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PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu

Old 08-10-21, 06:44 AM
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PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu

I am visiting the LA area and will be borrowing a road bike. We are staying near Santa Monica (West LA actually) and I am hoping to explore some of the roads north of Malibu.

I have heard CONFLICTING advice/comments about the safety of riding a road bike along the PCH from LA to get to the canyon roads.

Advice? Are there certain times that I should avoid?
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Old 08-10-21, 09:35 AM
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PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu is brutally heavy with traffic, and generally not recommended. Once you get the the city limits of Malibu, things start to get better, and is a stretch I'm fine with riding (I'm pretty comfortable with cars).
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Old 08-10-21, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
I am visiting the LA area and will be borrowing a road bike. We are staying near Santa Monica (West LA actually) and I am hoping to explore some of the roads north of Malibu.

I have heard CONFLICTING advice/comments about the safety of riding a road bike along the PCH from LA to get to the canyon roads.

Advice? Are there certain times that I should avoid?
this may be helpful:

PCH north of Will Rodgers beach?

if you must, i would try to avoid both 7am-9am and 2:30pm-5:30pm on weekdays.
if you are not comfy riding in both heavy and fast traffic and occasionally having to take the lane due to debris, cars parking, lane squeezing, etc...
i would take a pass on riding from santa monica to the edge of malibu (topanga canyon rd/ca hwy 27). it's about a four mile stretch.

all that said, the santa monica mountains are my favorite riding area in all of southern california. a climber's paradise.
and if you're not feeling the climbs, the stretch of pch from point dume west to the outskirts of oxnard and back is scenic and not as heavily trafficked.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 08-10-21 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 08-10-21, 09:59 AM
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heading west from west la and back, you’ll find san vicente blvd in north santa monica to be handy and prob the best cycling avenue between the 405 freeway and pacific coast highway (pch).
ditto (except on the southern end of santa monica) for the bike path that parallels the 10 freeway.
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Old 08-10-21, 10:08 AM
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It's doable if you are comfortable with traffic (and often little or no shoulder) but would definitely try to get to Malibu by 8 am/
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Old 08-10-21, 07:35 PM
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As with everyone else, I tend to avoid it. I park at Point Dume and hit the PCH north of Malibu. Will very likely do it this weekend to beat the heat.

I prefer the road heading north, from SM to Malibu, since there are no cars parked on that side. Heading south, which is already bad, makes me nervous about getting door'd.
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Old 08-12-21, 03:00 PM
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It's not great, but it's not as bad as everyone here is saying. You can either take the beach bike path up to Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades (which is pretty close to Topanga Cyn) and then ride in the shoulder on PCH. For most of the way, the shoulder is wide enough to accommodate bikes without having to go into the road at all. Just watch out for debris because it's pretty cluttered and constantly under construction (so annoying). That stretch is a little more of an issue on the way back to SM because of the cars parked along the beach side. Even so, it's doable. Rear light strongly recommended, and watch out for people opening their car doors. All that having been said, there are definitely car-on-bike incidents from time to time on PCH - some of them serious and even fatal, so if you're not comfortable with that, drive up to Cross Creek in Malibu and park there.

Another alternative is to bike to Topanga and then bike up Topanga to either Fernwood or Old Topanga and access the Malibu Canyons from that way. You still have to deal with a very short stretch of PCH from Temescal to Topanga (not too bad) and a few miles of Topanga, which doesn't have a good shoulder in some stretches. I would actually recommend this route and then bike home on PCH.
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Old 08-12-21, 08:01 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. Will be careful but I think I will be ok. Leaving for LA tomorrow!

I have a rear blinkie AND Varia radar. So I will definitely be aware of cars.
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Old 08-12-21, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
Thanks for the suggestions. Will be careful but I think I will be ok. Leaving for LA tomorrow!

