LA Dirt Rides: the Verdugo Mountains Traverse

The Verdugos are a staple of my weekly riding routine. With access points from every cardinal direction, your route up is often times determined by how much spunk you’ve got in your legs. There’s something for everyone including mountain bikers, dirt jumpers, roadies, dirt road riders, and a ragtag group of ex and current skaters, as evident in today’s story.

Every Friday morning, the guys at Golden Saddle organize a TGSCIF ride, leaving from Intelligentsia on Sunset Avenue and pedaling from Silver Lake to any number of road, dirt, and singletrack rides. Oftentimes, these 2-3 hour group rides venture into the surrounding hills, never really leaving the neighborhood, yet sometimes I rally to do a ride in the Verdugo Mountains. It just so happens that this week, we got to bring a lot of people up to this magical place for the first time.

Eric Koston has been coming on these rides for the past few weeks, encouraged by his friends, a group of skaters who have picked up cycling as a new hobby and have spent the past few months exploring Griffith and Elysian Park on Crust Bikes, Rivendells, and All-Citys. This week, Eric brought his Santa Cruz Stigmata on our ride, and as we were pedaling through Glendale, he asked “is that where we’re going?” as he pointed to the mountains ahead, covered in clouds. We all exclaimed, YEP!

The thing about this ride is there’s a whole hell of a lot of elevation gained, in a very short time, all on dirt. Once you navigate through the mansions and their green grass yards -Glendale doesn’t fall under the City of Los Angeles’ water restrictions, which are already very lax compared to the issue of us being in a severe drought – you’re on a dirt fire road, rising out of the sprawl like a majestic hawk in search of prey. Only we don’t want rabbits or squirrels, we just want to get as high as we can above the city, only to bomb back down like mad Kamakazees. Ok, maybe we take it chill down the roads due to the popularity of these tracks and trails with hikers and trail runners, but still.

Going up Beaudry North has been the long agreed “easiest” route up the Verdugos, accessed from Country Club road off Verdugo Blvd. This meandering road takes up to the base of Mt Thom, where you then begin the long and tough traverse across this high desert mountain range. Once you hit the radio communications towers, in the middle of the burn zone, be on the lookout for hidden singletrack ribbons on your left and get ready to white-knuckle down some of these descents as their rutted and loose conditions will make even someone on a mountain bike double check their lines.

Our preferred exit line down takes us to the Stough Nature Center, where in Summer months, offers a refill on water, at a spigot or bathroom sink. From there, it’s an easy downhill pedal to Griffith Park where you can take on more climbing, or just pedal leisurely through the perimeter roads.

If you’d like to take on this ride, be mindful of the weather. It gets hot up there and with little to no shade and no water at the top, it can drain you within minutes. During hotter months, I prefer this as a sunset ride, due to the animal life that can be spotted, from rattlesnakes to bobcats, and weasels. Our route this day served up 30 miles and 3,500′ of climbing. If you’re ever in town for a TGSCIF ride, check out their Instagram on Thursday afternoon for our intended destination. See my ride data and routing at Strava and don’t miss Tacos Delta’s delicious breakfast burritos!

  • Zian

    Koston!!!

  • Samuel Jackson

    Dang I need to get a new dirty road bike… Missin these rides.

  • Ryan Flynn

    Easiest 😂

  • Tim Ferguson

    If you’re going to go all the way to the Verdugos, it might be advisable to go the extra mile to Yuca’s. Not trying to shit on Tacos Delta, but, you know, Yuca’s.

    • Sure. But Tacos Delta is right by GSC, so it makes it easy.

      • Tim Ferguson

        I know, I’m just in Portland and missing Yuca’s (looks wistfully out window)

  • Stephen Boyd

    Looks way fun. Any idea who made those bull moose bars?

  • Pascal K

    awesome photoset, especially #10!

  • TannerJames

    I always see a few people on these ‘party rides’ on flat pedals. Is this just personal preference? I know they have a lot of MTB shoes now that allow for comfort while walking etc. Just curious why you would not choose to clip in if you had the option.

    • I personally like flat pedals for rides like this. I can still bunnyhop and shred just fine. Cycling shoes have a “hot spot” at the cleat interface and it tends to hurt my feet, especially when I’m logging over 20,000′ of elevation on some weeks. It just mixes it up. My “around town” bikes – the Hunter and my 44 Ute – have flats for this reason.

    • terriblemcnaughton

      It actually perplexes the BMXer in me why mountain bikers use clips ins. Given the heaviness of some descents; the joy of leg dangling a hairpin turn; and the need to pivot your foot when blasting a proper table off a roller or double, I don’t understand why so many mountain bikers have gravitated towards these pedals over platforms. I completely understand the advantage to them in road riding and CX, but if you need to bail mid-air accept no substitutes.

    • Alex Steadman

      for stuntz

  • Michael Hagler

    Great pics, cool ride. I live just up the street from Golden Saddle and look forward to joining up some Friday morning. At my own bike shop, Around the Cycle, in Pasadena we do a similar ride in those areas called Terra Mixto. It’s the 1st & 3rd Thursday each month, starting at 6pm, and also the last Saturday each month at 7:30am. If you’re looking for more gravel group fun feel free to join us. @aroundthecycle #terramixto