For those of you who don’t live in the Golden State, the Crest is California Highway 2, the Angeles Crest Highway. It’s a marvelous road, full of twisties, climbs, descents and great views through pine-forested mountains well above the Los Angeles basin smog. The pearl in this oyster is Newcomb’s Ranch, a restaurant and bar nestled in the center of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Newcomb’s Ranch is a great stop along this marvelous road in the Chilao Flats area of the Angeles National Forest. During the 1860s and early 1870s the infamous bandit and horse thief Tiburcio Vasquez frequented the area, as he found the area’s meadows to be an ideal place to hide his stolen herds. Sometime before his capture in 1874, one of his men was said to have killed a bear with a knife, earning his nickname “Chillia” (or Hot Stuff). From this story comes the name of the region today, Chilao.
An explorer named Louis Newcomb then settled in the area in 1888, building a cabin not too far from the current location of today’s Newcomb Ranch, which was erected in 1939. The Ranch has served as a restaurant, hotel, general store and gas station over the years, and much of the original two-story structure was destroyed in a fire in 1976. The building was rebuilt and opened as a restaurant, run for many years by Lynn Newcomb Jr. Today, Newcomb’s Ranch is owned by Dr. Frederick H. Rundall, a lover of nature with a passion for the mountains.
Highway 2 runs from Glendale (off the 210 Freeway) roughly northeast across the San Gabriel Mountains to Wrightwood, and then down to Highway 138. For several years now, road damage has closed the Crest about 20 miles north of Newcomb’s. You can ride up to the point at which it is shut down, but you can’t go all the way through to Wrightwood. That notwithstanding, the ride is still a worthwhile one and the stop at Newcomb’s is always fun. Newcomb’s always has an interesting selection of motorcycles in their parking lot. It’s not uncommon to see exotic cars too, but motorcycles and their riders far outnumber everyone else. Classic bikes, high end sportbikes, cruisers and more add to the mix. Bring a camera; you won’t be disappointed.
Unlike many of the motorcycle gathering spots in southern California, the food at Newcomb’s is great. The restaurant was recently remodeled, the service is great, the breakfasts are outstanding and their chili is some of the best you’ll find. They’re open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Even without the great ride and the cool bikes, it would still be worth the trip just for the food.
From Los Angeles:
Take the 5 Freeway North to the 210, then take the 210 Freeway north to California Highway 2. Turn right, and after 27 miles of glorious twisties, Newcomb’s will be on the left.
Take California Highway 14 south, then take the Angeles Forest Highway south for 16 miles. Turn left on Upper Big Tujunga for 9 miles, and then turn left on Angeles Crest Highway.
Where: Newcomb’s Ranch Restaurant & Bar, Angeles Crest Highway 2, La Canada Flintridge, Calif. 91011. (626) 440-1001.
Why: Awesome motorcycles, awesome riding and awesome food.
Best Kept Secret: Angeles Forest Road and any of the roads nestled in the northern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. When coming back down the crest, hang a right on Angeles Forest Road, and then just kept turning right to snake your way around the San Gabriel Mountains.
Scenic Route: While all the roads in this area are fun, a favorite ride is to come up through Glendale from the 210 Freeway, stop at Newcomb’s for breakfast, and then pick up the Angeles Forest Highway on the way back and ride around the San Gabriel Mountains to Highway 138.
Avoid: Speeding. The road is heavily patrolled. Also keep an eye out for oncoming squids running wide. Angeles Forest Highway and the roads north around the San Gabriel Mountains have much less traffic.