The Baldy Bruiser, Southern California.

  • Distance

    146 Mi.

    (235 KM)
  • Days


  • % Unpaved


  • % Singletrack


  • Difficulty (1-10)


  • % Rideable (time)


  • Total Ascent


    (5,883 M)
  • High Point


    (2,384 M)
The Baldy Bruiser packs in some of the finest dirt roading in and around Los Angeles. Connecting Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Cleghorn Fire Road, Baldy Notch, Glendora Ridge Road, and Rincon-Redbox Truck Trail, it's a gorgeous backcountry ride that boasts a fearsome amount of climbing and some steep grades along its 145 miles length. If you're a city dweller in search of a hearty, long weekend adventure, then this is the challenge for you!
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Anyone who’s explored the Angeles National Forest – or ridden the LA Observer – knows Los Angeles’s secret… there’s a wealth of fantastic bikepackpacking potential within a stone’s lob of the city itself. For those prepared to head a little further afield, public transportation can easily shuttle riders to Bear Bear Lake, from where three or four days of wonderfully remote riding can guide you all the way back to the very heart of the metropolis, via the road less traveled.

  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear

In the interests of keeping this ride within the constraints of a long weekend outing, the route begins in Big Bear Lake, easily reached by train and a public bus shuttle. But if you have more time – a solid day, at least – then you can ride all the up into the mountains from lowland San Bernadino, via forest roads.

In terms of terrain, expect a bit of everything, including forest roads, sandy two-track, abandoned paved roads, ATV trails, and a few hike-a-bikes. And with over 19,000ft of elevation gain, be prepared for some seriously climbing, some of which can be tortuously steep, a characteristic typical to the newly formed San Gabriels.

Splitting the Baldy Bruiser into two halves is the long climb up to Baldy Notch, which lies just beneath San Antonio Peak (aka Mount Baldy) at over 7000ft in elevation. In fact, the notch itself marks the edge of the Mount Baldy Ski Lifts, a small resort local to Los Angeles residents. It’s for this reason that you’ll need to consider the right weather window for this route – in the midst of winter, the slopes are covered in groomed snow. In fact, given the variety in elevation, there’s a remarkable range of flora throughout the route, from prickly desert yucca to lofty ponderas and colta pines – the latter noted for its remarkably large, coma-inducing cones.

Also of interest is the remarkable dichotomy between nature and ‘civilisation’ in Southern California and how the two can rub up against each other. For instance, at Cajon, a wild and rutted dirt road is bisected by the concrete corridor of the interstate, a good reminder of the mechanised world we’re creating for ourselves. And later, hazy vistas out towards the metropolis of LA and its sprawling suburbs are evident from a quiet ridgeline thousands of feet above them.

But if you’re worried about traffic, fear not. Apart from a possible resupply at Cajon, this route keeps to extremely quiet roads, frequented only by hikers, ATVs, and the hardiest of 4 wheelers, given the vagaries of its terrain. Even when it’s paved – as with Glendora Ridge Road – expect low traffic and some the most sublime, silhouetted hues of the San Gabriels imaginable.

Route Development

Beta testing for this route was carried out with Brian Mulder in early March after an especially wet winter, hence the snow on Baldy Notch. Thanks to Andy Holmes at the Penhale Bike Company for checking over the initial gpx file and offering suggestings. And thanks too Errin Vazquez and the Golden Saddle Cyclery for pointing us towards the fabled Recon-Redbox Truck Trail!

  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear

There’s simply no more memorable way to end a ride in the Angeles National Forest than by soaking up views of the city itself. As sunset softens to nightfall, gazing down upon LA’s sea of shimmering lights is an undeniably hypnotising experience, as is listening to the soundtrack of its urban breath. The steep, whirligig descent down Mount Lowe Railway Trail is another regional highlight – don’t forget to stop at the various markers along the way to help gain a deeper appreciation of its fascinating history. You can find more details on this spectacular road in our LA Observer route guide, which the Baldy Bruiser overlaps for the last few miles.


We’ve awarded this route a 7.5, due primarily to the amount of climbing it compacts into its relatively short distance, as well as the severity of its grades. It can be ridden in 4 days fairly comfortably (we rode it in 3 full days and two short days, see Trail Notes below). If you compress it down to 3 days, it averages out at over 6,000ft a day, so be prepared! Much of the ride is on dirt roads of various quality. For the most part they’re in good shape, but expect water snakes, sandy sections, babyhead rocks, and steep inclines, which may require pushing and shoving, depending on your bike. Parts of the route are in various states of disrepair, so will likely require manhandling your bike over deadfall and even landslides, as well as a few short hike a bikes (see images for examples).

