Ride Report – Crystal Lake

59.45 miles, 5:14 moving time, 6,017 ft elevation gain

On Saturday I rode to Crystal Lake. Whew. Big ride. I checked my Strava before the ride; I hadn’t been on this big ride since 2016. I met a few friends in Sierra Madre and then a few more at Encanto Park in Duarte. Bill was trying out his new ebike for the first time. We rode up the bike path on the San Gabriel River Trail to the end and continued up Azusa Canyon to the very end. Today there was the more auto and motorcycle traffic compared to any day in the past, and we go up Hwy 39 all the time, throughout the year. I’m sure it was many people stir crazy. The weather was pretty good in the morning, but it warmed up a lot later. After we passed East Fork, then West Fork / Cogswell Dam. At the Eagle nest, we just missed seeing the Male/Female pair and their 2 eaglets. The bird watchers were still there and said the eagle family had just flown off about 15 minutes before we arrived. We passed the first gate and the serious climbing began. 8-10% for the next 13 miles. Long sustained climb. Then, some tight switchbacks. As it heated up, I went through 6 bottles throughout the whole day. There was a little breeze that helped a lot. Most of the climb is exposed with very few trees to stop and take a breather. After the second gate, there’s a Coldbrook Campground with a water fountain. Just in time. The tight switchbacks cross over water falls and creeks. There are some natural springs that flow right out of the side of the mountain. Then, near the top, we enter the big pine trees territory. We got to the 5,000 ft elevation sign, then the Crystal Lake sign. It’s 2 more grueling miles uphill to the Cafe. I was amazed how many people were at the top. It was packed. I got a gatorade, a diet coke, and bag of chip. We chilled out for a bit and headed down the hill. There is one straight stretch that’s about 8% descent. I tucked in and went for maximum speed. I hit 39.8 mph. Wahoo. Then, I pulled back a lot as we approached all the crazy day campers by the Cogswell. It was 86F by the time we got back to Duarte. The light breezes turned into strong headwinds as we came back down to the valley. I was wiped out. Bob gave me a ride back to Sierra Madre and we got a snack and refueled.


San Gabriel Dam


East Fork


the First Gate (after Cogswell / West Fork)


Coldbrook Camp ground. Water. Just after 2nd Gate.


View from the top of the switchbacks


Natural Springs


Cafe at the Crystal Lake


San Gabriel River Trail Bike at


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