Rides & Destinations: Glendora Ridge Road, Southern California

Glendora Ridge Road offers incredible riding and scenery, but be careful of bears, tarantulas and snakes.

Glendora Ridge Road

A great half-day journey, including the trip from L.A., Glendora Ridge Road is a treat.

Photo by Joe Berk

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Where: Glendora Ridge Road, up in the San Gabriel Mountains above Upland, Claremont, La Verne and Glendora, Calif. Take the Mountain Avenue exit off the 210 Freeway in Upland (about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles), follow the signs to Mt. Baldy and turn left just as you enter Mt. Baldy Village.
Why: Incredible riding and scenery.
Best Kept Secret: The Mt. Baldy Lodge just north of Glendora Ridge Road in Mt. Baldy Village. Try the tuna melt!
Scenic Route: They’re all scenic. You can retrace your ride back to Mt. Baldy Village, or take either the East Fork Road or Glendora Mountain Road back down to civilization. You won’t be disappointed with any of these rides.
Avoid: Speeding, cutting corners (there’s no centerline so stay on your side) and getting too close to the tarantulas!

Nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains and offering 12 miles of well-maintained, low-traffic twisties, Glendora Ridge Road is definitely one of the best kept secrets in southern California. And it’s not just 12 miles, but 12 miles and 234 curves (yep, I counted them!) through some of the most beautiful country imaginable. The striking thing about this road is its simultaneous desolation and nearness to civilization, as Glendora Ridge Road is only 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles.

Imagine a perfect motorcycle road through a nature preserve and you’ll have Glendora Ridge Road. Situated high up in the Angeles National Forest, Glendora Ridge Road began life as a dirt road many decades ago. It was paved in the 1970s, but there’s no centerline for most of its length, requiring extra care in navigating its many tight blind corners.

The road attracts motorcyclists, bicyclists and the odd sports car or two. It runs directly through one of the premier wildflower spots in the country and the colors are positively surreal in April and May when the flowers are blooming. The road also borders the San Dimas Experimental Forest, a 32-square-mile research area. I’ve seen deer, foxes, bobcats, bears, tarantulas and snakes up there. A few years ago, a mountain lion pounced off a cliff and took a swipe at a bicyclist’s rear wheel!

Photo opportunities along the road are endless. There are several areas where cliffs and overhangs provide shade, so even on a bright day you can get great shots without harsh shadows.

Glendora Ridge Road runs roughly east to west (or west to east, depending on which way you travel). I particularly like riding this road in the early morning or at dusk, as it makes for a more interesting ride, plus there’s even less traffic and the wildlife is more active.

In the morning, it’s best to ride in a westerly direction to keep the sun out of your eyes, and vice-versa at dusk. The road’s curves make it tempting to go faster than you should, but the best advice is to take a relaxed pace, enjoy the experience and don’t push it. Many of the corners are blind, and you never know if there’s a squid pushing too hard coming the other way.

Entering Mt. Baldy Village from the south, the sign for Glendora Ridge Road appears on the left; if you’re not looking for it, you may miss it. You’ll only go about a half-mile before you hit Cow Canyon Saddle, which is a neat place to get a feel for the length and breadth of the valley skirted by Glendora Ridge Road. There’s a dirt road on the other side that runs about eight miles to an abandoned tungsten mine, but it’s not open to the public.

After running west for exactly 12 miles, you arrive at the intersection of Glendora Ridge Road and Glendora Mountain Road.  The intersection of these two roads is a popular meeting spot, where riders stop to talk and take in the view. On clear days in the winter, you can see the Pacific Ocean from here. If you take it south, Glendora Mountain Road meanders into Glendora. If you go north, Glendora Ridge Road becomes East Fork Road, then continues on to state Highway 39 above Azusa.

Glendora Ridge Road is about a three-hour ride (including the trip from Los Angeles). It’s best to plan for a half day, and my advice is to try the Mt. Baldy Lodge for a great breakfast, lunch or dinner, either before or after your ride. — Joe Berk