Dead Cow – China Flats – Suicide
Ride Level – Very Advanced
Total Ride Distance: 4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,078 feet
Total Elev Drop: 1,097 feet
As the names may suggest, this ride is not for the faint of heart, but that’s what makes it one of the best mountain bike trails in Los Angeles. Large rocks litter both the climb and descent making this Agoura Hills loop a legendary classic. The ride is very challenging and is best suited for advanced riders. Of course you can always walk sections of the climb or descent if you feel overwhelmed.
Suicide is a downhill trail that features some non-mandatory jumps, drops and berms. Those willing to make the climb (either from Chesebro or Dead Cow) will be rewarded with expansive views of the Santa Monica Mountains out to the coast on clear days. One of our favorite bonus loops is the China Flats clover. It’s a narrow singletrack through tall grass that snakes around a large flat area under beautiful oak tree-filled fields. If you’re looking to add about 20 minutes to your ride before dropping in for the five to ten minute (depending on speed) descent down Suicide, this is well worth your time.
Directions and Ride Route:
Easiest parking for the ride is found at the Oak Canyon Community Park in the city of Oak Park. The park is free to enter and safe to park in. From there, follow the paved Oak Canyon trail out the back of the park. Cross the first street and continue up a short singletrack trail behind some houses until you hit Lindero Canyon Road. Take a left and quickly turn right onto King James Court. The China Flats trailhead is at the end of the cul-de-sac. Parking is available here, but we prefer to ride from the bottom of the trail so that we end up directly at our cars after the ride.
Follow the fire road up. As you climb, the road will narrow and become increasingly rocky. This ascent is a fantastic test of your technical climbing abilities and is also one of our favorite descents for testing tires and suspension! Once you reach the top of the climb, you will see a steep, narrow trail to the right. Up the rocky hike-a-bike is the start of Suicide trail. Behind the gate lies the trail to China Flats and also Chesebro Canyon’s trail network. You can continue left to China Flats for some extra fun or go straight to Suicide.
Suicide drops quickly from the start before snaking down the mountain. Most of the jumps and drops have optional go arounds so don’t feel the need to send everything blind. The upper section is littered with embedded rocks and wavy slabs that continue to get rougher with winter erosion each year. The lower section is faster, smoother and features lots of loose rocks. Just follow the main line all the way down and you’ll end up right back at your vehicle.
Suicide is a great trail for advancing your technical riding skills. Since most features can be navigated slowly or gone around, riders are able to slowly work up to hitting new lines and increase their comfort in steep rocky terrain. This trail is highly rewarding and is a must hit trail off the 101 freeway and Kanan Rd. If you’re hungry after, head to the Italia Deli in Agoura Hills for a fresh made sub.
Sullivan Ridge (and Caballero Canyon Option)
Ride Level – Intermediate-Advanced
Total Ride Distance: 10 to 17
Total Elevation Gain: 1,327 to 3,300 feet
Total Elev Drop: Starting at 1,923
Located in the Santa Monica Mountains off dirt Mulholland, this trail’s proximity to Los Angeles makes it a perfect riding stop for anyone in the city. It can be accessed from the Valley on the east, or the coastal/western side.
Dirt Mulholland is a major artery with trails dipping down almost every ridge. Sullivan is just one of the many options and you can choose on this ride by climbing up Sullivan Ridge fire road. If you’re coming from the valley side or want more bang for your buck, try climbing up Caballero Canyon trail off Reseda Blvd. Dirt Mulholland runs for eight miles between Topanga Canyon all the way towards the 405 freeway and offers expansive views of the coast and downtown Los Angeles. It’s also worth visiting the old Nike Missile site for a piece of LA’s wartime history.
Big Tree and Jedi Approach are fast singletracks that branch off Sullivan Ridge fire road and are littered with jumps and turns. All features have ride-around options, making the area ideal for riders looking to progress and get comfortable with high speed riding or wanting to practice their jumping skills.