  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Baldy Bruiser, Bikepacking Los Angeles to Big Bear
  • Highlights


  • Must Know


  • Camping


  • Food/H2O


  • Trail Notes


  • Incredible views of the San Gabriel Mountains from Cleghorn Fire Road.
  • Hurdling Baldy Notch, with its expansive desert vistas to either side.
  • Wild and abandoned two-track… that’s so close, yet so far from the hubub of LA life.
  • Excellent public transportation – leave your vehicle at home!
  • Rounding up the ride with a fabulous sunset over the city; one of the most unique and memorable vistas you’ve likely experienced.
  • This route crosses Mount Baldy ski station so you’ll need to consider when best to ride it, depending on the winter. Early spring could involve hike-a-biking across lingering snow on either side of Baldy Notch. Summer will be too hot. Fall/early winter is likely to be your best window.
  • Travel logistics: there is a frequent and bike-friendly Metrolink service from Union Station to San Bernadino. From there, take the Mountain Transit bus to Big Bear Lake ($10, takes two bikes, plus tires need to be deflated a little, bring extra straps too).
  • Want to extend the route? Either ride up to Big Bear on forest roads from San Bernadino, or extend the loop around Big Bear Lake by riding around north or south side of Baldwin Lake, all the way to where the 18 meets Holcomb Valley Road. Connect with Holcomb Creek Road, heading all the way through until it joins up with the route.
  • Have extra time in Big Bear Lake? There’s a tonne of great trails in the area – ask at the Big Bear Hostel or pick up a map at Bear Valley Bikes.
  • At the time of riding, there were two small sections that are closed (see map) due to recent fires. These are slated to be reopened by September 2017.
  • Best bike: Due to the variety of terrain – including rock and sand – a 2in+ tyre is strongly recommended for this ride.
  • The Rincon Truck Trail is abandoned and overgrown in places… expect to push, drag and manhandle your bike across deadfall.
  • Bear Valley Bikes is a fully stocked, year round shop, with plenty of local singletrack knowledge.
  • The route cuts across swathes of National Forest, so camping is never an issue.
  • For affordable lodging in Big Bear Lake, the Big Bear Lake Hostel is highly recommended; very friendly, clean, large kitchen, and comfortable dorms/rooms.
  • Seasonal water is available from streams during the spring – see Trail Notes for the ones we noted.
  • Outside of this, water is available from restaurants/businesses/ranger stations marked on the map.
  • In Big Bear Lake, check out Tea and Coffee café, Teddy Bear Café (good for breakfast) and the Big Bear Coffee Roasting Company.
  • Resupply in Blue Jay rather than Lake Arrowhead; Santiago’s is an excellent taqueria and there’s a coffee shop and grocery store.
  • Don’t expect more than gas station fare and fast food at Cajon – where the route cross I15.

Here’s how we broke up the route, ridden in early March 2017.

Day 1 – Big Bear Lake to Camping beyond Blue Jay (lunchtime start)

– Seasonal water along route

– Full Services at Lake Arrowhead/Blue Jay

– Santiago’s Tacos in Blue Jay serves great Mexican

– From Santiago’s it’s a short ride into the State forest where we camped.

– No water until Forest Service station at Silverwood Lake, so stock up before leaving town

Day 2 – NF Campsite to Lytle Creek Campground

– Cleghorn Pass is a great lunch spot.

– Water and limited (gas station food) where route crosses I-15 at Cajon Junction. The track to get here is a bit squirrely, partly due to works on the road.  You’ll pass the junction momentarily until you see a highway access road just past the bridge, over the second set of railroad tracks. From here you need to backtrack about a mile to the gas stations at the junction, as on the gpx track.

– No water from Cajon until Lytle Creek.

– Camped at Lytle Creek campground. Water and restrooms. There is a Fire Station near campsite with water too. Otherwise, the stream may be flowing.

Day 3 – Lytle Creek to riverside camping past Camp Williams

– Seasonal water along small stream as pavement turns to dirt past firing range.

– Seasonal water along climb up to Mount Baldy.

– Restaurant and water at Mount Baldy ski area.

– Water in Mount Baldy but not much in the way of resupply.

– Cooked food available at Buckhorn Pub.

– Camped just past Camp Williams alongside the river.  We probably should have pushed on to a spot just on the other side of the reservoir, at the intersection of highway 39. Store in Camp Williams is only open limited hours so not reliable re-supply point.

Day 4  – Campsite to Mount Lowe Railway Campsite.

– Water at Day Use Parking lot, before Fire Station on highway 39. Look for tap on the first building you come to by the entry gates.

