Los Angeles viewed from the Santa Monica Mountains


Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Leaving Calabasas along Valmar Road ... on a decent bike lane

The Santa Monica Mountains lie between the Pacific Ocean and the San Fernado Valley hard against the western sprawl of Los Angeles.

A gated community

I started my ride from the city of Calabasas which lies on Highway 101 ... the Ventura Highway ... just north of the Mountains.

Another gated community ... with someone escaping

In early 2006 Calabasas banned smoking in nearly all public places, including parking lots and sidewalks ... leading the way in introducing the most strict anti-smoking legislation in the States.

Crossing Mulholland Highway

I left the city on the bike lane on Valmar Road and passed numerous gated communities.

Headwaters Corner

The road becomes Old Topanga Canyon Road ... and crosses Mulholland Highway.

Turn off for Old Topanga Canyon Road The climbing starts in earnest

At this point the climbing starts in earnest ... initially ascending past banks of gnarled oaks ... the views soon open out.

Homes hidden on every flat .. and not so flat .. piece of ground Bone dry slopes Watch out for rock falls
Road looping up Old Topanga Canyon Road carved into the hillside
We'll be over there in a minute ... or is that where we've come from? THe road snaking its way up the mountains

The road snakes this way and that and ... after stopping to take photographs ... you sometimes wonder if you are heading off in the right direction.

Tantalising glimpses of the road ahead More bends

After negotiating the bends the road crosses a watershed at around 460 m altitude before beginning a (welcome) descent into Old Topanga Canyon itself.

Waste disposal lorry grinding its way up the hill Tricky crossing for the postman?

Topanga Creek is one of the few remaining undammed waterways in the area and is noted as a spawning ground of the endangered steelhead trout.

Rocks towers rise above me ... as I descended towards the town of Topanga.

Practicing jumping on one of the few flat areas Rock towers alongside the road Dramatic rib of rock
Topanga's Waterlilly Cafe Blue Angel

The first thing that caught my eye when I reached Topanga was the Waterlilly Café.

There's no telling when next you might find a refreshment stop ... so it was worth pausing for a bite and a drink.

Rusty Robot

The proprietress was originally from Norway and was puzzled as to why someone from England should cycle to Topanga ...

Leaving Topanga behind

... mind you not nearly so puzzling as why someone from Europe should open a café in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Topanga has something of a reputation as a bohemian enclave attracting artists, musicians, and others (er ... do they mean cyclists?).

Wiggly road leaving Topanga ... what does that mean? Topanga's Fire Station

Woody Guthrie was one of the first musicians who settled in the town to be followed by dozens of others in the 60s and 70s such as Neil Young, Billy Preston, Joni Mitchell, Steven Stills, Jim Morrison and Alice Cooper.

The sign seems to agree with the map Looks as though I'll come back to where I started

Leaving Topanga it was reassuring to see the well equipped Fire Station.

Just over a decade ago, in 1993, a devastating fire burned here for ten days and destroyed around 16,500 acres (67 sq km) of vegetation and nearly 400 buildings.

Classic Airstream trailer Opening up ... must be near the top

After turning into Fernwood Pacific Road alongside the Fire Station the route kicks-up and begins a serpentine ascent to the ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Steep front drive

The road passes numerous houses .. many of which seemed to be balanced precariously on ridges and knolls to get the best views.

Junction of Saddle Peak Road and Tuna Canyon Road

Tucked away on one corner was a classic Airstream caravan ... sorry trailer.

Homes perilously positioned to take advantage of the views

When Neil Armstrong and his the crew returned from the Moon in 1969 they were quarantined in an airtight Airstream trailer while checks were made to ensure that they hadn't brought back any toxic bugs.

The Catalina Islands appearing to float in the distance
Not far to the top Tuscany? Skyline of Los Angeles just discernable in the distance
Skyline of Los Angeles emerging from the haze
Don't get distracted by the view when driving down here Mansion with Pacific views

The road climbs to around 750 m altitude, changes its name to Tuna Canyon Road and meanders along the ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Views open up in all directions ... to the south you can see out over the Pacific to the Catalina Islands ... they seem to be floating over a layer of sea fog.

More of the Catalina Islands

To the east you can (just) see back through the haze and murk to the distinctive skyline of Los Angeles.

Yet more glimpse of LA

Northward lies the San Fernando Valley and the Santa Susana and Gabriel Mountains beyond.

House attempting to match the rocks around it

Much of the Santa Monica Mountains are classified as a US National Recreation Area ... although significant portions remain in private hands.

The ridge was littered with dwellings of all sorts ... from simple shacks to designer mansions ... some of futuristic designs.

Futuristic building near the summit Beginning the descent of Stunt Road
Sedimentary strata turned to the vertical Stunt Road

From the top I turned to descend Stunt Road.

This road descends for 6 kilometres at an almost constant slope of 7% ... not quite as steep as the hill I'd just come up!

Stunt Road
Watch out for dips ... and rocks

In the other direction numbers of motorcyclists and sports car drivers were enjoying the curvy ascent.

Zig-zags on Stunt Road

Ahead was a dark grey mountain which contained vertical streaks of white ... like a giant liquorice allsort.

After reaching Mulholland Highway all I had to do was complete the final descent into Calabasas ... time for a cigarette ... er no ... better make that a coffee.

Joining Mulholland Highway Back to Calabasas Geodesic dome


Kirby James