There’s a big discrepancy between the popularity and experience of biking Crystal Lake.
Tucked away off the current terminus of Highway 39, this enclave in the Angeles National Forest is an amazing getaway just above Los Angeles.
It’s a climb with epic views that rewards you the deeper you go.
At the same time, it’s surprising how many locals haven’t completed this climb even with Glendora Mountain Road and Mount Baldy within cycling distance.
Part of it is how (in my words) how miserable the lower portion of Highway 39 to the East Fork is to bike with the swirling winds and narrow space to share with drivers.
That’s why I always make a note to drive to this point or take GMR around.
For most, this is a road ride as it’s 14.2 miles up to the typical turnaround point of Crystal Lake Cafe.
If you’re willing to go with wider tires, there are a few dirt options to supplement the experience.
Cogswell Dam at the bottom extends out to Rincon Red Box and Monrovia Truck Trail.
At the cafe, you can extend further north with a six mile climb up to Mount Hawkins (covered in the video).
Of course, there’s the actual Crystal Lake itself which even with it’s short distance off road, you’re going to need a lot of rubber to ride it.
While it’s not big on size, it makes up with its beauty reflected from every angle.
It’s worth catching your breath because at over a mile of elevation, you might be more spent than you think.
Refueling at the cafe is always a pro move, but continuing upward isn’t as common as most don’t come prepared.
On this particular ride, I had 32s on my gravel bike which was able to handle (mostly) the conditions up to Mount Hawkins and still climbed Highway 39 at a good clip.
The descent also falls as one of the best in the area with is a balance between wide turns and tight spaghetti whip-arounds until the last three miles where you have to beware all the people using the river.
Whether your excursion is just to the cafe or the many spurs you can taking biking Crystal Lake is a worthy experience no matter how you approach it.