– Seasonal water along route to Red Box.  Check at Fire Station before beginning climb.  There was a good stream at a campsite before the final climb up to Red Box, but double check that it’s flowing.

– Water at Red Box, but double check that as well.

– Hot day of climbing

– Fantastic campsite a few miles down from the highpoint along the old Lowe Mountain Railway on a sharp turn. Just off the turn is a water tank and a large flat area with incredible views out over LA.

Day 5 – Mount Lowe Railway Campsite to Pasadena (quick descent).

– Easy drop into LA proper and back to ‘civilization’. Kaldi Café is a good place in Pasadena to kill a few hours if you’re taking an afternoon train, located immediately adjacent to the South Pasadena Public Library.

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Barelydoug

    Class, you always have the best photos!!! Great job and thanks so much for your work in putting up routes in LA!!!! You’re such an inspiration keep it up!!!

  • mikeetheviking

    Beary cool!

  • :) Glad to see you back in the comments, Mikee. Check your mail in the next day or so, BTW.

  • Looks nice!
    Typo: Highlights – Excellent public transportation – *your

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks! I was amazed by how much great riding there is in the area!

  • Nice route!


    Phenomenal photos! I love reading about your routes, very inspiring.

  • reynante alibuyog

    Hi Cass, what’s your current lens lineup here?
    Fan of your Andes routes.

  • Alex Ertaud

    I was on the Rincon to Redbox Road in February after the heavy storms from this winter, and the characterization of over grown is correct. Lotsa slide outs, downed trees, etc… The 24 mile section took 7 hours. Think cyclocross with a loaded bike.
    HOWEVER, I was in the area a week or so later, and talked to a USFS forest chief who said they were going to be doing a lot of maintenance this summer as they use the road quite a bit. So fingers crossed for improved conditions by the fall!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the thoughts. We rode it in mid March, I think. And while there were plenty of sections that required bikes to be pushed and dragged – including one reasonable size landslide – it wasn’t too bad, all things considered. Maybe they’d already done some work on it by then. I expect next winter won’t be as wet and windy on the coast as the one we’ve just had.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Cheers! I have a 35mm f2, a 50mm f1.8, , and sometimes my 70-200 f4, depending on whether I have the energy to lug it around (-;

  • Cass Gilbert


  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Randy, much appreciated.

  • Brian Mulder

    Great stuff, amigo.

  • josh

    just did this one, though starting from LA so the other way round
    very nice one, only differences with my route was, I took it over Lake arrowhead on a 4wd track
    a thing to mention is that the part at canjon junction at route 66 is quiet confusing (without gps) as there are a good bunch of tracks there
    kinda frustrating to find your way through there, but works still

    another thing to mention is you can easily take the gravelroad directly over the mountains to get to Joshua tree np (eg pipes canyon rd)
    I did that, worked a charm
    only getting back to LA is annoying as you will have headwind, partially have to ride on the freeway shoulder and according to the website cant take a bike on the train to avoid that

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback! When we rode through, Cajon was in the midst of road construction, which made it extra precarious/confusing.

    I have an extension to this route I’m planning to post, that runs all the way between San Diego and LA, via Anza Borrego, Salton Sea and Joshua Tree NP (by way of Pioneer Town), which adds on another week of great riding. I wanted to keep this one to a ‘weekend away’ length, especially with the great public transportation available at the beginning and end.

  • Aaron Shaffer

    Nice going! I’m looking at doing my first off-road bikepacking trip and this route, and the SD – LA one you’re working on sound perfect. Do you think the above trip is do’able on a road bike (Fuji Gran Fondo 1.1)?

  • Cass Gilbert

    The trails can be very rough so this is definitely a mtb ride – see Must Know for more details. The vast majority of the routes on this site are best suited to mountain bikes or gravel/cyclocross bikes.

  • Looks rad, i will try this in the Autumn season

  • Cass Gilbert

    It’s a fun ride, please let me know how you get on. Desperately want to get out to Los Padres at some point, maybe mid October.

  • Suzana Jerebič

    Hey, it looks great for a start of our vacation this year. Only we would be really thankful if you could reccomand us how to extend this trip for two more weeks. We plan to fly from Europe to L.A. in mid November this year for 3 – 4 weeks and plan to have bikes with us. We would like to do some bikepacking in that part of America. Have you any suggestions? How is the wather there in second half of November and in first half of December? We prefer mostly untraffic gravel roads or trails and to spend nights outside in tent, etc. Also tell us where can we order some maps for gps use of this area? Thaks a lot :)

  • suebutlerpdx

    So, the road that was ‘officially closed until September 2017. is this reopened???

