Distance: 43 miles out and back
Elevation gain: 4930 ft
Our Southern California ride list has three rides that are all big, chest-thumping rides up a mighty mountain: Mt. Figueroa, Gibraltar Road, and Glendora Ridge. Of the three, Glendora Ridge is the most monotonous climb, both in pitch and scenery. But it also has the best ridge ride, a rollicking roller coaster, often along the precise ridge spine (see photos below). All three rides are detailed in toughascent.com, and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with his write-ups.
Despite the title, the ride is actually two very different rides, a long steady climb up Glendora Mountain Rd., then a roller along Glendora Ridge Rd. to the ski town of Mt. Baldy. My computer recorded 5930 ft of vert, which puts it in the same category as Figueroa and Gibraltar, but it felt easier and I’m guessing the pitch is less intense. Or I was having a very good day.
(To see an interactive version of the map/elevation profile, click on the ride name, upper left, wait for the new map to load, then click on the “full screen” icon, upper right.)
Begin at the intersection of Glendora Mountain Rd. and E. Sierra Madre Road. Ride up Glendora Mt. Rd. The road is a very consistent pitch all the way to the intersection with Glendora Ridge Rd. 9.7 miles in, and the flora is unaltered San Gabriel Mountain shrub. From the get-go you’re in canyon, so the views to the south, which you might imagine would be expansive vistas of Pasadena and points south, are in fact mostly a lot of canyons and ridges (see first photo below). Can’t compare with the views of Santa Barbara, the Channel, and the Channel Islands on the Gibraltar Ride.
At the intersection, go R onto the ridge road and ride to the intersection of Glendora Ridge and Mt. Baldy Rd. and the town of Mt. Baldy. The joy here is the road contour: it’s up and down and back and forth, mostly up on the ride out, often teetering on the knife-edge of the ridge—as good a ridge ride as I know of.
Mt. Baldy is a ski town, which means it might be pretty buttoned up if you arrive out of ski season, but just into town on the R is Mt. Baldy Lodge, a knotty-pine-and-moose-head restaurant that caters to cyclists (just past a prominent white sign reading “Mt. Baldy Lodge Store”). When I got there it looked closed, but I banged on the door desperate for water, and the owner came out and said, “Oh, riders know just to come around the back onto the patio,” opened up, and fed me cheerfully.
The ride back along the ridge is pure joy, almost all of it at a slight descending pitch that makes you feel fast and strong as you pedal through the corners. The ride down Glendora Mountain Rd. is straighter, faster, and more monotonous.
Adding miles: At the intersection of Glendora Mountain Rd. and Glendora Ridge Rd., Glendora Mountain continues on down the back side of the ride for about 7 miles to East Fork Rd. It’s very much like the riding on the front side, perhaps a tad steeper and drier. Going L on East Fork (a nearly flat, pleasant enough road) takes you to San Gabriel Canyon Rd., a big road with shoulder but lightly trafficked, which you can take L for a long, gradual, and fairly pleasant descent back to your car, if you prefer loops to out-and-backs. For a pretty little break in the intensity, check out the West Fork Scenic Byway, about a mile to the R when you hit San Gabriel Canyon Rd. It’s almost a rec path, a closed road (go through the anti-car gate) along a charming trout stream. You’ll only have to share it with two or three fishermen.
In the town of Mt. Baldy you’re looking at an infamously nasty climb of 4.6 miles up Mt. Baldy Rd. to the Mt. Baldy ski area. This is the stretch of road often used to separate the sheep from the goats in the Tour of California. The Tour stage route incorporates everything on our ride, almost everything discussed under Adding Miles, and more. Those guys are nuts.