Located in the northeast corner of Ventura County, at 8,847’ Mt Pinos is the tallest mountain in the county and in the western San Gabriel Mountains. Pinos is an outdoor recreation haven. It is just an hour north of LA, but so isolated that amateur astronomers use it as a local outpost. Bikers, hikers, campers, and cross country skiers all flock to Pinos.
What Makes It Great
After suiting up, continue up Mt. Pinos Road and keep an eye out for the trailhead that is just a few hundred feet up and on the right. This is when the climb begins. The ride is a straightforward out and back climb, with small downhill segments within. Pinos is known as being a great technical climb, with dirt that is well packed and just the right amount of rocks on a moderate grade. The area is also covered with sugar pines, the olfactory king of conifers (hence the name Pinos). They are the largest pines with the biggest cones and they’re everywhere! These giants are in groves throughout the ride and are often the only subjects in front of epic vistas.
The first section is a 3.5-mile singletrack climb that takes you up 1,500’. Here you hit a paved road through the campground, continue right on this road for a .5 mile before you hit a fire road that continues upwards. After one mile you will hit the cross-country ski area. The top of the mountain is irregularly flat, almost plateau-like. This makes for great skiing and an easier time on the bike. After the ski area you are 1 mile of fire road climbing away from the summit.
Once you complete the climb, turn the bike around and enjoy the downhill. It is fast and the soil grips well (an aberration in most of southern California). The tough climb makes the descent even more enjoyable.
Who is Going to Love It
If you love technical climbing and descending Pinos is for you. The downhill is so fun that some locals will shuttle this trail, but for those who are really looking to get into nature and enjoy the mountain, then the climb is the way to go.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To access the Mount Pinos Recreatation Area, exit the 5 Freeway at Frazier Mountain Park Road and head west. Stay on this for 7 miles until you hit the Lockwood Valley Rd-Cuddy Valley Rd intersection; continue right onto Cuddy Valley Road. This takes you through a remarkably lush valley with very few trees. A mountain valley that is miles long, grassy, and with limited foliage is hard to find in California. After 5 miles on Cuddy Valley Road you will intersect Mt. Pinos Road on the left, turn into the dirt parking lot here.