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.