I’ve written about this many times before, but biking Crystal Lake should be an essential climb, but for reasons brought up many times just misses the criteria.
In terms of epicness, it would easily rank in the top three climbs in Los Angeles, yet there’s a surprisingly large faction of riders that have never ridden it before and with good reason too.
A couple of weeks ago, my friends were planning their first climb up this stretch and as interested as I was, I had to chime in about the particulars.
The group wanted to start out of Azusa in Encanto Park which isn’t a bad starting spot, but this adds in the lower part of Highway 39 climb.
I’m really not a fan of that part because of the swirling winds and narrow roadways.
Normally, I’m circumvent this part of the climb by adding Glendora Mountain Road, that that was going to make a long day even longer.
Since we were riding on a Saturday and there’s a big rush of large 4×4’s heading to the off road park, I suggested to meet down at Benny’s Liquor in Azusa to caravan up and for everyone to purchase a $5 day pass.
We parked just south of East Fork and our group of 11 quickly got downsized to 10 as you can guess what the answer to “Does anyone have a spare skewer?” was.
As we prepared to start our ride, many of us witnessed the lack of kindness many of the drivers were giving to the cyclists on the road.
When you’re biking Crystal Lake, it starts out a bit of a mystery as the first three miles seem dry in terms of landscaping and hard to get your bearings.
It’s soon thereafter as your environs turn green where you start taking note of the scale.
I only took one semester of geology (and even two units at that), but seeing how the sediment from the mountains have formed this cascade of a climb will put you into awe the next eleven miles.
There’s plenty of time for squinting to find swaths where the road is cut in above as the road only makes wide sweeping motions the next couple of miles.
After a slight reprieve dipping in around the Coldbrook campsite, the climb is slightly reintroduced with some rollercoaster bending curves that will payoff in fun on the way down.
As you make your way into the trees, it’s hard not to attract a smile to your face as a stream winds beneath the roadway which is a fallback plan if you’re low on water.
The climb is epic enough that you lose track of how close you are to the top.
Once you pass the 5,000 elevation sign, you’re almost to the end…of Highway 39.
I advise everyone to continue pass the turnoff to Crystal Lake and ride those extra 200 yards to get a view down where you just rode.
It’s picture worthy.
Obviously since you’ve made it this far, returning to finish the final two miles is compulsory up to Crystal Lake cafe.
Many ask to take the turnoff to see the lake itself, but it’s more like a pond and maybe gives motivation on the next ride.
Stopping for a bite is a nice capper and many choose to take their time before coming back.
The descent is just magic, as you’ll be nearing the 40mph mark on many portions.
Biking Crystal Lake is obviously bucket list worthy…you just have to get yourself up there…