Where should you ride in the Angeles National Forest?
One of the best things about the ANF is the variety of styles of riding you can do. There is something for everyone. We decided to highlight 5 of our favorite rides. Listed below are great trails and local favorites, from easiest to more advanced. If you have a favorite ride you would like us to highlight, let us know!
The Gabrielino Trail from JPL to USFS Dam is a great trail for beginners or even a nice family ride. We see lots of kids and parents riding this trail, plus there’s a ton of shade cover. Fair warning, this trail is covered in poison oak. When riding or hiking, stay on the trail and try to avoid touching the plants growing along the trail. We recommend you wash all of your clothes and your bike as soon as you get home.
The Brown Mountain to Ken Burton to Gabrielino to JPL is a great loop for an intermediate rider. You start from JPL and ride up Brown Mountain, which is a semi-steep fire road, pass the first saddle and keep riding up to the left for an easy and fun ride up, for a total of approximately six miles of climbing. The fire road ends here and you will descend on a single track called Ken Burton. This takes you along the back side, where the trail gets narrow and exposed. There are over 30 switchbacks, but there are also many flowy and fast sections. Once you reach the river bed, you follow the tire tracks and pink ribbons to where the single track picks up again. Then climb back up over the USFS Dam and quickly descend to the Paul Little Campground. From there you are back on the Gabrielino Trail, which will take you back down to JPL. Be aware that after heavy storms the water in the river bed can be high and swift. Check local conditions before heading out for this loop.
The Brown Mountain to El Prieto is probably the most famous ride in our area, we’ve met people who travel from all over the world to ride El Prieto. As an intermediate to advanced ride, the fire road climb is steep and the single track ride down is rocky, technical and exposed in some parts. You start your ride at the JPL Windsor parking lot, climb up Brown Mountain to the first saddle. From here you head straight and descend the Fern Truck Trail fire road for approximately one mile. The El Prieto entrance is on the right side of the fire road, and though it is well marked, it can be easily missed if you are not familiar. If you hit a small creek crossing, you’ve missed the turn and should go back just a little bit and you’ll see the entrance on your left. El Prieto has many water crossings, lots of shade, poison oak, rock drops, switchbacks, flowy and fast parts, and technical exposed sections. It has a little bit of everything for everyone. The trail is also popular with hikers and an occasional equestrian, yielding is essential and a bell is appreciated. The trail exits near the start the Brown Mountain climb.
The Chilao Area Mt. Hillyer Loop is deeper in the Angeles National Forest, and one of the best rides in the ANF. You go up Hwy 2 from La Cañada for approximately 26 miles to the Chilao Campground and Visitor Center. A mellow fire road climb starts from the campground area and comes to a paved road. Turn right and climb up to Rosenita Saddle, where you join the Mt Hillyer single track. This will take you on a steep climb up Mt. Hillyer. (this climb is steep and thankfully short) From the top, you will descend a fun, rocky, technical trail. There are lots of rock features, steep, sandy descents, switchbacks, etc. Totally worth the drive, and it’s great when it’s hot outside. At 6K elevation, it’s always at least 10 degrees cooler than in the city. Do bring a trail map of the area so you don’t get turned around at the many trail intersections near the campgrounds.
The Mt. Wilson Front Side Single Track Tour is a popular technical ride where you can take a shuttle up or earn your turns by climbing up via the Mt. Lowe fire road or the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. Most people would choose a full suspension bike for this advanced ride, with lots of exposure and technical features. The descent starts shortly after Eaton Saddle, where you climb to and through the Mueller Tunnel. From the first saddle, you can ride down the Mt. Lowe fire road or head left and up on the Mt. Lowe East trail. Mt Lowe East is very exposed and technical. The trail exits onto the Mt. Lowe fire road and you head down to the Middle Merrill-Idlehour-Inspiration Point intersection. Middle Merrill is also technical and exposed. It ends at the Echo Mountain trail. If you go left, you will visit an historical landmark, the “Echo Mountain House.” Only the remains are left, but it’s a nice place to take in local history and a good resting place to refuel before the next part of the ride. If you go right where Middle Merrill meets Echo Mountain trail, you will ride up for approximately one mile and reach the paved section of the Mt. Lowe Railway. Head down approx 100 yards, and on the right you will see the trailhead for Sunset Ridge. Sunset is technical and exposed near the top, but turns into a rocky, fast and flowy trail towards the bottom. The end of the trail is marked by hopping back on the paved Mt. Lowe Road. You can either end your ride here or you can continue right on to Lower Sunset trail, a quick, short, fast and flowy section to Millard Campground. Continue through the camp and climb the fire road for a mile, where you will briefly descend and then make a sharp right turn onto a single track that brings you to El Prieto. El Prieto will be on your left once you go through a small creek crossing.