Late for Nowhere

From life in Southeast Asia to backyard adventures in Kodiak, Alaska

Adventures in the US: Cycling the high point of Los Angeles

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The lower slopes of the climb to the peak of Mt Lukens.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s, one of my favorite mountain bike rides was the climb to the peak of Mt Lukens, which at 1,547 meters (5,075 feet) is the highest point within the LA city limits.

The 15-mile ride is elegant in its simplicity: A tough 7.5-mile ascent on a winding dirt road, followed by a screaming downhill run back to the parking lot along the same route.

With fond memories of these rides, Mt Lukens was where I headed for the first real mountain bike excursion of my recent trip to the US.

Back in the 1990s, I could finish the climb in less than 1 hour and 10 minutes (my record time was somewhere around 1:07), and then make the return descent in about 20 minutes. Now I’m older, fatter and (as a resident of Yangon in Myanmar) primarily a flatland cyclist, so I knew the mountain would pose a greater challenge than it used to.


The dirt road to the peak.

I’m also apparently quite a bit stupider than when I was younger: After pedaling about half a mile up the hill, I realized I had left my water bottles in the car – so I had to ride back down to retrieve them, and then start the climb all over again.

Still, the ride wasn’t as devastating as I had feared: I made it to the top in about 1 hour and 30 minutes, including three or four brief stops to take photos.


Around the midway point.

The cool morning air helped prevent the ride from becoming a death march. The natural scenery of Angeles National Forest, along with the smell of sage along the track, supplied additional inspiration.

At one point a family of three mule deer trotted across the path in front of me, and then paused in a meadow to watch me ride by. Toward the top, there were even a few small patches of snow on the north side of the mountain, something I didn’t expect in Southern California in mid-May.


Looking northeast from just below the peak.

The air was reasonably clear when I reached the peak, allowing me to see across the Verdugo Hills, Glendale, downtown Los Angeles, and well beyond. It was an odd but familiar feeling, looking down on a city of nearly 4 million people but having the mountain peak all to myself.

I enjoyed the view, the solitude, and the frigid mountaintop wind for about 15 minutes, and then remounted my bike to ride back down the path and rejoin the teeming masses below.


The view of Los Angeles from the peak of Mt Lukens.

Written by latefornowhere

June 18, 2014 at 4:26 am

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