45 miles – 4550 ft. elevation gain
The Santa Monica Mountains is the world’s largest urban national park. The proximity to Santa Monica and the easy access from the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) make the Santa Monica Mountains an ideal place for adventure. The mountains offer endless roads and trails to discover on foot or on bike…the national park even offers a beautiful beach to cool off those aching legs after a hard day climbing the canyons!
There are so many great rides for all levels and all types of cyclists and I want to share my most recent ride through the Santa Monica Mountains – Topanga Canyon & Piuma Drive. If you want to join Cynergy Cycles on any of our rides or want more information, come and see us and we will be happy to help!
The ride is only 45 miles however there is a lot of climbing! I love to climb and like a challenge…let’s just say this ride was just what I wanted. Leaving Santa Monica, you ride along the PCH for a few miles and head towards Topanga Canyon. This is a great ride on an early weekday morning as you get to see all the commuters heading to work and have the entire climb up to yourself…I always feel like people sitting in traffic are cheering me as I climb!
Before you get to the top of Topanga, you’ll take a left turn on Fernwood. Look for a little market on the corner and a really steep hill next to a fire station. This is when the real climbing starts and it doesn’t end until you reach the intersection of Tuna Canyon Rd. and Saddle Peak Rd. I thought my climbing was over once I reached this intersection but I was mistaken…it keeps going! At this point you have the option of continuing down Tuna Canyon Rd. and it will take you back to the PCH to go home. Tuna Canyon Rd. is a steep descent but it’s a one-way so you can take up the entire road if you want. I drove down once and had to stop a couple times to let my brakes cool so it’s a steep one!
Continuing along Saddle Peak Rd. will give you spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the valley as you gain more elevation. This was my first time riding along Saddle Peak Rd. and I was blown away by the views at the summit. At the top I took a short break, a couple pictures and made my way down Stunt Rd. to Mulholland Hwy…1,800 ft. of pure downhill pleasure!
You follow Mulholland Hwy. until you reach Las Virgenes Rd. and take a left. Again, if you are done with climbing you can continue along Las Virgenes and it will take you to Malibu Canyon Rd. and the PCH. However, if you want a challenge, take a left on Piuma Dr.
There were many firsts on this ride and Piuma was one of them. I had heard of Piuma from some of the riders at Cynergy Cycles and I was a little apprehensive about climbing it. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it after the climbing I had done that morning but I thought to myself I might as well try and if it gets too though I can just turn around and go home. Well, that’s what I always say to myself but never listen to my own advice! So happy I finished the climb…I was alone almost the entire ride up, no cars or other cyclists and just kept a steady pace going up. The road didn’t offer much shade and the incline was constant but the views amazing. Strava rates this climb as a category 2* and has an average of 6%.
When you reach the summit of Piuma it’s all downhill from there until you reach the PCH. Las Flores is another steep descent and the road is rough so be cautious. I was relieved once I got the the PCH and happy to get home after a great day of climbing! It was a well deserved croissant and Café Latté! For more information check out the Strava ride here or come and see us at Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica. Look out for more rides coming soon!