When new roads call, you have to accept the charges no matter how painful it may be.
Last Friday, I had one of those rare afternoons off that I initially planned to make my return engagement to Mount Wilson Toll Road.
Then a funny thing happened:
I can’t remember whose Instagram I saw it on, but I saw a pic with a few riders climbing a place called Big Rock Canyon that looked somewhat similar to Deer Creek on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Looking at a map, this road was nestled between both the steep Las Flores and Tuna Canyons, but this was something new and reachable, so why not?
Well, 1,500 feet of climbing over three miles is why not!
After taking Phase II of the Expo Line, I made my way down PCH heading towards my typical route to Topanga Canyon.
Instead of turning off, the start of Big Rock is almost three miles past this intersection and while you can pull good speeds on this stretch, I couldn’t keep pace with my eagerness.
The entrance is easy to spot as a street sign hangs from a traffic signal as you veer right to immediately start the climb.
Don’t worry about going faster than the posted speed limit.
While the beginning forgos houses you soon switchback through a pretty well populated residential area.
These people definitely live the good life, but relative to others that show off their richness, these homes don’t seem that ostentatious.
On the climb, you’ll switch gears constantly as the grade will put you mostly in your lowest gear while the change in directions will let the wind aid / impede your progress.
Trust me. I’m surrounded by multi-million dollar homes.
It doesn’t take long to feel like you’re way above the Pacific, but most of your views will be partially obstructed by those who paid for them.
While you’re snaking through the hillside, it’s relatively easy to stay on course by following the signs and road markings, although I did do a double take around this turn as the road markings continued ahead:
Just stay right….
Overall, the climb is 1.6 miles averaging 10% before you have to make the decision if you want more.
This is where your gravel bike will come in handy, but not immediately.
After going under the gate, you remount on a older, grainier road.
There are weeds popping up through some narrow cracks you ride perpendicular, but otherwise the surface is in good shape.
Your bigger concern is the massive gradient that’s going to smack you in the face.
This is what 20% looks like.
You’ll be out of gears soon followed by exiting your seated position as my Garmin showed me reaching 21% for quite some time.
The only solace is that you’re free of any development and get a pristine view of the coast as you snake up the slope.
After a third of a mile of this, you thankfully get a reprieve (and a good photo opportunity) at the top.
As you see the tanks, it flattens out and while the paved section alongside the fence looks tempting, Big Rock Canyon continues on the dirt to your left.
Surprisingly, I saw a few walkers out here which hopefully hinted that the end was near.
Once again, I was climbing, but the grade was a more manageable 5% – 6% laced with some flat sections.
Pretty soon you’ll see a separate dirt road on your left, but it’ll be apparent from the view to continue to the right up the meat of the hills.
The peak where Schueren, Stunt and Saddle Peak converge soon becomes visible making me think why I had never seen this road from up there.
Looking in the opposite direction, there was a pretty interesting house that reminded me of Bernard Maybeck’s Temple of the Wings before it was enclosed.
I don’t know if that was this house’s intent or if it was just vacant, but someone paid a lot of money to have that whole hillside to themselves.
Future CiclaValley summer residence….
The dirt section as a whole is about a mile and if you’re like me taking your time and taking it all in, it’ll seem longer than that.
There are a couple of forks in the road you come up on where heading to the right looks like the more pleasing option, but staying left is the way out to Tuna Canyon.
Straight looks tempting, but left is the way out.
Once again, there was another gate to navigate marking the end of this route.
You do have the option of taking Tuna Canyon back down to PCH, but I decided to head the other direction towards the Fernwood Pacific / Topanga area.
It’s another 300 feet of climbing, but the bigger obstacle was avoiding the skateboarders slaloming down the hill.
Skate or Die!
Big Rock was a nice escape for a first timer, but the views help ease the strain of it all.
I imagine I’ll be back, but once again, this motivates me to find new roads to explore.