At the bottom of the descent you’ll end up at a junction where you’ll have three options. You can either turn back up the fire road and climb to dirt mullholland, take the paved road down to the first trail on your right into camp Josepho or continue down the road about 150 yards to Squirrel Cage (the first trail on your left next to a phone pole). It’s easy to miss the entrance to this fun, steep singletrack descent into Sullivan Canyon. We recommend dropping down that and pedaling back up from there– unless of course you parked on the coastal side.
If you climb back up to Mullholland, take a left and continue down the fire road for a short bit and you’ll see two singletrack options branch off to the right. If you’re looking for something a bit steeper and gnarlier than Caballero you can take a right and end up at the same parking area on Reseda. Be warned they are technical and rocky.
This ride is an iconic LA ride but isn’t necessarily one of the most jam-packed on our list. Instead it’s the amount of saddle time mated with expansive views and Nike Missile Site history that put this ride on our recommendation list.
Directions from South:
Parking is found in the neighborhoods at the intersection of Amalfi Drive and Capri. Once unloaded, pedal up Capri and turn left on Casale. Follow Casale until it turns into the Sullivan fire road. You’ll continue up the paved road until arriving at a gate. Go around the gate and continue upwards. As you climb this fire road you may notice Big Tree and Jedi Aproach trails as they parallel and intersect the fire road. When you get to dirt Mullholland, you can either turn around and enjoy the descent or venture towards Caballero and check out Cookies DH down towards the San Fernando Valley.
Directions from the Valley:
Exit Reseda Blvd from the 101 and head west. Continue towards the mountains until a stop sign by Braemar Country Club. The trailhead is just off the road. Park along the curb and make your way up Caballero Canyon Trail. You will reach dirt Mulholland and after catching your breath you’ll make a left turn. Continue up Mulholland and you’ll see Sullivan Ridge off to your right. If you go just a bit passed Sullivan you can visit the Nike Missile site before dropping in.
As you descend Sullivan be aware. Big Tree and Jedi Approach break off to the left and right of the fire road respectively in a rather obvious manner. Nevertheless, keep your eyes peeled as it crosses over the road a few times.
On the way down, the trail alternates between fast, loose shale and sections with small jumps and berms. Be warned and always stop to look at the feature before jumping. Some of the jumps go over rather large gaps or even clear over canyons that have serious consequences. That said, every feature has an easy go around option so taking the smooth and easy line is no problem.
Once you return to the pavement, go straight and look for a steep trail dropping off to the left, this is Squirrel Cage and will take you down into Sullivan Canyon below. Find a shady spot to fuel up and pedal back towards Mullholland.
If you want a bigger adventure, follow the paved Sullivan Fire Road down until the first trail breaks off to the right. Take the Nicholas Cage trail down and into Camp Josepho. The area was once a remote camp for Nazi sympathizers in the U.S. and was more or less a self-sustaining city. Today, the area is nothing but a few ruins, but nevertheless it is an interesting piece of Los Angeles history to pedal through. Once you’ve had your fill, take the paved road out of the ranch and back onto the main Sullivan Fire Road. The scenery, history and awesome trails make Sullivan Ridge a must ride in LA.
Be sure to watch this Red Bull video of Curtis Keene shredding Sullivan Ridge for inspiration.
Los Robles Trail aka Space Mountain
Ride Level – Moderate
Total Ride Distance: 6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 699 feet
Total Elev Drop: 1,389 Feet
The Los Robles Trail, or Space Mountain as it is more commonly called, is a fun and flowy single track located off the 101 freeway off Moorpark Rd in Thousand Oaks. Small built up berms accentuate an already sweeping single track that switchbacks through the foothills. The trail is not particularly difficult, but is fun for beginner and advanced riders alike.
Directions and Ride Route:
Located off the 101 Freeway on South Moorpark road, follow Moorpark west until it dead-ends at a dirt parking area. You can do the shorter option or if you want to go for a bit more, coast back down Moorpark on your bike and take a right turn on Los Padres Dr. You’ll quickly see a trail entrance on your right. Enter and climb up the steep singletrack and take a right on the fire road.
