Mt. Gleason South (Nike Missile Site) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

5.5
FIETS
17.5 mi
DISTANCE
4,149 ft
GAINED
4 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

Ride up to an abandoned Cold War Nike Missile launch site. 

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Roadway:
The roadway on Angeles Forest Hwy is pristine. Traffic is light, but cars and motorcycles tend to drive fast around turns. 
The traffic significantly reduces once you turn onto Mt Gleason Road (mile 8.3) but the pavement quality declines. 

Parking:
There are scenic pulloffs along Angeles Forest Hwy before the start of the climb (east) that are fine to park at for a few hours - from these it should be a short downhill until the start of the climb. An Angeles Forest recreation pass is required to park at a campsite, trailhead, or day-use site. 

This climb is unsupported, especially once you turn onto Mount Gleason Road. Nearby fire stations with public water fountains/bottle fill ups:

Monte Cristo Fire Station (mile 2 - water was turned off when we rode Oct '21)
Mill Creek Fire Station (mile 8.3 - water could also be turned off)
Clear Creek Fire Station (not along route - water always on)
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CLIMB SUMMARY

The climb starts at a bridge spanning the Big Tujunga Canyon. It’s a remote climb, but there are several scenic pull-offs east of the start of the climb along the road that are fine to be parked at for a few hours.

If you’re used to riding in mountainous regions, you won’t find the first part of the climb to be very scenic. But riding through the canyons of the San Gabriel Mts still beats a day at the office!

The turnoff onto Mt Gleason road at Mill Creek Summit, the highest point along Angeles Forest Road (4,920 ft).

It looks like there’s another road climb to the south, but the pavement only continues for another ¼ mile before turning into a respectable gravel climb: https://www.strava.com/segments/15838516 

Once you reach the north side of the mountain, the views open up and go from average to absolutely spectacular - wide open views of desert plains and mountains looking towards Las Vegas.  

6 miles into Mt Gleason road you stumble upon an old Nike Missile site. Project Nike (named after Nike the winged Greek goddess of victory) was a U.S. Cold War military operation designed to protect major US cities from foreign nuclear missiles.  A Nike missile would launch from these sites (scattered about remote places in the US) and destroy the enemy warheads in midair before they reached their target.

(photo source: wikipedia)

These missiles have since been removed and decommissioned, and these launch sites remain as historical attractions.

 A giant fuel tank for the missiles.

After the missile site, the steepest part of the climb remains: 2.4 miles at 8.3%, with individual grades reaching the mid-teens. The summit is in clear view!

There’s a brief (~100 yd long) downhill section of dirt after the missile site  before the pavement resumes. After the missile site, the pavement gets a bit worse and much more overgrown, but never terrible, considering the last time it was paved (in the 1950s?) - you can still cruise on the descent.

After a 2 mile stretch of agonizingly steep pavement, there’s a right turn up to the last remaining trees on the summit.

Looking back down at the Nike Missile site.

We love these pure summit finishes for the 360 degree views - note the santa monica mountains, Santa Catalina Island poking through the fog, and the late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the Pacific Ocean.