Bikepacking Microadventure Outside Los Angeles
Bikes, buddies & 70 miles of gravel in Los Padres National Forest turns an average weekend into one you won't forget
Sony RX100 II
Mark Finster is an avid cyclist, hobby photographer, and founder of Latigo Coffee, a subscription-based coffee roaster out of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is an ideal place to live for "microadventuring." Mountains, deserts, rivers, and the great Pacific are all within reach. Pack a small bag of essentials on a Friday (or midweek as our good friends at Topanga Creek Outpost suggest), and you can get totally lost less than an hour from your front door. It's quite trippy for a city so massive.
Just before the last summer heat wave set in, we packed our bikes with the essentials and headed a bit north to the lovely seaside community of Ventura. A sweet little bike path runs about 13 miles from the coast inland to the charming organic enclave of Ojai—where we enjoyed some healthy eats before heading up into the forest.
The climbing really began up Matilija Canyon Road (right off hwy 33, which cuts across the Los Padres National Forest). Eventually the pavement gave way to dirt, and we were treated to several splashy-splash stream crossings (scientifically proven to put a smile on your face). Several miles of climbing later, we made it to the remote single-site (!) campground of Upper Santa Ynez.
Camping is a funny thing. Does anyone actually sleep well on that first night? I never seem to... not with the excitement of being away from your regular bed, combined with hyper vigilant city-tuned ears catching the scamper of critters every few minutes. Needless to say, some fresh brewed coffee the next morning was more than essential. (Pro Tip: check this Outdoor Guide to French Press for your next adventure.)
"Our favorite adventures start with quality coffee, and end with quality beer."
Like riding anywhere in SoCal, you can always expect a healthy amount of climbing. Our own venture out of Murietta Canyon promised exactly that. Up and over the Santa Ynez ridge, and down into Santa Barbara we went. Luckily a thick marine layer on the ocean-side offered a welcome reprieve from the canyon heat—the singletrack descent into Romero Canyon also blew our minds.
Our favorite bike adventures start with quality coffee, and end with quality beer. We packed in the former, and found the latter at Topa Topa Brewery back in Ventura after the last stretch down the coastline from Santa Barbara. After riding 70 miles and climbing around 6,300 feet, a celebratory jump in the Pacific capped off the ideal microadventure. Not a bad way to spend a weekend!