  • Leah

    Does anyone know if NF 2N56 Sheep Canyon Rd will open in Oct? If the road is “closed” does this mean to vehicles or bicycles as well??

  • Vardaan Bhat

    Hey! I know it’s been a while since you posted the article, but I had a question and thought I might as well try. You said, “if you have more time – a solid day, at least – then you can ride all the up into the mountains from lowland San Bernadino, via forest roads.” Do you mean that one could bike to Big Bear through the mountains? Would this just involve doing the route in reverse, or is there another way up the mountain to Big Bear (besides using the highway, which is kind of unsafe sometimes)?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Cass Gilbert

    To keep to a tight timeline, I’ve suggested taking the shuttle from San Bernadino to Big Bear Lake. But if you look at a map – or RWGPS – it’s clear there’s a forest road from just outside San Bernadino, that wends its way all the way up to Big Bear Lake. Shouldn’t be any need to take much highway. It’s a big climb!

  • Cass Gilbert

    It should be. That’s what the printed, official-looking sign said when we were there at the beginning of the year.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Great company, amigo!

  • James Gibling

    FYI, The Mountain Transit Bus does not have a rack to accommodate 3 inch tires and they won’t allow you to take your bike onto the bus. Ended up riding Forest Service roads up to Big Bear Instead. Love the route, train to San Bernadino with a Bike was fine, just beware of the bus issue. Cheers :)

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback James, glad you enjoyed the ride!

    Re the bus: I managed to get my Tumbleweed into the rack – 3in tires on 45mm rims. I did deflate them a little and tied extra straps around them too, which I keep handy for those kind of occasions. The driver seemed fine with it. I got there earlier as I knew from past experience of the buses here in New Mexico that it takes a little longer to make 3in setups work. Hopefully the next generation of bike racks on shuttle buses will address this! Anyway, I’ll add something in the route notes to address this issue. Cheers!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Just to add some details – my setup was with WTB Ranger Plus Tough (which are a little narrower than Chronicles) and WTB Scrapers.

  • ross

    Looks great! Can this be easily reached from San Diego (ending in LA)? I’m finishing up here in Mexico and fly out of LA …

  • Cass Gilbert

    There are regular, bike-friendly trains from San Diego to LA. From there, you can catch a train from San Bernadino and ride on forest roads to Big Bear, looping back to LA. Otherwise, there’s various options of riding from San Diego, both in the desert and along the coast, depending on how much time you have and your inclinations!

  • Ross

    Great many thanks Cass.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m actually working on putting together a backcountry desert loop I did last winter, that runs from San Diego to LA. It follows the Stagecoach 400 in places, then loops round the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree NP, Pioneer Town, and up to Big Bear. I’ll try and get the gpx file ironed out in the next few days.

  • Rachel Grace

    Omg please do! Or send to me 😁

  • Suzana Jerebič

    Hay there. Me and my husband did it in late november 2017. We did it in opposite way. We landed in L.A. from Europe and we wanted to get on bikes as soon as possible. It was ok, just last day up to Big Bear would be better to do it down and not up as we did. And we prolongate it down to Pioneertown and continued to Joshua Tree and Salton see to Anza Desert and to Pacific and by coast back to L.A. Anyway all route took us more then 4 days. We also pitched a tent in Camp Williams where is a privat campground but really expensive so it is better to camp somewere around the steam near by or up at Manker flats cmpg or even on the top of the Notch. Then when we got in Lytle creek campground was closed but there was one private Bonita Ranch few kilometers out of the way, but there a small grocery by the road so we could stock a little bit. Dogwood campground was also closed in November so you have to stock with water down at Blue Jay. Also all other campgrounds on the way to Big Bear lake were closed and as for our surprise at the end of the day we weren’t even taken in Serrano Campground down at Bear Bear Lake and also hostel is taking just guest with reservations, so we spend the night wild camping by the lake. We really enjoyed the whole route, though it is not an easy one, specially because of lack of water on the way. And what we highly recommend it taking also a dirt road down to Pioneer town. It was one of the gratest stretches of our trip. And big thanks to Cass Gilbert that helped us with all this desriptions and gpx file that was really helpfull :)))

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the feedback/updates Suzana. I’m so glad you had a good ride!

    Funnily enough, I’m just writing up the extended version of this route, which goes from San Diego to LA, via North side of Salton Sea/Joshua Tree/Pioneer Town/Big Bear, so likely some overlap with what you did. And I love that dirt road between Big Bead and Pioneer Town! That’s a great loop you made.

    Generally speaking, it’s fine to camp at camp grounds out of season in the US, but they sometimes turn off the water spigots in case it freezes. And you probably know you know this, but you can camp in any National Forest (up to 2 weeks in one spot) or BLM land for free, just follow the usual Leave no Trace principles.