You’ll reach the next fork, take another right on the fire road and pedal up until the trail T’s. Take a left and you’ll soon be descending a fun, flowy singletrack. Continue down the trail until it the next intersection and take a left taking you down a short steep rock garden. Keep an eye out for a steep uphill right turn, that’s the bottom of Switchbacks/Space Mountain. Head up and pedal away!
If you left the main parking lot from Moorpark Rd. and didn’t opt for the bonus loop, follow the main fire road into the park for about 8 minutes. There will be a “Y” in the road with two steep but short climbs. Take the right and you’ll immediately drop down and reach a critical junction. Switchbacks/Space Mountain is the trail to your left that abruptly goes up. The first hundred feet are steep, but it mellows out soon.
Take care when riding up as this is the same trail that people travel down very fast. After roughly 12 to 25 minutes (depending on fitness) you’ll reach the first small bench. Enjoy a quick view and continue traversing along the singletrack northwest. The trail will intersect Ventu Park fire road, but keep going past that until you reach Angel Vista, which is marked by a picnic bench and a beautiful view overlooking Conejo Valley and out to Oxnard and the Pacific Ocean.
On the return ride, the trail is primarily downhill and you can enjoy the sweeping turns, jumps and small rocky sections. Be conscious that this trail is shared with hikers and other riders climbing up, so take care around blind corners. Once back on the fire road, be sure to ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, a short ripping flow trail. Mr. Toad’s is a quick left off the main fire road, followed by a quick right turn at the “Y”. Though brief, this trail is a favorite because of it’s flow and fun right hip jump at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to session it multiple runs! Just be careful if you stop since other riders may be hauling through on the way down. We recommend the short pedal up on the road when lapping.
Chantry Flats Trails
Winter Creek and Sturtevant Falls
Ride Level – Advanced/Expert
Total Ride Distance: 7 to 20 miles
Total Elevation Gain: Min 2,200
One of the most challenging, rewarding and consequential rides we’ve ever done. This section of the San Gabriels hosts a massive amount of trails that are steep and rugged. If you’re not afraid of heights, cliff side exposure and want to see trees, granite and waterfalls that will make you think you’re in the Pacific North West, this is the place to go.
Be warned it is very difficult, even for advanced level riders. The trail can also be a madhouse on the weekends. The good news is, the farther from the parking lot you go, the quieter it gets.
Exit Santa Anita Ave off the 210 freeway and head directly for the steep mountains luring you in. Drive through the residential areas and be sure to make complete stops at the stop signs. You’ll soon be on Santa Anita Canyon Rd., a steep, windy climb towards the parking area and Adam’s Pack Station. They sell a great little map and it’s worth a visit for the sake of history and nostalgia. However, they don’t sell Adventure Passes to park up there so be aware of that before hand.
Upper Winter Creek starts at the upper end of the parking lot and branches off the pavement a couple turns after the gate. You’ll reach an intersection and you’ll want to take Lower Winter Creek down. This will cross the river several times (you’ll get wet feet on this one) and you will see some amazing turns and natural scenery.
As you descend Lower Winter take note of the Mt. Zion trail branching off as that is where a bonus loop could drop you back to. It will add about 2,000 feet of climbing to the ride, but is an incredible addition!
Once you get to the bottom of Lower Winter Creek you’ll see some outhouses and a green bridge. You can end your ride there by crossing the bridge and climbing Chantry Hell Climb or you can go left up Sturtevant trail to view the waterfalls.
If the waterfall detour isn’t enough you can climb up Sturtevant trail and take it a couple thousand feet up to the peak of Mt. Wilson or branch off after the historic camp lodge and climb over Mt. Zion. This addition is no joke but it will reward you greatly if you’ve got the fitness. The fairy tale scenery alone on the climb is enough to distract you from the pain.
