Escape Locally: Newcomb’s Ranch to Dawson’s Saddle

How far do you need to go to getaway?

The Angeles Crest Highway provides a great escape from city life without having to make a day trip to get there.

Still, it takes me an hour to bike to the base in and over its 64 miles, you will be spending a greater part of daylight hours covering it.

I wanted not just do a ride out of my normal routine, but also get a little elevation to get a feel for the Sherman Pass race if I choose to do so next weekend.

That meant getting further east and riding in mile high territory.


One thing about ACH, is that there is a good amount of traffic from la Canada to Clear Creek with a number of drivers cutting through to the Antelope Valley, then a second group of motorcyclists and performance cars making their way to Newcomb’s Ranch.

Since it was solitude I was searching for this was a great spot to start my ride to wherever I was going:


Newcomb’s Ranch has been serving ACH since 1939, even before the highway was complete. It’s a popular stop for all that travel through and an important place to get water between Clear Creek and Grassy Hollow.



Once you hit the highway, it’s a steady six mile climb that despite all the pines, offers little shade.



At the top of this climb, you reach Cloud Burst Summit which is the highest passable road in LA County at 7,108 feet.



As you get a nice couple of miles in descent, you pass the Mt. Waterman ski lifts that have been reopened intermittently the last few years.



It’s really easy to be distracted as you take in the views around Cooper Canyon.



As you make your way to Islip Saddle, you pass through two consecutive tunnels built in 1950.



Since the furthest point I’ve previously been on is Cedar Springs, I’ve never done the coveted loop up Highway 39, which is closed to cars up to ACH.

The dialogue always goes like this:

“Wanna do the 39 loop?”

“Yes. Isn’t it too hot though?”

Always a pretty short conversation.



The climb up to Dawson’s Saddle is another Category 2 climb, but slightly longer than the one I did from Newcomb’s Ranch. Looking at some of the barren spots of landscape, you just hope that this early fire season won’t reap havoc on this already affected Angeles National Forest.



Looking up this final ascent, it’s easy to lose perspective where exactly you’re headed. The road is so distant and blends into the hillside that you wonder if there’s anyway out.



This must have been a moment for this truck driver. Being able to take this all in without a sole in the world to interfere.

Except for this guy who decided to start snapping away because he has a cycling blog.



The view from up here is pretty celestial. I can’t say that the Antelope Valley has a lot to offer other than flatness, but coupled with some of the haze, it almost looks like something interplanetary is going on.




After a nice bend, you make the final turn up to Dawson’s Saddle and you feel like you’ve made some sort of accomplishment, especially considering you’re crossing the highest point on the Angeles Crest Highway.

Even though I was just below 8,000 feet, I really didn’t feel much in terms of the elevation. Maybe ignorance is bliss after all.

I wanted to continue on, but the next stretch was a long way down meaning I’d have to return a long ways up.

Still, I’m sure I’ll venture on over to Wrightwood at some point as the highway always beckons for epic rides.

You should too.