Hwy 39 - Crystal Lake Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

15.8 mi
4,934 ft
5.9 %


Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA; Stacy Topping, Tacoma, WA, USA


Cycling Highway 39 to Crystal Lake: This bike climb shares its first segment with the more difficult Dawson Saddle climb. Turn right onto Crystal Lake Road at mile 11.8 and ride the last 2.2 miles to the Crystal Lake Store and Cafe. 
This climb varies greatly in gradient throughout the climb.  This is not a smooth 5-6% continuous grade climb and it frequently changes lower grades to steeper grades and even descents in eight sections.  The average for the climb is 5.8% but that increases to 6.5% by eliminating the multiple descents we experience on the climb.  The steepest quarter-mile is at mile 4.4 (12%) and the steepest mile is 8.9% beginning at mile 3.9.  9% of the climb is at 10% or greater. 
Roadway:  The roadway is in good condition as of 2019. 

Traffic:  Traffic is light along this climb.  Although it is on Highway 39, because the highway dead-ends just past the turn off to Crystal Lake Drive, there is no through traffic.  

Parking: We park at the San Gabriel Canyon OHV parking lot for our climbs to Dawson Saddle and Crystal Lake. Map; Street View
Provisions:  There is no place for food or water along the climb, but the Crystal Lake Café just before the finish has good food and snacks/beverages - Google Map + Reviews.  

Weather:  Our only recommendation is to check the PJAMM Weather Tool to assess weather at the top of you climb when you expect to finish since you are ending your climb 4,000' higher than where you are starting. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Note that the Mt. Baldy from Hwy 39 climb starts within a few hundred yards of the Crystal Lake Climb.  Doing both on the same day is manageable but extremely challenging as the out and back for Baldy is 7,500' and 54 miles, together with 28 miles and 4,500' round trip for Crystal lake, equaling 82 miles and 12,000' of climbing. 

To stay near the start of the climb there are a few hotel options in Azusa.  Or if you are staying in the area for a longer period of time renting a house may be a better option.   



Difficulty: Strenuous



Check out PJAMM Adventure's prepackaged (self-guided) cycling trips. They will help you plan, document and conquer your next adventure.
Browse all of our prepackaged trips and find your next adventure!
San Gabriel Mountains
United States (CA)
43 POIs


No Climbs Found


Let us know what you thought of this climb. Signup for our FREE membership to write a review or post a comment.
Already have an account?

Nov 5, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
Nov 5, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
Beautiful climb, road is very good, though the tarmac is a bit grittier than perfect. Cars and motorcycles will pass, but there is usually enough space to pass, and good line of site for them to see you. Having water / food at the top is a nice bonus. Adding on the closed portion of Highway 39 past the gate makes this truly epic.
Aug 14, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 3
Aug 14, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 3
Completed on an August Saturday (2021). Be aware that they have chiseled the entire length, up to the turnout for Crystal Lake - so not the best road quality. Some very nice switchbacks toward the top. Only a few motorcycle clubs buzzing by. Fine to do once, I might not seek out again.
Apr 16, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 4
Apr 16, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 4
How have I never done this climb in all my years living here?! like being in the Alps so nice!

Climb Profile Not Found

Cycling Crystal Lake -- this top Southern California bike climb shares

much of its length with the Dawson Saddle Top US 100 route.

Ride 14.2 miles gaining 4,894’ to 5,818’ elevation at 5.9% average grade.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

This moderately popular bike climb is fully within the Angeles National Forest (established 1908; 655,387 acres; the first National Forest in the state of California).

Before heading out on your Crystal Lake bike climb, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

Start of Crystal Lake Bike Climb - Angeles National Forest sign

Ride or drive through Azusa on your way to the start 12 miles north.

Start of Crystal Lake Bike Climb - Angeles National Forest sign

Glendora Mountain Road to the north of Morris Reservoir on drive to our start.

This climb begins at the San Gabriel Off Highway Staging Area, which comes with a parking fee charged. Although the area can be very crowded on weekends, during the weekdays (and even some weekends), the traffic is moderate for the first few miles up the mountain and mild thereafter.

Start of Crystal Lake Bike Climb - Angeles National Forest sign

The first several miles of this climb are unimpressive, but miles approximately seven to the turnoff to Crystal Lake at mile 11.8 are dramatic, with views back to the south of the big switchbacks just navigated.

First half of the climb


Above the first set of hairpins at mile 6.5


  Climbing Crystal Lake by bike - aerial drone photo of switchbacks

Bicycle climb Crystal Lake  - ground level photo of hairpins

Hairpins left center of photo.

Upper hairpins - at top of video clip is Crystal Lake area.

Upper section of the climb before the turn off to Crystal Lake

This first section of the climb from start to the turnoff to Crystal Lake is at 5.5% average grade ascending 3,700'. At about mile 11.8 we turn right and climb the final 2.3 miles at 6.0% grade to the dead end parking lot at the top.  

Turn right onto Crystal Lake Road at mile 11.8.

2 miles at 6% after turning off Hwy 39 onto North Crystal Lake Road.

The Crystal Lake Cafe and Store are about 1.9 miles up the hill from the turnoff at Highway 39 and serve great grilled sandwiches.      



Stacy Topping knocks off another Top 100 👍🚴⛰👍

Roadway and Traffic Report: Although the first 12 miles of this climb are on a highway, it is mildly traveled as you ascend towards the switchbacks and canyon several miles from the start. The road for the most part is wide and has a good bike lane and shoulder. After turning onto Crystal Lake Road you will encounter minimal traffic along a well maintained road for the remainder of the climb.

Access to full Climb Summary requires a PJAMM Cycling PRO Membership!

It takes less than a minute to sign up & with your PRO membership you can:
  • Rate climbs, post comments and share your experiences on any of our climb pages
  • Create bucket lists of climbs & mark the dates you complete them
  • Weather data for all climbs - Start & Finish
  • Upload photos to your member page to customize your PJAMM Cycling experience
  • Utilize all of our interactive tools - Profile & Routes in Area
  • Download climb route .gpx files
Sign up for a PRO Membership

Already have an account? LOG IN HERE