Pedaling Through Paradise

The author riding in the Alta Laguna Park area with Mystic Hills in the background.

The author riding in the Alta Laguna Park area with Mystic Hills in the background.

By: Roderick Reed

By: Roderick Reed

Laguna Beach is one of the best places in the world to ride a bike. People from all over the world come to ride here. Magazine photographers come to do photo shoots and bike companies test their products here. If you want a great workout coupled with some of the best vistas earth has to offer, Laguna Beach is the place. You can ride the same mountain bike trails Hans Rey, the king of mountain biking loves so much. If you prefer road riding the stretch of coast through Laguna is one of the most picturesque with a good mix of hills and flats.

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 rides I love, one for mountain riders and one for road riders, who like a ride that is short and sweet.

At the top of Park Avenue lays Alta Laguna Park. It’s called Top of the World for its incredible 360-degree view of the coast line and Saddleback Valley, which is also the backside of Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park.  It boasts a great trail system with many levels of difficulty. It could keep many riders busy all day. Its 3,900 acres of wilderness and open space are crisscrossed by 30 miles of official trails. The unofficial trails were cut years ago by Hans Rey and other mountain biking trail blazers.

Start at the beginning of the Westridge Trail from Alta Laguna Park. It will be a steep, sandy downhill with an elevation change of about 300 feet. Take another downhill to your right on the Mathis Canyon Trail. Elevation change of about another 500 feet. You have just had a thrilling decent and your forearms should be burning from pulling those brakes. Now the cardio begins. You will 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 places that are “single track” and not easy to pull to the side, 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. It take an hour and 15 minutes total time depending on how much you stop and look at the views.

Prefer to ride a road bike? Start at Laguna Beach High School. This vigorous ride climbs to an elevation of about 1,000 feet in less than two miles. Shortly after leaving the high school, side streets give way to steep canyon walls. Park takes a sharp climbing turn before the road widens near Thurston Middle School. Stunning views of the ocean and town spread out below. Park Avenue ends at Alta Laguna Blvd and Top of the World. This is where my previous mountain bike course starts. It’s about 35 minutes total time from LBHS. Going back down you will reach high speeds. Park Avenue has become popular for skateboarders who “bomb” down the street at breakneck speed. Motorists on Park are used to looking out for skateboarders, bikers, joggers and the deer that sometimes wander onto the road from the wilderness area adjacent to the canyon. Go easy! You are not in the Tour de France. Modulate your brakes and live to ride another day.

Feeling strong? Do both rides on your mountain bike. Starting with the “Road Ride” portion and concluding with my “Mountain Course”.

Laguna Beach has started to provide safe riding lanes here in town. If you prefer a more leisurely ride there are new biking lanes on Glenneyre, Cypress and Cliff Drive designed to have cars share the road with cyclists. This new route provides another way through town to enjoy your bike without having to use South Coast Highway.

You would be surprised what you notice about our town when on a bike instead of in a car. Staying in shape can be fun if you live in Laguna. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one from Laguna Cyclery on Thalia Street. Still not motivated? You can watch Stage 1 of the Tour de France on TV starting July 5.

Roderick Reed owns REEDesign Interiors in Laguna Beach. He lives in town with his wife Kathy and two sons Mason and Jack. http://roderickreed.com/.

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