Santa Monica Mountains

#1
Las Flores to Stunt Road
USA, CA
#2
Las Flores to Piuma Summit
USA, CA
#3
Tuna Canyon from PCH
USA, CA
#4
Deer Creek Road
USA, CA
#5
Big Rock to Stunt Road
USA, CA
#6
Corral Canyon Road
USA, CA
#7
Decker and Little Sycamore Roads
USA, CA
#8
Yerba Buena Road
USA, CA
#9
Decker Road South
USA, CA
#10
Piuma Road
USA, CA

Climb List: Santa Monica Mountains
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Santa Monica Mountains

Cycling the Santa Monica Mountains, California - photo collage, Hollywood Sign, Santa Monica Yacht Harbor, sign for Pacific Coast, cyclist at ocean

Cycling the Santa Monica Mountains, California

The Santa Monica Mountains are the greatest coastal bike climbing area in the United States.  Nowhere along the Pacific or Atalantic coasts are there so many moderately difficult paved roads beginning at the coast.  Within 35 miles (from Deer Creek to the north and Topanga Canyon to the south) there are eight bike climbs starting from Pacific Coast Highway and riding up canyons into the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Santa Monica Mountains are a subrange of the Transverse Ranges, which are in part subranges of the Pacific Coast Range.  The highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains is Sandstone Peak (3,111’), which is just north of the last section of the Yerba Buena Road climb.

Cycling the Santa Monica Mountains, California - map shows climbs starting on the Pacific Coast Highway and Rock Store

Climbs starting on PCH + Rock Store.

Cycling the Santa Monica Mountains, California - map shows the Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Highway

Getting around in the Santa Monica Mountains:

There are two primary east-west routes: Pacific Coast Highway (south) + Mulholland Highway (north)

Helpful information from, and favorite routes of, our resident SMM expert, Daniel Patrick, of Los Angeles, California:  

  • Santa Monica Mountain Challenge (SMMT):  This is an annual challenge and their website is a great resource: SMMT Challenge. 
  • Starfish @ Big Rock: This route highlights five classic climbs plus an often overlooked climb, Big Rock, which is a mix of road and fire road (Daniel notes that he switched bikes for this climb; PJAMM note: I used my Roubaix with 28mm back and 25mm front without difficulty, though I did not descend)
  • Deer Creek: Most would rank Deer Creek as the most difficult climb in the Santa Monica Mountains as the two mile climbed is almost entirely in the 13%-14% range.  I was feeling spunky this day.

THE TOP RANKED BIKE CLIMB PER FIETS INDEX

LAS FLORES CANYON TO STUNT ROAD

Cycling Las Flores Canyon Road, finishing at Stunt Road - photo collage, bike parked next to sign for Pacific Coast, and next to sign for Las Flores Canyon, cyclists climbing on Las Flores Canyon road, aerial view of roadway

Cycling Las Flores Canyon Road, finishing at Stunt Road.

Ride 5.8 miles gaining 2,344’ at 7.6% average grade.

With a FIETS score of 5.4, this is top climb for difficulty in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Cycling Las Flores Canyon Road, finishing at Stunt Road - aerial view shows climb overview

This climb finishes at main hub for bike climb finishes in the Santa Monica Mountains.

THE STEEPEST CLIMB

DEER CREEK ROAD

Climbing Deer Creek Road by bike - photo collage, severely curved road, bicycle overlooking ocean, straight road with coastal terrain, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

This is a short (2.3 miles) but extremely scenic and STEEP climb -- averaging 11.3% with a full quarter mile at 14%, and some extended sections hovering in the 16-18% range. Deer Creek is also the northernmost of the Santa Monica Mountain climbs.  

THE ROUTE WITH THE FIVE BEST CLIMBS

5 WITCHES OF MALIBU

Corral Canyon, Las Flores Canyon, Deer Creek, Tuna Canyon, and Decker Road

Photos clockwise from top left: Corral Canyon; Las Flores Canyon

Deer Creek, Tuna Canyon, and Decker (middle).

Santa Monica Mountain climbing expert Daniel Patrick writes:  “My vote on the five best climbs are on the 5 Witches of Malibu ride. While Latigo and Mulholland are often touted as big climbs, they are almost entirely single digits and didn’t make my ranking.” Note:  Tuna Canyon is a one-way road (downhill) which is why it is not included on SMMT’s climbs.

The 5 Witches of Malibu are:

THE COOLEST PLACE TO START A CLIMB

MULHOLLAND FROM ROCK STORE

Cycling Mulholland Highway from the Rock Store - Rock Store

Southern California’s beloved “Rock Store” is a famed stop for motorcyclists traveling through the area.  The store itself is made entirely out of volcanic rock, and dates back to the 1910s, when it was a stagecoach stop.  Today, among the stop’s attractions are “the rustic settings, celebrity sightings, hundreds of bikes to look at and the food and drinks. The Rock Store is most popular for their hefty breakfasts, BBQ tri-tip sandwiches, teriyaki chicken sandwiches, homemade chili and more and don’t forget those ice cold beverages” (Rock Store).

Cycling Mulholland Highway from the Rock Store - cyclist rides on long stretches of curving, snaking roadway along Mulholland Highway

The Snake -- Mulholland Highway.

