Los Angeles has an infamous love-hate relationship with cycling. On one hand, the weather is balmy all year round and there’s loads of outdoor space to explore - from beaches, to mountains, to parks - but, on the other hand, there’s also tons of motorists, attractions are spread out, and it has sporadic bicycle lanes that can make getting from point A to B tricky.
Although the city is known for being car-centric, that’s slowly changing. The pandemic led to a “cycling renaissance” in LA and many other parts of the US, while the Los Angeles County Bike Plan has proposed adding over 800 miles of new bikeways by 2032.
But, while we patiently wait for Los Angeles to transform into a friendlier cycling city, there are still plenty of bike paths to explore. Read on for our list of the best bike paths LA has to offer.
Before hopping on your bike, here’s a quick overview of the classifications of bike paths in LA so you can choose a path that suits your skill level and the type of ride you want to take:
Class I - These are completely separate from traffic, and perfect for cyclists who are new to cycling in LA or simply don’t want to deal with motorists.
Class II - These are lanes set aside on city streets exclusively for cyclists.
Class III - These are regular streets that have been designated as safe and/or attractive for cyclists. Because these lanes aren’t segregated, you should have a high degree of comfortability in sharing the streets with motorists.
1. West Fork National Scenic Bikeway
Because the West Fork National Scenic Bikeway that takes you to Cogswell Dam is on a utility access road, you can do the entire route without having to contend with traffic. Keep in mind that the route is open to public works employees, so you might pass the odd car or truck - but they tend to be aware of and courteous to cyclists and hikers in the area.
The entire 7-mile path is paved and has a low grade, making it perfect for family outings and leisurely rides. The ride takes you alongside the creek, giving you plenty of opportunities to ride in the shade, take breaks, or simply enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water.
The first couple of miles are busy and there have been complaints about trash strewn, especially in the popular summer months, but it quietens down as you embark on the trail, so don’t be put off if you arrive to find it busier than you expected.
The trail has been closed sporadically in the past due to forest fires and the lockdown, so make sure to check the latest updates before you make the trip.
2. Marvin Braude Bike Trail
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (known as ‘The Strand’ by locals) starts at the Pacific Palisades, where you may get a glimpse of the rich and famous, then takes you 21 miles through Temescal Gateway Park, the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, and finally Torrance Beach.
The quintessential Los Angeles trail, hundreds of films and TV series have been shot along the trail, making it perfect for a day of sightseeing.
If you’re not into the glitz and glam, there’s still loads to do - from coffee shops to shopping districts, to beaches, and even an aquarium, farmer’s market, and ferris wheel!
Although the trail starts at the Pacific Palisades, there is parking along the length of the trail (usually next to public beaches) so you can start - and end - the ride anywhere you want.
While the length of the trail may make it challenging for beginners or younger family members, the trail itself is fully paved and has a low elevation gain, so it’s ideal for a full day of adventuring and immersing yourself in various Los Angeles cultures.
3. Los Angeles River Bicycle Path
The Los Angeles River Bicycle Path is a 29.1-mile Class l bicycle path that runs along the Los Angeles River. Apart from a 0.3-mile section, the entire bikeway is segregated from traffic, making it one of the few urban bike paths in LA where cyclists don’t need to worry about motorists.
Cycling in Los Angeles
While it’s definitely a city ride, you pass through a number of parks including Rattlesnake Park, Marsh Park, Elysian Valley Gateway Park, and Egret Park, bringing pleasant scenery, along with native plants and birds, to an otherwise urban route.
Although this bikeway isn’t as scenic as some of the others on this list, it is the longest Class l bikeway in Los Angeles and offers interesting views of LA, is well lit, and safe. A must-ride for anyone who prefers to explore off the beaten track with their road bike.
4. Griffith Park Loop
The 9-mile loop in Griffith Park is one of the most popular cycling paths in Los Angeles, so those looking for a quiet ride may be disappointed.
But, for those wanting to see what the fuss is all about, they will be welcomed with well-maintained paths, an intricate road system, and sprawling views of the Hollywood sign, Griffith Park Observatory, and the LA cityscape.
Cycling up to the Hollywood sign is a must
The loop is perfect for those who are looking for a calm family outing or a leisurely morning ride but if you want a bit more of a challenge, you can add the Mt. Hollywood trail to the loop, which adds around 6 miles to your ride.
Mt. Hollywood trail has some gravel sections, but the surfaces are usually well-maintained due to its popularity. If you do choose to ride the Mt. Hollywood trail, remember to bring water and sunscreen because there’s very little shade on the ride and the vertical gain can be quite challenging.
5. Ballona Creek Bike Path
Starting in Culver City, the Ballona Creek Bike Path is a 7-mile Class l bike path that takes you through residential neighborhoods and wetlands to the Pacific Ocean, where it connects with the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. From there, you can go north towards Santa Monica or south to Torrance Beach.
Considered one of the best bike paths in Los Angeles, the Ballona Creek Bike Path was also one of the first developed in the area. Because the path is almost entirely flat, it’s a fantastic choice for beginners or those looking to do some bird watching in the wetlands during a relaxed ride.
Tips for Cycling in LA
Although Los Angeles is making strides towards becoming a bike-friendly city, it still isn’t as welcoming as historic biking cities in the US. If you’re planning a trip to LA and want to see it by bike, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Homeless encampments are common in Los Angeles. Although the city is generally safe, women cycling alone or families may want to avoid routes that go through encampments. Before selecting a cycling trail, read current reviews online to get a feel for the route.
Many Los Angeles bike paths are Class lll (or at least have sections that you’ll need to share with motorists). Road cycling isn’t for everyone, so make sure that you’re comfortable with where your path will take you.
Los Angeles weather makes it perfect for cyclists but long distances, summer heat, and a lack of shade on many paths can make your ride more gruelling than it needs to be. Make sure you’re protected from the sun and have enough water.
Los Angeles is a major tourist destination and many bike paths need to be shared with pedestrians - some of whom could end up blocking your path to take photos or check their map. Make sure you’re aware of them, because they might be too distracted to notice you.