I have a rear blinkie AND Varia radar. So I will definitely be aware of cars.
those are both huge. front blinker, if you have, won't hurt either. ride safe and enjoy! would love a write-up
from a visitor's perspective if you are so inclined.
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Old 08-14-21, 11:10 AM
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First ride done. Some sketchy city roads then mainly the Expo bike trail to Santa Monica, that was ok but some patches of glass and got buzzed a few times by cars on Pico. Next took PCH (with a slight detour/wrong turn) up Pacific Pasisades but backtracked to PCH. The PCH between Santa Monica and Topanga, as expected, was dicey with lots of cars but I was careful and aware of cars, so it was tolerable. I turned at the 7-11 and went up Topanga which was much better but still a medium amount of traffic. I turned onto Old Topanga and that was much better, fewer cars and perfect tarmac. I had to turn back to get home for family duties, but will try again tomorrow maybe even try Latigo.

https://strava.app.link/jE1vqsWHIib[img]blob:https://www.bikeforums.net/0e171379-ae80-4edd-b20b-7e70fad5a24a[/img]
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Old 08-14-21, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the report. You can avoid the stretch of PCH from Entrada to Temescal Cyn going North/West if you cut over to the beach bike path. You can either take Ocean Park Blvd all the way to the bike path (south of the pier), the California Incline overpass (north of the pier), or the tunnel under PCH at Entrada (you'll need to exit through the left-hand exit on the other side of the tunnel and carry your bike up some stairs. On the way home, you can get off PCH and cut through the beach parking lot even before you get back to Temescal -- almost at Sunset.

Also, you may want to cut up to San Vicente to take you over toward the coast. It's nicer and a major route for cyclists to get most of the canyon rides in Brentwood or to the coast.

I agree that Topanga is also fairly busy. If you take Topanga again and don't mind more climbing, take a left at Fernwood and climb all the way up to Saddle Peak (about a 2400' climb)

If you decide to climb Latigo, you'll probably want to drive out to Malibu to start there unless you have a lot more time. A ride from Santa Monica that includes Latigo is about 65-70 miles minimum.
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Old 08-14-21, 12:21 PM
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A friend told me to do the La Grange Sunday ride tomorrow so might try that. Thanks for all the tips.
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Old 08-15-21, 02:39 AM
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latigo is a must-do ascent but the descent is even better.

stunt and/or piuma are both fun climbs/descents.

las flores is a beast of an ascent. tuna canyon is a beast of a descent.
fernwood ain't no picnic of an ascent or descent and is tight but is handy since
it accesses topanga canyon rd, tuna canyon rd, saddle peak rd (at the top) and
the top of stunt plus schueren which connects to piuma.

east side of the sammos (where you rode) a little more compact but with more traffic.
west side (west of latigo canyon rd) a little more open but less traffic. apples/oranges.

thanks for the write-up. enjoy your sammos rides.

Last edited by ooga-booga; 08-15-21 at 03:32 AM.
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Old 08-15-21, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
First ride done. Some sketchy city roads then mainly the Expo bike trail to Santa Monica, that was ok but some patches of glass and got buzzed a few times by cars on Pico. Next took PCH (with a slight detour/wrong turn) up Pacific Pasisades but backtracked to PCH. The PCH between Santa Monica and Topanga, as expected, was dicey with lots of cars but I was careful and aware of cars, so it was tolerable. I turned at the 7-11 and went up Topanga which was much better but still a medium amount of traffic. I turned onto Old Topanga and that was much better, fewer cars and perfect tarmac. I had to turn back to get home for family duties, but will try again tomorrow maybe even try Latigo.