Ride Level – Beginner to Very Advanced
Total Ride Distance: 1 Mile
Total Elevation Gain: 146 feet
Total Elev Drop: 410 Feet
Whoops is an LA fixture and is one of the oldest dirt jumping spots in the Santa Monica Mountains. The trail is short, but makes up for it with hundreds of small rollers and jumps that are intermixed with larger gap jumps. None of the gaps are mandatory, but after a few runs you’ll find yourself trying out whatever sized jumps seem possible for your skill level. This is a trail that has something for everyone beginner to pro, and we’ll typically spend the day sessioning the trail lap after lap to work on bike handling and jumps. As the day goes on, you’ll find yourself jumping things you never thought you would at first!
Directions and Ride Route:
To reach Whoops, go up North Kenter Avenue off of Sunset Blvd until it dead ends. Parking is available on the neighborhood street. Ride through the gate, following the paved fire road until it takes a sharp turn towards a water tank. Just before that turn, on your left, is the exit of the trail. Instead of riding up the trail, climb the North Kenter fire road. Kenter Whoops will be the first trail to break off left from the fire road.
The jumps build in size from the top and are largest in the mid section where there is a full sized set of dirt jumps and a canyon gap. Below those, the jumps decrease in size. The entire trail is comprised of small whoops or rollers, that are perfect for learning to catch air or practicing manuals. As your confidence increases, break off the center line to hit some of the larger side jumps. As with any jump, be sure to scout out the feature before attempting and always ride within your limits. Be respectful of the trails. These jumps take incredible amounts of work to make, so don’t stand on take offs or crumble the sculpted dirt!
Mt. Pinos – McGill Trail
Ride Level – Intermediate
Fitness: 3 (shuttle) 7 (climb)
Total Ride Distance: 20 miles (loop) 17 miles (out and back)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,199 (Climbing Road)
If you’re looking to escape the shrubs of the Los Angeles basin for some alpine scenery, this is the ride for you. A 9-mile descent weaves through pine trees offering you a breath of fresh air and big scenery over the Wind Wolves Preserve and Tejon Ranch. This trail is not very challenging technically but is fun for riders from beginner to advanced levels.
We prefer to shuttle this super-fun trail so we can get more runs, but if you don’t have an extra vehicle or enough people to sit odd-man-out you have two options: Climb the road (mellower grade and low traffic) or climb the trail (steeper and may have downhill bike traffic).
As you climb the Tejon Pass heading north on I-5 look for Frazier Park/ Mt. Pinos exit. Head west through town and continue driving until you reach a “Y” with a large dirt lot in the center. This is Mill Portrero Rd and takes you to the Mt. Pinos Nordic Center. No matter which way you get to the Nordic Center, prepare for an epic descent.
The trail drops off the far corner of the parking lot and after a short pedal it begins to lose elevation quickly. The first road crossing comes after a couple minutes of descending. Ride across the road and left about 30 feet and you’ll see the trail dip off the road through a campground. Go through the camp and look left for your brown ribbon of singletrack.
The trail crosses over the road a couple of times but is easy to navigate. There are a few pedaly bits to the trail but for the most part it is an all-out descent offering you miles of smiles.
We recommend knee pads and possibly some goggles since the trail is pretty fast. A bell is also a good idea since hikers/bikes choose to come up the trail and you have the ability to reach speeds over 30mph on the narrow singletrack.
Backbone – Guadalasca Trail – Sycamore Canyon
Ride Level – Intermediate
Total Ride Distance: 9 to 25 miles
Total Elevation Gain: Minimum 1,100
The Sycamore Canyon trail system located in Point Mugu State Park can be accessed from PCH at the Sycamore Campground or from the Newbury Park trailhead off the 101 freeway. This is our preferred starting point and where we assume most visitors will start. There are many miles of trails in the park, many are fire road miles but some fun singletrack off-shoots give you the chance to mix up your ride every visit. Technicality is low but there are plenty of climbs to build up your fitness and ocean views to enjoy.
