MTB Trails Near Me: The Manzanita Loop (Part 1)
MTB plays a large part of my fitness and training regime, and although I am not a professional athlete I do like to keep up with my friends on both MTB and Road. To do that I ride my bike on both the road and MTB trails. I am going to do a weekly post called “MTB Near Me” to give a little detail about some of my favorite trails and rides that I have gone on and write about some of the pros and cons of the ride. Living in the Antelope Valley, at the North end of Los Angeles County, there are some pretty epic trails, and the one that comes to mind first is the Manzanita Loop.
I looked it up on my Strava activities and I rode it way back on April 11, 2015 and I titled the ride, “MTB: Manzanita Loop/Big Rock Creek Ride...Intense!” It was almost a 12 mile ride with 2500 feet of climbing and my average speed was barely over 5 mph. We parked right at the entrance of the South Fork Camp site, and rode up the paved Big Rock Creek Rd. Big Rock Creek Road is a tough climb, even from this point, and on a MTB it was especially slow if memory serves. We rode to the end of the paved road and the real climbing fun began. Big Rock Creek Rd. pavement ended at about where Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp #41 is at, and from there we rode up the fire road, which is the unpaved portion of Big Rock Creek Rd. at this point.
The fire road from this point is a hard climb, and according to a Strava segment called “Prison Fireroad Climb” it is a 2nd category climb and is 2.5 miles long at an 11% grade. You will gain 1183 feet from Camp 41 to the top, and that is a lot. The fire road was very steep at some points, and I remember getting off my bike to hike towards the top. The hike-a-bike part ( I am sure if I was in better shape I could have made it without walking my bike) was not only due to being in my granny gear, and going so slow I might as well walk, but also because of the sheer intensity of the ride and it being incredibly difficult to climb.
By the time we crested the climb we came out where the fire road meets the 2 Highway at an elevation of 6,598 ft (2020 m), and at that point there are picnic benches and scenic views of the surrounding mountains. This spot has amazing vistas and on a clear day you can look out for miles. This is about half of the loop and we were about 5.5 miles into the ride. Needless to say it was an adventure going up, and was just as amazing going down on the Manzanita Trail.
I will write about the second half of the adventure in part two of this post, but there is definitely enough information here to get started planning this epic ride with your biking friends.
Some vital information below:
Which bike should you use? MTB (full suspension for the downhill portion, but either will work) or Gravel
What fitness should you be in? Moderate to good shape. I am not a fitness expert, but you should be at a level where your body can handle intense grades and long climbs at a 5000 to 6000 ft elevation.
When should you go? You can go in early fall before danger or snow, spring and summer. It is important to check the weather before you go as this is a high mountain ride, where weather can change. Depending on when you go you should prepare for hot temperatures in the summer months, and in the winter cold weather, but as I said before, if you are an avid outdoors person you should consider a wide range of weather possibilities.
Who should you go with? I would go with experienced cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts. Very fit beginners possibly, but the downhill portion requires “moderate” to “experienced” level MTB/Gravel skills.
Gear: Waterpack, food, goos, nutrition drink,
Timeframe: About 3 to 5 hours
Special Instructions: Prepare as though you will have little on no assistance, and you will have NO cell coverage in most areas so make sure you go with a group or let people know exactly where you will be. I would wear a water pack, and take water (I over pack water as you never know how much you’ll need) and water sources are limited (I don’t know if there is a water source at the picnic area???). If you go in winter, prepare for the cold because it can get really cold at this elevation. If you check out my ride on strava, note that the weather was 54 degrees (F), as see the pictures I was wearing a light road cycling jacket that I wore all the way up the climb.
A few warnings:
Ride this route, like all rides, at your own risk. MTB and cycling can be a dangerous activity
Try to go with someone who knows the trail and is an experienced cyclist
The ride is short in distance but rigorous, and should not be underestimated
There is a section of the Manzanita Trail that is UN-RIDE-ABLE and must be walked on the ride back. It is a rocky river bed with boulders, and an almost unidentifiable trail so although I will write about this in part 2, I think it’s important to mention if you do not read the the second article.
There are also portions of the Manzanita Trail that have sharp, off-camber trail portions. The way up does not present this concern, but going down the Manzanita Trail does have this issue, so if you don’t like to ride that type of trail, stay away or just go down the way you went up. I’ve never ridden that way so I don’t have experience in that route and if you are an experienced rider you will know going up a climb is often very different going down.
Just use caution and common sense and don’t ride outside of your abilities
If you have any questions or you would like to “Plan a Ride'' with me on the Manzanita Loop, message me on the clikclik website, and we will see if we can make this happen! We can even plan it out for a future ride on the clikclik app. Stay tuned for my next post of Part 2 of the Manzanita Loop.