Mountain Bike L.A.’s Sullivan Canyon Trail after Work

Long sandy beaches, legions of cars and palm tree-lined streets. These are things L.A. is famous for. But did you know that nestled within the city there’s an amazing network of hiking and biking trails?

Avid rider Shane Quentin knows this and wants to master one particular trail: Sullivan Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. “It’s a really good example of the best mountain biking that L.A. has to offer,” he says. “You can go from downtown Santa Monica to feeling very remote, very quickly. The contrast is striking.”


Since L.A. weather is typically warm and mild, this is a ride you can do year-round. Shane has often done it on weeknights after work. After sunset it’s not too cold, you don’t get sunburned, and you can see coyotes, tarantulas, rabbits and rattlesnakes. In fact, Shane has combined his commute home with this adventure into the wilderness.


Pedaling through eucalyptus trees at Will Rogers State Historic Park off of Sunset Boulevard, Shane climbs up the steep, loose singletrack. It’s a challenging climb, but Shane’s been here before and he’s in the zone. He’s on the Novara Ponderosa, or “the Pondo” as he calls it. With 27.5-inch tires, Suntour XCR Air fork for cushioning and 15mm thru axle for extra stability and steering, he says it’s a “good all-around hard tail.” Once the settings and tire pressure are dialed in, the Pondo disappears into the ride and behaves beautifully. Shane continues to pump those pedals up the mountain, a good five to six miles of dry rocky ground and low shrubs that typify the Santa Monica Mountains.


At the top of the trail you eventually spill onto a ridge that’s an unpaved portion of Mulholland Drive. Here you’ll find a tower that was once an anti-aircraft missile launch site. Now a memorial park with stunning 360-degree views, it’s an ideal lunch spot and the perfect reward for the uphill ride. Facing south, you get vistas of the glistening Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. Turn east and see the iconic Griffith Observatory and buildings of downtown L.A. To the north is the San Fernando Valley, its own sprawling metropolis. Marveling at the views, Shane remembers when he first started exploring this area. “I was amazed that these trails existed next to areas I knew well, deep in the mountains. I hadn’t realized how some areas were connected and this ride helped me understand the geography of Los Angeles.”


Mulholland Drive is famous not only as the backbone of the Santa Monica Mountains, but also as a backdrop for L.A.’s history. Today, this dirt section is peppered with other adventurers like Shane. “It’s as if this part of Mulholland was taken from the cars and given back to the hikers and mountain bikers.”


After lunch, it’s time to head down. Shane takes the main fire road down Sullivan Canyon and is able to jet onto one of the many singletrack trails that weave back and forth across the road. Take any of the singletracks or just stay on the main artery, making this ride perfect for any skill level.


The offshoots have technical bits like small drops, bridges and log crossings, and the Pondo abides. Its wheel size lets Shane descend more aggressively. “It’s a lot of fun to ride, really predictable. It has good manners for taking over roots and leans over really willingly to take flowy turns on singletrack portions. This lets me focus on enjoying the ride.”

Sullivan Canyon drops out in a residential area, then it’s a few miles back to Will Rogers State Park. If you climb hard, you can do this ride in just over three hours, but with all its side roads and vistas, you can make the trail your own.


Back in Santa Monica, it’s time for some local grub: Mexican food at a funky spot near Venice Beach. Shane likes to get to the beach bike path, then shoot up Rose Avenue towards Lincoln Boulevard. This is where he gets his “carby, protein fill.” He raves, “For less than $10, you get a ton of food, including a plastic cup full of seafood ceviche!” Tacos, burritos…have at it.

So what’s Shane’s next ride? That can wait till the next nice day in L.A. Also known as tomorrow.

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