbing on the Fern Truck Trail.


For Lighting Quads on Fire

If your ambitions are all about putting your legs to the test, there’s only one option. Clocking in at over nine miles and 4,400 feet of climbing at a 10% grade all the way up, the Mt. Wilson Toll Road is pure, grueling punishment.

Wheels Up

The best trail maps are on the MTB Project app. To rent a bike, check out InCycle or Velo. Both shops have excellent selections of bikes for rent and for sale.

Need somebody to ride with? Sucio Riders MTB organizes group rides every Saturday for all ability levels. Find them on Strava or Facebook. If you want to join a crew the old-fashioned way, the parking lot on Ventura and Windsor in Altadena above JPL is where you’re guaranteed to find bikers hanging out beside their trucks, admiring their rigs.

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