https://strava.app.link/jE1vqsWHIib[img]blob:https://www.bikeforums.net/0e171379-ae80-4edd-b20b-7e70fad5a24a[/img]
old topanga is really nice and one of the very few roads in socal with an extensive
canopy/shaded stretch. it has survived/skirted multiple wildfires over the years.
given how much the sammos burn every year, i truly appreciate any roll down/up that stretch because it, statistically, has beaten the odds to remain as gorgeous as it is.
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Old 08-16-21, 11:13 AM
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Update: went on another ride today. Left house in LA before 6AM in hopes to minimize traffic on PCH. Got to PCH around 6:30 and traffic was already busy. The section near the Getty Villa is especially dicey as the shoulder practically disappears. I did not have the balls to “take the lane,” maybe I should have, so I got buzzed by some cars going 50+. Turned off again on Topanga, better traffic but still some cars. Then I turned onto Fernwood then took Saddle Hill to Tuna Canyon. What a contrast! Once I was on Fernwood there was pretty much zero traffic. The descent down Tuna was a bit steep so I rode my brakes. Trip back on PCH was similar to ride there.

For those who are visiting the area and see this thread, realize the PCH might be a “necessary evil” to get from LA/Santa Monica to the canyons, but if you can get someone to drop you off it is safer to avoid.
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Old 08-16-21, 11:17 AM
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Old 08-16-21, 11:18 AM
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I love my Varia, but it is useless on that section of the PCH.

Rode the PCH north of Malibu this weekend. A joy.
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Old 11-08-21, 12:01 PM
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rode the will rogers state beach/entrada/chataqua to topanga canyon rd/ca hwy 27 stretch in both directions (7:15am-7:30am nw, 4:30pm-4:45pm sw) yesterday. still some 50-100 yard sections without shoulder heading nw towards topanga cyn rd. mercifully free of trash, car parts, etc tho in light-medium traffic. heading back to santa monica more of an adventure with having to take the lane nearly the whole way in heavy traffic with three separate incidents of salmoning scooter riders mixed into the bargain.

still can’t recommend this stretch on either side of the road and definitely advise against it even if you’re relatively comfy with taking the lane and fast, heavy traffic. if you’re not, try to get dropped off/park west of topanga canyon rd. it’ll be worth the $.
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Old 11-17-21, 04:50 PM
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I like to ride Old Topanga > Mulholland Hwy West > Little Sycamore Cyn Rd > Yerba Buena Rd. > Cotharin Rd. > Pacific View Rd., which leads to Deer Creeek Road, the CRAZIEST descent in the Santa Monicas. And great views, if you dare look.
This route through the mountains gets you a lotta elevation gain, as the mountains are never level. Lotta nice views. But Deer Creek is the cherry on top.
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Old 11-18-21, 03:28 AM
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Originally Posted by lesiz;22311270[u
]I like to ride Old Topanga > Mulholland Hwy West > Little Sycamore Cyn Rd > Yerba Buena Rd. > Cotharin Rd. > Pacific View Rd.,[/u] which leads to Deer Creeek Road, the CRAZIEST descent in the Santa Monicas. And great views, if you dare look.
This route through the mountains gets you a lotta elevation gain, as the mountains are never level. Lotta nice views. But Deer Creek is the cherry on top.
great, hard route. that gut punch of cotharin and pacific view after mully + little sycamore is a tough one. actually prefer ascending deer creek, then doing pacific view
> cotharin > yerba buena > little sycamore but the opposite is a blast as well. was in that hood 1.5 weeks ago and just decided to descend from the top of
little sycamore/yerba buena down yerba buena to pch. definitely a sweet stretch these days with recent repaving. used to rattle the fillings and necessitate a dental visit
afterwards but it's awesome and beautiful currently. western sammos less traffic than east of malibu canyon rd.

deer creek ain't no picnic to descend and the views are gorgeous. still gotta go with tuna canyon as the descent in the sammos that i wish having disc brakes the most...
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Old 12-21-21, 08:59 PM
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Bad accident with car and bicyclist on PCH at Big Rock. One person dead........RIP
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — One person is dead after a collision between a bicyclist and a vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

According to the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department, all lanes of traffic have been closed at Big Rock. LASD recommends drivers take an alternate route as it is unknown when the highway will reopen.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to calls of a collision involving a bicyclist and a vehicle at about 4:20 p.m. First responders pronounced one person dead at the scene. There were no other injuries reported.
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