Rode Trip: Up, Down and In-N-Out
Up, Down and In-N-Out
Distance: 12 miles
Elevation: +1932 feet
Riding Conditions: Some road riding, mixed terrain, fire roads
Ideal Bike: Gravel bike, touring bike, mountain bike, fat tire road bike
Tire Size: Recommend at least 32-35mm, 40mm ideal
GPS: Ride with GPS link
After a busy and successful Bicycle Tourism Conference, where we made some great new acquaintances and reconnected with colleagues we headed South via Amtrak to where I grew up in Los Angeles. Whenever, we visit with my parents, I’m always excited at the opportunity to do some riding since they live just a few miles from Angeles Crest Forest and the Verdugo Mountains. Of course there is a bit of irony, since I remember in high school feeling bored because there was “nothing to do” in the Sunland/Tujunga area. This was before I discovered bicycling. Now, when we visit, its a bit of a cycling vacation if you can believe it.
One of our favorite short rides to do is what we’ve dubbed the “Up, Down and In-n-Out” ride because just as the name implies, there is a lot of climbing and descending ending conveniently at an In-n-Out. The Verdugos have been “discovered” the last few years since the interest in mixed terrain riding/gravel grinding has become popular. We enjoy it as a great short ride to stretch the legs and enjoy an awesome 360 degree view when the wind patterns allow.
What I personally love about it, is that it is this natural oasis right smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. There are some deep almost forested pockets where you can imagine for a second what this area looked like before the freeways and strip malls. It is a great ride for mental health when you’re tired of the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.
Here is a route that we’ve plotted from the In-n-Out on Foothill and Lowell. The first 2 miles (and last 2 miles) are on city streets, but the traffic seems to be fairly light and there are good sight lines and passing space. Once you cross the gate and hit the off-road portions it is essentially uphill until the top. In short order you’ll be tested with a punchy 15% ramp that lasts a few hundred feet. Once you get past that there is some (but not much) reprieve. Most sections hover above 7% with some more stretches in the 10-12% range. There is no traffic, so you can go as slow as you need. There are portions that are pretty rutted and sandy so you have to be a bit more present to navigate those parts. This is definitely a 30mm+ sort of ride with 42-45mm being optimal, but if you are a skilled rider you could do it with 28mm tires.
You’ll know you are near the top when you see the radio towers. A lot of the ride is fairly sun exposed, so on a hot day it pays to have at least 2 water bottles. Once you make it to the towers, you can enjoy a flatter section on the ridge with amazing views of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. There is a little area signed as Plantation Lateral that makes for a good picnic with a bench that could not have been better placed. Once at the top you can explore some more, or if you’re hungry by then, ride down hill and head for the In-n-Out!
This is a great ride if you only have a few hours and want some traffic free climbing in or if you want to break in your new gravel grinding machine. It is also a great introduction to the riding in the Verdugos if you’ve never ridden there before (and did we mention there is an In-n-Out at the end of the ride?) Sunland/Tujunga will probably never be a true cycling destination, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some true gems hidden in the San Fernando Valley.
(Check out our blog post about our visit to the Verdugos back in January 2014)
Russ January 4, 2016 at 1:04 pm
Yeah, when I loved there in HS I wasn’t into cycling. Now when I visit the folks, I can’t wait to ride in the area!
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Just discovered your blog. Very cool.
I grew up in the hills in Glendale, and hiked all of those fire roads in the Verdugo Mountains as a kid. Unfortunately, I moved to Northern CA for school and never lived in LA again, so I never rode them on a mountain bike (which hadn’t been invented when I graduated high school anyway). But that, plus the In-n-Out run from the Foothill & Lowell store where I ate many times, brings back lots of great memories!