LA Dirt Rides: The Classic Strawberry Peak Loop

I often find it ironic that as city dwellers, we spend every waking moment finding ways to escape the very thing that draws us to the city itself. This could be a by-product of a technologically-dependant age, yet people have flocked to cities since this country’s very inception. A lot has changed since the early days of Los Angeles, where orange orchards would stretch for miles upon miles and the hillsides used to glow a bright green. It was before invasive plants took over the hillsides and long before human-error spawned ravenous, almost insatiable forest fires. Yet, here we are trying to make this thing we call civilization work, and at least in some capacity, coexist with the natural beauty that surrounds our unintentional urban sprawl.

The Angeles National Forest is my favorite place in Los Angeles County to get away from it all. Oftentimes that means ducking out of responsibilities, evading work, life and everything else that drives my existence in this plane of tarmac. Sometimes it takes heavy convincing, which in LA usually comes in the form of low-pressure systems and cold fronts. When the clouds are angry, the soil and thus, the trails are happy. It’s an experience not to be missed

There’s no greater trail in LA to soak in this natural splendor than Strawberry Peak, ATMO. From the onset, the ascent through chapparal, Spanish Bayonet and often times, the clouds themselves is a perfect example of nature flexing hard to let you know it’s still there, existing within the hustle and bustle of modern life. Down below, a county of 10 million people are at work, stressing, and I think I speak for everyone that is able to do these rides; we’re all very lucky to interrupt the week’s schedule for what we’ve come to collectively call the “Wednesday Slackers” ride.

I can’t recall the exact number of riders – was it 15? 16? – who decided the best way to spend their day off was to climb over 4,000′ in elevation, in just under 10 miles. Some even decided to bite off more singletrack, while three of us had to race back to our desks, our lives and our responsibilities. We’re all slaves to our electronic devices and the messages they communicate to us.

While nature is a wonderful host, it oftentimes interjects itself into our intended path, as a way to remind us that as much as we try, we are not in control here.

Los Angeles, Angelenos and the entirety of Southern California gets a bad rep. While most of it is deserved – hey, I hate Hollywood too, except for the divey spots to eat – a lot of it comes from sheer ignorance. Hate on this magical landscape all you want. It sucks for cycling, don’t even bother coming here. For those who chose to venture into this foreboding and forbidden place, please respect it. Stay on trail, pack it in / pack it out and do your fellow trail users a service by stopping and saying hello. We’re lucky to be able to ride bikes here, and a few decades ago, it was a constant battle!

If you’d like to add-on more to this ride, you can pedal up Mt. Wilson road at Red Box and at Eaton Saddle, drop into what is called White Helmet, down to Merrill, over to Sunset Ridge and El Prieto, or simply drop into Switzers behind Red Box.

  • Samuel Jackson

    Damn! I missed out on this one. There’s nothing like strawberry amidst clouds.

    What did you add to end up with 4k’+ in elevation?

    • Just going off the Suunto data. Who knows.

  • Aaron Best

    The nature surrounding the city is gorgeous. Never have had the chance to ride the dirt there; just commuter bikes to get around to the best food spots in the city…one day. I do commend you and everyone else for living in LA. I nearly lost my mind after a week!

    • Dang heck

      It’s not so bad if you don’t have to worry about driving

      • Aaron Best

        Yeah, I usually bring a commuter or take Ubers around. Cities in general are just a culture shock in contrast to where I live.

  • Marc Gasch

    Drab Olive National Day? :-)

    • So much green.

      • Marc Gasch

        Man that RigorMootis is so that a 29″ version with 27,5×2.4 tires on it? Wow. I thought Rigormootis were only 26″. Or he just put that 27,5 in there and happened to fit?

        • I think it’s the 26″ version with the sliders all the way back and 27.5 wheels.

          • Marc Gasch

            Ok, sliding dropouts! now I understand! Cool bike.Classic.

  • xeren

    whoa, what fog city bag is this? it looks like it would fit perfectly above a shock in a FS frame×890.jpg

    • Not sure – he made it for this bike that I’m reviewing. I like that it holds a small water bottle. Perfect for bikes with provisions for only one cage. 🤙🏻

  • barry mcwilliams

    Bummed to have missed it, but les pixels wouldn’t let go!

    Thanks for the photo set. I’ve still only done Strawberry on my CX bike. My actual MTB is raring to go!

  • edelman

    @johnprolly:disqus how doable is this loop on a Salsa Vaya or similar “dirt touring bike?”

  • Sebastian Burnell

    what, no picture of the Bridgestone in action?

    • Long story…

      • Sebastian Burnell

        …good one?

        • It involves stomach staples

          • Sebastian Burnell

            Autsch…sorry to hear that…

  • Milo Amsbury-Savage

    I’m sure this has been asked before, but have you considered doing a camera gear rundown?

    • Yes! It’s on the short short list. I want it to be video…

      • Matt O’Donnell

        John, holler if you want any help pulling the video together!

  • Pascal K

    man those colors!

  • Brian Mulford

    Pics are on point as usual. #9 is my fav.

  • Alex Steadman

    This trail is home to the ultra-rare “off camber mountain wash”. You’d think sand would slide down a mountain but apparently not.

  • JD

    Thanks for educating me on this trail. I’ve now added it on to my Good Friday After Work Adventure.

  • Michael Caputo

    Is this trail gravel-bike-able – Exploro w/ 40c tires? Seems like it is for the most part.