Southern California has a lot to offer when it comes to cycling and bikepacking. The bikepacking routes in southern California take you through the mountains and peaks, forests, high and low deserts, and badlands. The routes include scenic lakes, the Pacific Ocean, Joshua Tree National Park, and even an inland sea.
These six LA and southern California bikepacking trips have varying lengths, terrain, and ability levels so there’s something for every level of adventurer.
Whether you want to be out for ten days or just an overnighter, these routes will give you some idea of exactly what’s out there.
Southern California is known for its perpetual perfect weather, but it can get hot in the summer.
Desert rides should be planned in the spring or fall due to the extreme heat. If you are riding in the desert, check the weather beforehand; you wouldn’t want to be cycling in a wash due to the potential for flash floods.
Joshua Tree National Park
Starting Point: Indio, CA
Mileage: 80 miles (129 km)
Days Out: 2-3
This scenic 80-mile lollipop loop winds through parts of Joshua Tree National Park and can be completed in 2-3 days. With 67 miles of unpaved road, this route takes you through a desert landscape of rock formations, Joshua Trees, and some great viewpoints.
With an elevation gain of only 1,805 ft, you may think this ride is on the easy side. The mileage may seem short, but the initial climb from the starting point in Indio can be very arduous given the fact it’s likely to be hot. And what’s more, there is no water in the park so you’ll need to carry it all with you for the entire trip.
The Stagecoach 400 Route
Starting Point: Idyllwild, CA
Mileage: 376 miles (605 km)
Days Out: 5
This 376-mile route has it all. Starting in the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains, this path will take you all the way to the Pacific Ocean before circling back through Cleveland National Forest and the Anza Borrego Desert.
The route has many resupply options along the way as well as camping and a few hotel options to look into. A great time for this ride would be in the springtime when the temperatures are cooler and the wildflowers are in bloom.
The Anza-Hapaha Loop
Starting Point: Borrego Springs, CA
Mileage: 83 miles (134 km)
Days Out: 2-3
Starting and ending in Borrego Springs, the Anza-Hapaha Loop covers 83 miles of canyon, desert, and badlands. This route boasts giant metal sculptures, narrow canyon walls, with picturesque rocks and geological formations. This ethereal landscape is so diverse you’ll wonder if you’re on another planet.
There are a few hotels in Borrego Springs, otherwise, it’s dispersed camping the entire time. Camp high if you can and be sure you never set up camp in a wash due to potential flash floods. You will need to carry all your water with you for this trip since there are no reliable water sources along this route.
The LA Observer
Starting: Pasadena, CA
Mileage: 60 miles (97 KM)
Days Out: 2
If you’re looking for something short, sweet, and close to the city, the LA Observer Route may be your ticket. This 60-mile loop starts in Pasadena and takes you up to the mountains of Angeles National Forest; as you would expect, there is going to be some climbing involved. If you’re looking for spectacular scenery, this may be the route for you.
This route offers stunning views from Mt Lukens and the Mt Wilson Observatory and there are camping options near both those areas. Bring a lot of water since the only reliable water is at Red Box Station. The winter, spring, and fall are the best seasons to tackle this route; given the extreme heat in the summer months.
The SoCal Desert Ramble
Starting Point: Big Bear Lake, CA
Mileage:497 miles (800 km)
Days Out: 10
The SoCal Desert Ramble is a staple of the bikepacking routes in southern California. This 497-mile route takes you from San Bernardino, near Los Angeles to San Diego on the Mexican border.
Unlike the familiar coastal route, this trek takes you through the San Bernardino Mountains, Anza Borrego Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, and Cleveland National Forest. Highlights include Big Bear Lake, The Salton Sea, and the Pacific Ocean as well as other unique points of interest.
There are stretches of this route that have no amenities for some time so it’s important to do some careful planning beforehand. There is dispersed camping along the way and accommodations at Big Bear Lake. There is also camping for a fee at Joshua Tree National Park.
The Baldy Bruiser
Starting Point: Big Bear Lake, CA
Mileage:146 miles (235 km)
Days Out: 4
This 146-mile route starts at Big Bear Lake and takes you on some diverse terrain like forest roads, ATV trails, sandy two-track, and even some unused paved roads. Some of the main features of this trek include Mt Baldy Ski resorts, Lake Arrowhead, Baldy Notch, and Angeles National Forest.
Many parts of this route are in National Forest areas making dispersed camping pretty easy. There are also a few restaurants along the way you can stop at for a meal or snack. You can get water and resupply at lake Arrowhead and in the Mt Baldy area. There may be long steep stretches without water so be prepared and plan ahead.
Sit back and enjoy the ride
The LA and Southern California bikepacking trips are best for riding in the spring or fall. The extreme heat in the summer and unpredictable winter weather in the higher elevations make those seasons somewhat less desirable. Spring and fall will have a show of colors if you plan the right trip at the right time,
Los Angeles certainly isn’t famous for its bike routes and trails, but there are some great options not far from the city. Given the proximity of the mountains, lakes, forests, and deserts, you’re able to have a variety of options, so hop on your bike and enjoy the ride.
These bikepacking routes in southern California and loads of others can be found at bikepacking.com