By Roderick Reed
Cycling Laguna Beach is one of the best ways to get a world-class workout and memorable experience. People from all over the world come to Laguna Beach to ride; magazine photographers come to do photo shoots; and bike companies come to Laguna Beach to test their products.
If you want a great workout coupled with some of the best vistas earth has to offer, cycling Laguna Beach is the place. You can ride the same mountain bike trails Hans Rey, king of mountain biking, loves so much. If you prefer road riding, the stretch of coast through Laguna is picturesque with a good mix of hills and flats.
Maximum Workout, Short Time
Busy schedule? Sometimes fitting in a workout is difficult. I suggest grabbing your bike and pedaling to maximum heart rate for as little 30 minutes for a workout of high effort and high reward. Here are two Laguna Beach rides, one for mountain riders and one for road riders who like a ride that is short and sweet.
Above downtown at the top of Park Avenue, in a neighborhood called Top of World, lays Alta Laguna Park. Called Top of the World for its incredible 360 degree view of the coast line and saddleback valley, Top of the World is the backside of Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park. With it’s diverse trail system and many levels of difficulty, Top of the World could keep many riders busy all day. Top of the World has 3900 acres of wilderness and open space with 30 miles of official trails.
To reach Top of the World, turn east onto Laguna Avenue from Pacific Coast Highway. Laguna Avenue changes into Park Avenue after a block. Follow the steep road past the high school all the way to the T-intersection at the top of the hill. Turn left at the intersection to get to the park (parking lot is on the right).
Instead of turning right into the parking lot, continue down the street and park in the cul-de-sac. You can get onto the trail instantly from there.
Start at the beginning of the Westridge Trail. Westsridge Trail is a steep downhill path with an elevation change of about 300 feet. Take Mathis Canyon Trail on your right for another downhill elevation of about 500 feet. The decent is thrilling and your forearms will be burning from pulling your brakes.
Now the cardio begins. Make a u-turn and go back up the way you came. You will have a total climb of more than 800 feet. You will have several places on the way up to catch your breath, but be aware that there are single-track places along the route that are not easy for pulling off to side of the road. So, on the way down, make note of potential places to stop on the way back up.
When you make it back to Alta Laguna Park you will find restrooms, shade, and drinking fountains. You will need it. The ride is 1 hour and 15 minutes or more depending on how much you stop.
Park at Laguna Beach High School, 625 Park Avenue. This vigorous ride climbs to an elevation of about 1,000 feet in less than 2 miles. Just past the high school, Park Avenue really starts to climb as you start your way to the area of town known as Top of the World.
Shortly after leaving the high school, side streets give way to steep canyon walls. Park Avenue takes a sharp climbing turn and passes large custom-built homes perched on the steep hillside. Stunning views of the ocean and town spread below.
Park Avenue ends at Alta Laguna Boulevard at the Top of the World, which is where my previous mountain bike course starts. From Laguna Beach High School to top of the World, the total ride time is 35 minutes.
Going back down hill, you will reach high speeds. Go easy. You are not in the Tour De France. Modulate your brakes and live to ride another day.
Park Avenue has become popular for skateboarders who “bomb” down the street at breakneck speed. Motorists on Park Avenue are used to looking out for skateboarders, bikers, joggers, and deer that sometimes wander onto the road from the wilderness area adjacent to the canyon.
Think you are fit enough? Do both rides on your mountain bike. Starting with the “Road Ride” portion and concluding with my “Mountain Course”. If you can ride this combination back to back, you have superpowers.
Cycling Laguna Beach
Alta Laguna Park
3300 Alta Laguna Blvd., Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Beach Cyclery
240 Thalia street 949-494-1522
Crystal Cove State Park
Mailing Address: 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Ranger Station: 949-494-3539 (For general park information and to speak to a park supervisor.)
Crystal Cove State Park has 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of undeveloped woodlands, which is popular for hiking and horseback riding. The offshore waters are designated as an underwater park. Crystal Cove is used by mountain bikers inland and scuba divers underwater. The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers. Visitors can explore tide pools and sandy coves.
Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park
28373 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Approximately 3,900 acres of wilderness and natural open space land. Originally, part of the Juaneno or Acajchemem tribal land, it later was owned by Don Juan Avila, Louis Moulton, The Mission Viejo Company and now is under the jurisdiction of OC Parks. Within the park lands are mature oaks, sycamores, and elderberry trees, two year round streams and over 30 miles of official trails. Many rare and endangered plants and animals make this park their home. This park is designated as a wildlife sanctuary.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s 7,000 acres are part of the South Coast Wilderness area, comprised of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, The City of Irvine Open Space, and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (totaling almost 20,000 acres). Visit the park’s award-winning Nix Nature Center to learn more about Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and for trail information and orientation.