Tough and Easy: Two Southern California Rides

Mountain Biking at Pt. Mugu State Park
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Point Mugu State Park has mountain bike routes suited to all abilities. Two routes cover the range. Those seeking an easy spin can try Crags Road , a mostly flat pedal that criss-crosses Malibu Creek and passes by the old M*A*S*H set.

Those craving a route that takes a little more strength and bike handling skills can try the 15.5-mile Sycamore Canyon loop. If you can handle it, this ride is well paced and scenically diverse: an easy warm-up, lovely scenery, tree-shaded lanes, open roads, single-track trails, a grinding"sweat-in-the-eyes" climb, exhilarating descents, splendid coastal views, ample water, wildlife, and wildflowers.

Sycamore Canyon Loop

The first 5.6 miles are a gentle ascent on Big Sycamore Canyon Trail to Ranch Center Road. The pedaling on Ranch Center Road is moderately difficult for 1.5 miles, and then the road drops rapidly for .8 miles. Wood Canyon Trail is picked up at this point and the route continues downhill for two miles to Overlook Trail at Deer Camp Junction. On Overlook Trail you climb very steeply for 1.5 miles and tackle the aptly named Hell Hill. The biking then gets easier as you ride around the south side of an unnamed peak. The loop ends with an exhilarating three-mile descent.

Road conditions vary. The first 4.5 miles are over an unpaved, two-wheel-drive road in good condition. This is followed by 3.2 miles of pavement. The remaining miles are on dirt trails in fair-to-good condition with some loose gravel and sand.

General location: Starts at the campground in Big Sycamore Canyon at Point Mugu State Park (approximately 30 miles west of Los Angeles).
Land status: State park.
Elevation change: Big Sycamore Canyon Trail begins at 25' of elevation and climbs to 400' at Ranch Center Road. On Ranch Center Road you climb to 700', and then drop to 500' at the intersection with Wood Canyon Trail. You will then descend on Wood Canyon Trail to Deer Camp Junction at 300', and climb to 1,200' on Overlook Trail before descending to the trailhead. Total elevation gain: 1,575'.
Season: Can be enjoyed year-round. Due to its beautiful trails and proximity to a large urban area, Point Mugu State Park is a popular riding area. Good bets for light-use times are weekday mornings. Trail closure due to high fire danger can occur at any time. Call the district ranger for current conditions.
Services: You will find water at the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground and at various locations along the ride. The last place to fill up before climbing on Overlook Trail is at the Ranch Center Maintenance Center. All services are available in Malibu.
Hazards: The park is well used by cyclists, equestrians, hikers, and runners. Care must be taken to watch out for others on the trails. Be especially cautious around blind corners. Watch for motor vehicles on Ranch Center Road.
Rescue index: Help can be obtained at the park headquarters located at the park's entrance. There is a pay phone here as well.
Maps: A park map can be purchased at the headquarters. It is an excellent guide to this trail.

Finding the trail:
The trail begins at the north end of the Big Sycamore Canyon Campground in Point Mugu State Park. The park's entrance is off the Pacific Coast Highway (CA 1), 32 miles west of Santa Monica and 12 miles east of Oxnard. There is a day use fee for parking at the campground or across the highway at the beach. Automobiles may also be parked outside the park in an area off the highway marked, "No Parking 10 p.m. to 5 a.m."

Notes on the trail:
Follow Big Sycamore Canyon Trail. The road turns to pavement and climbs to an intersection with Ranch Center Road. Turn left and follow Ranch Center Road to Ranch Center and Wood Canyon Trail on the left. Take Wood Canyon Trail to Deer Camp Junction. Continue straight onto Overlook Trail as Wood Canyon Trail veers left. Follow Overlook Trail to Big Sycamore Canyon Trail and turn right to return to the trailhead.

Cyclists have damaged portions of the park's trails by skidding their tires. Walk your bike if you cannot descend without skidding.

Bicycles are not permitted on all of the trails in the park. Obey signs indicating closings.

View: Trail Map

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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