Escaping Los Angeles

Paseo Miramar/Topanga Loop
Trail at a Glance

Length/configuration: 18.6-mile loop on pavement and fire road

Aerobic difficulty: Very difficult; one of the most grueling climbs in the Santa Monicas

Technical difficulty: Moderate; some rocky descents

Scenery: Pacific Ocean, wooded canyons, pinkish volcanic boulders, Eagle Rock, and caves

Special comments: A very popular trail, this route serves as an exemplary training ride, view tour, and long cruise all in one


The thought that always pops into my head during this ride is that if I had shelled out a thousand bucks to fly somewhere for an exotic mountain bike vacation and the outfitter took me on this route, I'd be a very happy customer. But if you live in Los Angeles, you don't have to shell out anything but sweat for this scenic, very accessible loop. So what are you waiting for?

Starting less than a half-mile from Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Pacific Palisades, the ride grinds up Paseo Miramar, which is ungodly steep on both its paved and dirt sections. If you ask me, it's the toughest 20 minutes of riding in the Santa Monicas. (In fact, my wife still kicks me when she remembers that I took her here on her second-ever dirt ride.) But once you reach the Parker Mesa Overlook and its gorgeous ocean vistas, the riding gets a lot easier. The views are incredible as you spin by pinkish-colored volcanic boulders high above wooded Santa Ynez Canyon. The trail gets a lot of use, especially on weekends, but everyone is accustomed to seeing other users so conflicts are rare.

After passing the turnoff to Trippet Ranch (where rest rooms and park rangers can be reached in an emergency), the trail gets a little hairy again as you climb to a sublime rest spot, the jaw-droppingly scenic Eagle Rock. I always have a hard time figuring where to point my camera up here, it's so picturesque. Anyway, after spinning up to the Hub Junction, a fast but controlled descent on Trailer Canyon Road (which sees relatively little use) takes you down to Palisades Drive, where a deli awaits. It's all downhill from there, so if you'd rather snarf some seafood, pass on the deli and head to Gladstone's Seafood right at the intersection of Sunset and PCH. You'll rave about the setting, the portions, and more often than not, the food.

General location: In Topanga State Park north of Pacific Palisades, less than a mile from the intersection of Sunset and Pacific Coast Highway.
Elevation change: Ride climbs from 75' to 2,025' with several ups and downs.
Season: Year-round.
Services: Rest rooms, water, and a ranger station can be found at Trippet Ranch midway through the ride. You'll also pass a deli near the ride's end.
Hazards: Occasionally crowded trails, and automobile traffic on paved sections.
Rescue index: Help is available at Trippet Ranch midway through the ride. In addition, Sunset Boulevard is easily reached from most points on the ride.
Land status: State park and city streets.
Maps: The Trail Map of the Santa Monica Mountains East is available from Tom Harrison Cartography, (800) 265-9090. Also, the Topanga State Park map is available at the Trippet Ranch entrance station or by contacting the park itself.
Finding the trail: From Pacific Palisades, take Sunset Boulevard west past Palisades Drive to Los Liones Drive (just west of a fire station). Turn right on Los Liones and park immediately. From PCH, head east on Sunset Boulevard and turn left on Los Liones Drive, just west of the fire station. Park immediately.
Sources of additional information:
Topanga State Park
(310) 455-2465

Notes on the trail: From Los Liones Drive, stay on the north side of Sunset in front of the fire station and turn immediately left on Paseo Miramar. The street winds and climbs steeply; follow the yellow lines to prevent turning off onto side streets. At 1.3 miles go around a gate at the end of paved Paseo Miramar and start climbing a cruel dirt road. After one teasing downhill, climb up to the Parker Mesa Overlook turnoff at 3.5 miles. Turn left and ride to the vista with great ocean views at 4 miles. Turn around, return to the fire road (which is now called Santa Ynez fire Road), and turn left. Some occasional tough climbs ensue, but nothing like what you've already endured. At 7.3 miles, reach the turnoff to Trippet Ranch (you will have already noticed a lot more trail users in this area). If you need a rest room or ranger assistance, turn left for a quarter-mile to Trippet Ranch. Otherwise, keep going straight, following signs to Eagle Rock and the Hub.

At 8.5 miles you'll reach a three-way intersection. Take the middle route toward Eagle Rock, which you'll reach on your right at 9 miles. Get off your bike and explore the rock for a while (it makes a great lunch spot). Afterward, turn right and roller-coaster to the Hub at 9.9 miles. Head right and south on Temescal fire Road toward Trailer Canyon (make sure not to go sharply right to Eagle Springs). Some roller-coaster hills follow as you pass by Temescal Peak (2,126') and then descend rapidly to the junction with Trailer Canyon at 12.6 miles. Veer right here (the left, Temescal, is soon closed to bikes) and descend to a gate and paved cul-de-sac on Michael Lane at 15.3 miles. Head right on Michael Lane for about a block, then left on Vereda de la Montura. Go right at the big intersection with Palisades Drive (a deli is on the southwest corner). Descend for a spell on Palisades Drive until you reach Sunset Boulevard at 18.5 miles. Turn right toward your car at Los Liones at 18.6 miles.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

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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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