One of the reasons the Rock Store is so popular is that the purported greatest motorcycling curve on a roadway in California, and perhaps the US, is just up Mulholland Highway. At precisely the 2.2 mile mark from the start of our climb (and thus 2.2 miles from The Rock Store) is the most coveted hairpin in CA/USA.  There is even a pullout named “The Snake Carspot” just above the turn where fans and onlookers viewed the motorcyclists tearing through the turn.  (Note: the road was closed November 2018 due to fire and was still closed as of December 2020). Check Roadway Status.  Here’s a fun video regarding Rock Store and The Snake.

THE MOST SCENIC (SUBJECTIVELY, OF COURSE)

DECKER ROAD TO YERBA BUENA HIGH POINT 

Cycling decker Road to Yerba Buena high point - two PJAMM Cyclists stand with bikes on hillside over looking pacific ocean, Santa Monica Mountains

Ride 8.1 miles gaining 2,441’ at 5.3% average grade to 2,303’.

Decker Road from PCH to the high point of Yerba Buena Road has it all: Pacific Ocean and epic Santa Monica Mountain Views.  It also ends at what we believe is the highest point on a paved road in all of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Deer Creek and Encinal Canyon are also right with Decker on the top of the list for scenic Santa Monica Mountains bike climbs.

Cycling decker Road to Yerba Buena high point - switchbacks along roadway along first mile of climb, sign for curvy roadway next 9 miles

Cycling decker Road to Yerba Buena high point - bike parked on roadside against sign for Yerba Buena Road and Little Sycamore Canyon Road, Santa Monica Mountains

Cycling decker Road to Yerba Buena high point  - highway road climbing up hillside, blue sky, high desert landscape, Santa Monica Mountains

THE MOST ICONIC

HOLLYWOOD SIGN BIKE CLIMB

Cycling to the iconic Hollywood sign - panoramic views of Hollywood sign

Cycling to the iconic Hollywood sign.

Ride 3.4 miles gaining 1,231’ at 6.9% average grade.

This is one of our favorite climbs anywhere.  The climb is short but challenging and offers several clear views of the famous Hollywood sign along the way.

Cycling to the iconic Hollywood sign  - photo collage, Garmin reads 16% grade, sign for Mt. Lee Drive, PJAMM Cyclist riding on roadway with Hollywood sign in distance, view from above the Hollywood sign, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

There are also a couple great viewpoints of LA . . . on a clear day . . .

OTHER TOP CLIMBS IN THE AREA

MT. BALDY

HARDEST CLIMB IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA

Cyclist on Mt. Baldy Road - bike, sign, PJAMM

Cycling Mt. Baldy: one of Southern California’s toughest bike climbs.

Ride 13.6 miles gaining 5,093’ at 7% average grade.

The climb up Mt. Baldy Road to Mt. Baldy Resort is one of the most popular and is the hardest bike climb in the Los Angeles area. It is only 65 miles (~1:05 hours) from Agoura Hills where we stay when riding the Santa Monica Mountains to the start of this bike climb -- on a weekend -- during the weekday, all bets are off.

Cycling Mt. Baldy - cyclist on bike riding up to Mt Baldy Resort sign

Sign just before the left turn to the ski resort parking lot.

Finish at the ski resort ticket booth.

GLENDORA MOUNTAIN ROAD

MOST SCENIC IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA

Cycling Glendora Mountain Road, California - PJAMM Cyclists riding on roadway, road seen snaking up mountainside, San Gabriel Mountains

PJAMM Cycling’s choice for the most scenic cycling climb in Southern California.

California Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb

This is a gorgeous climb, particularly when the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains are snow capped.  The climb begins about 60 miles (~1 hour driving) due east of our Santa Monica Mountains’ cycling trips home base, Agoura Hills.

Cycling Mt. Baldy - aerial drone photo of Glendora Mountain Road and Mt. Baldy Road and canyon.

Glendora Mountain Road shares its final five miles with the Mt. Baldy climb.

HIGHWAY 33 TO PINE MOUNTAIN SUMMIT

THE LONGEST BIKE CLIMB IN CA

Cycling Highway 33 to Pine Creek Summit - bike parked next to sign for Los Padres National Forest

Cycling Highway 33 to Pine Creek Summit -- the longest bike climb in California.

Ride 33.3 miles gaining 6,710’ at 3.5% average grade.

Pine Mountain summit is a very challenging and rewarding bike climb, although the first 27 miles are on moderately busy, but seemingly safe, Highway 33.  The final six miles are along a fun and narrow remote paved roadway, completing the longest climb in California (and the sixth longest in the US).  The climb begins about 55 miles (~1 hour car ride) from Agoura Hills.

Cycling Highway 33 to Pine Creek Summit  - photo collage,  bike parked next to sign for Los Padres National Forest, and next to sign for Pine Mountain Summit, bike parked on hillside overlooking road snaking up mountainside, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Cycling Highway 33 to Pine Creek Summit - climb summit, bike parked next to sign for Reyes Peak Trail, bike parked on hillside overlooking mountain range

Climb’s finish.

Cycling to the iconic Hollywood sign - aerial drone views of Hollywood sign

That’s a wrap!!