Spring Bike Rides in Southern California

05.3.12


In Plain Sight

The world just looks better without a windshield in front of it, especially when the views are spring-fresh. Here are three pedal-powered adventures that roll through some sweet scenery.


Road bike palos verdes peninsula

Roadie Oh!

Palos Verdes Peninsula may be known for beautiful homes, but one of its greatest assets doesn't require a downpayment. A 10-mile loop around the western waterfront, and over aptly named Rolling Hills, delivers some of the best bluffside ocean vistas in Southern California. Start on the bike-friendly Palos Verdes Drive and ride up to Bluff Cove where steep rust-colored cliffs drop dramatically to the surf. Leave the main drag and head inland, switching gears for the climb up a quiet residential street with tidy lawns. The 2-mile ascent passing Spanish-style homes might have you huffing and puffing, but the long views north up sandy beaches will take your breath away. After gaining 850 feet in elevation, you’ll top out where the coast is clear—literally. The zippy descent on Hawthorne Boulevard’s bike lane features miles of blue sea spreading out below. Enjoy the breeze.

BURRITO BONUS: Post-ride, Casa Prontos (2325 Palos Verdes Drive West) in Palos Verdes Estates is ready to help you refuel with one of their 12 burritos. Get experimental or stick with The Classic: beans, rice, onions, cilantro, and your choice of meat (the shredded pork practically melts in your mouth).

From I-405 in Manhattan Beach, take the Rosecrans Ave. exit and drive 1.5 miles west on Rosecrans to Sepulveda Blvd./PCH. Turn left and drive 6 miles south. Turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd. Go 1.4 miles, and turn right on Palos Verdes Dr. Continue 2.8 miles, passing Yarmouth Rd., and find street parking along Palos Verdes Dr. outside the plaza containing Casa Prontos. Take the crosswalk to the east side of the street and turn left to begin biking north. After 1.5 miles, as the road rounds Bluff Cove, turn right up Via Montemar. Go half a mile and turn right around a bend to stay on Via Montemar. After another 1.3 miles, turn right on Granvia Altamira and bike 1.2 miles across the top of the hill. Turn right on Hawthorne Blvd. and go 3.4 miles downhill to Palos Verdes Dr. Turn right and bike 2 miles back to the crosswalk at Via Carrillo across from Casa Prontos, open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Bicycle Puddingstone Reservoir

Puddingstone Pedal

Some bike routes simply pave the way to terrific views. Ride in point: the easy 7-mile circuit around Bonelli Regional Park's 250-acre Puddingstone Reservoir and adjacent Brackett Airfield. It's an interesting place to explore both water and air—using two-wheel ground transportation! (It's also popular with cyclists getting in some cardio laps.) Starting from the airfield—where you can get up-close to runways frequented by small, private planes—roll west toward the reservoir's waterfront, passing picnic tables, pavilions, and a few beaches. Your backdrop is the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains. Hills on the trail are more fun than challenging, and crossing over Puddingstone Dam provides the longest vista across its fishing-boat-dotted water. The north side of the loop joins Puddingstone Drive along the lake to close out the ride.

BREAKFAST BONUS: Refuel your engine with a fluffy omelet at Norm's Hangar Coffee Shop inside the tiny terminal at Bracket Airfield. Norm's has all the coziness of a small-town diner, with huge views of the San Gabriels. Grab a seat on the patio and watch single-engine and two-propeller planes take off and land.

Take I-10 east of downtown Los Angeles and exit Fairplex Dr. Go north for 1.2 miles and turn left to remain on Fairplex Dr. (avoiding the entrance to Fairplex Park Racetrack). After 0.3-mile, when Fairplex Dr. turns right, continue straight on McKinley Ave. for another half-mile until the road becomes gated. Turn right into the free day-use parking for Brackett Airfield. Begin biking straight through the gate, continuing west. Pass through another gate after half a mile and stay to the left on the paved road. Cross the RV camp and follow the bike path along the lakeshore. When the path turns away from the lake and crosses a bridge to a T, turn left (away from the swimming beach). Make a right at the next split to go under a bridge and up a rise. Cross Puddingstone Dam and turn right up Puddingstone Dr. (across from the entrance to Raging Waters water park). Bike 2.2 miles past the lake and airport to Fairplex Dr. Turn right, pedal half a mile, and turn right a final time to return to the parking at Brackett Airfield. Norm's is open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The bike path is dog-friendly. No dogs at Norm's.

Mountain Bike Whiting Ranch Orange County

Canyon Connection

There's a whole lot of wild next door to Irvine's burgeoning malls and businesses. Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park has 4,300 acres of wilderness that’s been saved from development. Embark on a 5.75-mile moderately challenging mountain bike loop through two of the park's oak-shaded canyons. Gaining traction on patches of sand is part of the fat-tire fun while coursing up Borrego Canyon Trail for the first 1.5-miles. Mule deer can often be seen sourcing a meal from the oak groves flanking the path. A few fun descents keep things interesting, but the ride is mostly easy-going en route to the Mustard Trail junction, where it'll be time to get your game face on: this part involves tackling 400 feet of elevation gain in just under a mile. The good news: you’ll be privy to grand views of the surrounding foothills and saw-toothed sandstone faces. After topping out, set your sights east to a magnificent view of Santiago Peak. Then you're free to fly! Descend a sage-covered ridge to Serrano Canyon, where you'll zip through more oak woodlands on a wide, well-maintained trail that leads to the bottom. Tie the loop together via a short ride on a paved bike lane back to the trailhead. Two canyons in the can!

Take I-5 to the Bake Pkwy. exit in Irvine (just south of the merger with I-405). Drive east for 5.3 miles to Portola Pkwy. Turn left and drive one block to Market Pl. Turn right and make an immediate left into the parking area for Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. There is a $3 fee to park in this lot. Grab a trail map and bike 1.5 miles up Borrego Canyon Trail. Turn right on Mustard Trail and proceed 0.8-mile to a four-way junction. Head straight down Whiting Rd., and continue downhill on Serrano Cow Trail and Serrano Canyon Trail to reach the second trailhead. Pass through a metal gate and turn right toward Portola Pkwy. Turn right and take the bike lane 0.9-mile back to the start. All junctions are marked. Bike traffic on Borrego Canyon Trail is one way, so do not attempt the loop in reverse. No dogs.

Better Than Walking the Plank

Listen here, ye swashbucklers: 70 California state parks are walking the plank to closure July 1. If you wanna help save them, just start singing, "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me." This Saturday's ParkFilm Fest at Paramount Studios features the first three Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters and benefits the California State Parks Foundation. Scenes from each of these films were shot in California state parks. Buy your tickets now, then don your best pirate outfit (costumes encouraged!) for the festivities. Enjoy free popcorn and water, grab lunch from a tasty on-site food truck, step in front of the green-screen for super-imposed photos with your favorite pirate, and meet some of the actors for Q&A, autographs, and photo ops. Arrr you ready for a screening good time? Go get your scallywaggin' hands on some tickets before it's too late.

Ahoy! Get your tickets to this Saturday's ParkFilm Fest at Paramount Studios and help save our state parks. Purchase per film or go for the trifecta at calparks.org.

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