    PS sorry I missed that other post/comment of yours… sounds like you figured things out for a longer tour!

  • Marie Walsh

    Could this (or a good section of it) be done while towing a trailer? Like a single wheeled tout terrain? Understandably, it would require a good amount of pushing. But, would it be possible?

  • Cass Gilbert

    A Mule? I have one of those, they’re great trailers.

    I don’t see why not. When we rode this route, there were a couple of small landslides, but nothing too intense. A few other bouldery sections where a trailer would be a bit of a pain, but they’re relatively short. Ultimately, due to the terrain and some of the grades, I think a lightweight ‘bikepacking’ style setup suits the route best, but a trailer would work too. It’s probably how much you pack in it that could be the issue!

  • Brent A Shultz

    Just competed the ride and all roads that were affected by fires are open. Glendora ridge road was closed to cars (reopens 2/8), so that was a nice bonus.

  • Brent A Shultz

    All roads are open now.

  • Brent A Shultz

    The OHV trail section between Big Bear and Arrowhead (area marked as “rocky” on the ride with gps map) would be challenging, considering there’s a bunch of “heave your bike over rock fields” sections there. That said, it would be doable. I rode the route with front panniers and those were problematic there due to their width. Curse a little, enjoy the scenery and roll on to smoother roads.

    In addition, on Redbox and Mt Lowe, the gpx file linked here has some pretty rough singletrack sections where it directs to hiking trails towards the end. I’m a little confused on that since the description shows 0% for singletrack and pictures with the article show locations (ex: granite gate) that you wouldn’t ride following the route as mapped. TL;DR, stay on redbox road and Mt Lowe roads.

  • Marie Walsh

    Hmmm. My sis lives out this way. Might have to check it out!! Thanks!!

  • Marie Walsh

    My sis lives out this way and I’ve been wanting to explore some of the jeep roads more. I’ll have to check it our

  • Marie Walsh

    Not a Mule, the Singletrailer.

  • Cass Gilbert

    With a child, then? I’m not sure I’d really consider this route tylepacking friendly…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Brent, there shouldn’t be any singletrack on this route, bar rough/overgrown jeeptracks. I’ve checked the RWGPS map and the current route follows the Mt Lowe Road all the way down. Are you referring to downloadable gpx file? It’s possible the gpx wasn’t updated and features some trails. I’ve deleted it for now and will upload a new version in case of any inconsistencies. In the meantime, the route can still be accessed via RWGPS.

  • Marie Walsh

    Well I will take your word for it. We can adventure other places. Thank you!!!!!!!

  • Marie Walsh

    We have a few overnights under our belt and are planning on White Rim in May. We have plenty of great opportunities here. Was just thinking this might be kinda fun since we could also visit my sister, but there are a few jeep roads (near J-Tree) we could explore for sure.

  • Brent A Shultz

    Nice, that makes waaay more sense, and yeah, it was the downloadable file. I was running front panniers and wasn’t wanting to ride singletrack/bash through/over stuff/etc, so it was an easy and logical redirect to what turned out to be the right way. Ha. That said, thanks for putting together such a great route! The name did not lie, and I saw almost no one except while on pavement–you could easily forget that your within a few miles of millions of people!

    A couple of other trip report things to throw in: 1) Redbox had been cleared pretty well and was actually the easiest riding of the trip. Sure, the odd rock-fall and minor gully, but it was butter. 2) Camp Williams has changed their hours (at least for winter, dunno) and state that they’re open Fri-Sun now (I stopped through there on a Thu). Alternate water spots if they’re closed: at the river *before* Camp Williams, right when you drop off of Glendora Mountain Road to East Fork, *or* at either of the OHV access points where you hit West Fork/Azuza Canyon rd (there’s one right at the junction w/Rincon).

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the updates, Brent. I’ll add them in soon.

  • jbrchrd

    Question for the locals: what kind of weather would be expected along this route in late May? Any concerns with tackling it this time of the year? Many thanks!

  • Matthew Coleman

    If I wanted to just jump on this trail around Glendora ((via Glendora Mountain Road)) and then shoot to the finish around Pasadena, where do you connect with it in Glendora if coming up GMR?? Looking to do this as a day trip…

  • Action Jackson

    three friends and I are doing this ride in 37 days. We are excited and training in preparation. one question I have is; how many ounces of water would you recommend carrying (Bike/Backpack) combined? I have a filtration system so i can refill on the trail. Thanks

  • leoromanovsky

    Planning on this in a couple weeks as well, looks like a solid route!

  • Action Jackson

    T minus 9 days