Blue Water Rides: Downtown Los Angeles to Mt Wilson and back

This series is a collection of cycling routes which I have personally ridden and evaluated. My aim is to provide insight and inspiration for you to get out and enjoy a ride along these routes or to create your own perfect ride. As always, I am open to new ideas and suggestions. If you have a ride you'd like me to check out and include in this series, feel free to send an email -

DTLA to Mt Wilson and back to DTLA

One of the most rewarding highlights of this ride is the spectacular view as you climb and reach the Mt Wilson Observatory. Undoubtedly, it is a strenuous ride, but it is well worth the effort! It is best to start as early in the day as possible just at sunrise if you're coming from any distance away from the start of the climb near La Cañada Flintridge area. The riding season makes a big difference as well. During the winter, there is often snow, ice, and cold conditions as you climb. During the summer, the dry heat can take a toll increasing the load on your cardiovascular system. Riding prepared with the proper clothing, plenty of water, and snacks allow for a most enjoyable day along this route. 

Here is a map of the route I chose. 

Taking note of the elevation gain on the map above may seem a bit daunting. However, it is generally a gradual climb the entire way with a maximum grade of 8.7%. This basically means it never gets too steep. You can also see that I started in DTLA which adds around 30 miles to the day. I do this to avoid driving. In order make it a more manageable day, avoid riding in the city, and save time, one could easily park in the quiet residential La Cañada Flintridge neighborhood. 

Once you are in the neighborhood, you can essentially follow Angela's Crest Highway all the way until taking a right onto Mt Wilson Red Box Road. Great caution is advised cycling on Angeles Crest Highway as there are oftentimes cars and motorcycles driving above the speed limit on the winding road. I suggest to always ride as far right as safely possible and keep a listen for cars at all times. One of the main reasons for going early is to avoid a large portion of this traffic. There is a great place to stop, rest, catch your breath, and refill water at the Mt Wilson Red Box Road turn. A small store resides there. Here, you can buy quick snacks to refuel. 

Once you're replenished and have soaked up the view, there is only one more portion of the climb until reaching the Mt Wilson Observatory. The views continue to motivate you all the way up. Seeing the joyous look on all the other cyclists' faces making the descent is also inspiring. If there is any more convincing needed to finish the climb, there is an excellent small cafe located at the Observatory! It is open Saturdays and Sundays, April through November, from 9 AM to 5 PM. It is aptly named the Cosmic Cafe. This cafe had one of the best pieces of apple pie a la mode I've ever had! Their other menu items looked equally delicious, so it comes highly recommended. 

Once you're adequately refueled, get ready for the most thrilling part of the ride, the descent. A quick mechanical check is a good idea prior to starting the descent. Particularly, checking your tires for any potentially harmful damage and checking your brakes for functionality are most important. Caution is mandatory on the descent while remaining mindful of your speed, upcoming corners, and traffic both ahead and behind you. On a descent like this it is common to reach speeds up to 40 mph! Be sure to remain in control and slow down as much as you need to feel comfortable to enjoy the cruise all the way down. In a short amount of time you'll be back at your car loading up or ready to traverse your way through the city back to your starting point. You can rest assured of a feeling of accomplishment after this day of climbing well over 4500 feet of elevation or much more depending on where you start. Enjoy the ride!