If coming from the 101, exit at Wendy Dr. and head west until the road ends at a dirt lot. This is a very easy parking area to find and the trail starts just ahead of the parking area.
Gear up and join the Wendy singletrack. It will follow the base of the hill and hook right away from the cars. The trail will dump you onto a paved park road and take a sharp left going passed a ranger’s house and through the gate. You’ll soon drop down the infamous black bitch and be on the Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. Take a right over the bridge and look for a singletrack about ¼ mile up the road to the left.
Sin Nombre and Two Foxes will parallel the main road and meet up again at the Wood Canyon fire road. Depending on if you prefer a more technical climb or descent you can either turn left or right to start the Guad-Backbone loop. The Guadalasca side is a bit rockier and more technical so choose which you’d rather descend.
If you want to climb Guad, take a right on Wood Canyon and follow that up a few minutes until you see a singletrack branch off to the left.
If you’d rather leave the rough stuff for the downhill turn left on Wood Canyon make a quick right on Big Sycamore and you’ll see the bottom of Backbone on your right just a bit down the road. Hydrate at the base and get ready for a thousand foot climb to the top of Overlook Rd. Once at the peak, follow the main road and climb a bit more until you reach your descent.
If you’re looking for some extra miles you can break left at the La Jolla fire road for a bonus loop. Be warned it’s not that spectacular as the best singletracks are closed to bikes in this zone.
If you ever get lost, or want to add on miles just make note of Big Sycamore road and know that all trails will dump you there and it’s your easiest way in or out. But don’t forget the black bitch! You’ll see just why it’s so famous if you go.
Photos: Anthony Smith
Ride Level – Advanced
Total Ride Distance: 9.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
Just south of Santa Barbara, tucked back in a steep tree-filled canyon is one of our favorite SoCal rides. Romero Canyon is a pretty smooth, but long climb that rises 3,000 feet from the coastal floor below. Views at the top are panoramic and make you forget about the seven miles you just suffered.
Just a little farther and you’ll soon be rewarded with one of the fastest and most rewarding descents in the area. To give you an indication of how much fun you’ll have going down, the 7-mile climb is reduced to just over 2 miles on the descent. Make sure your brakes are ready.
From the 101 take the Sheffield Drive exit. Take Sheffield to East Valley Rd. and turn left. Take the first right onto Romero Canyon Rd. and follow that to Bella Vista where you’ll take a right. In less than half a mile you’ll see the entrance. Make sure you park completely off the pavement. Don’t block the gate.
The next 45 minutes to an hour will be spent huffing and puffing your way up Romero Fire Road. It turns into an overgrown double/singletrack and the view makes it tolerable. You’ll think you’re at the top when a large water tank comes into sight. Take a quick breather, but you’ve still got a little ways to go. There is a bonus line behind the tower but if you want to save your skin just take the main path to the pavement and take a right. You’ll see the dirt road hook left but straight through a rock barrier is a singletrack that goes up a steep hike-a-bike section. Another few minutes and you’ll be at the top
The descent begins atop the ridge in a grassy saddle and takes a sharp hairpin right. Don’t miss it. The trail completes the figure-8 loop by intersecting the climbing road once. You’ll be treated to three very distinct zones as you return to the oaky canyon below.
Up top the trail is narrow, side hill singletrack on decomposed rock with some sharp switchbacks. After crossing the road you just climbed, you drop into a fast, hard pack singletrack-. The trail quickly turns to a rocky masterpiece of wheel catching challenges. We definitely recommend knee pads some flat tire repair equipment.
As a courtesy, many trails in the SB area have bell boxes at the bottom. Take one for the ride or leave a donation and keep it for life. It’s a great way to let uphill traffic know you’re coming down.
Note: Recent fires and floods have greatly altered the trail and Romero canyon area as a whole. Take caution of changed trail conditions and always check local trail status updates.