Carpenteria, CA to Malibu, CA

48.8 mi / 11.2 mph / 570 ft. climbing
Home: Leo Carrillo State Beach hiker/biker campsite

Woke to the 6am alarm to find it had dropped to 39 degrees, our first below-40 reading in a long time. And a decent breeze remained, but making breakfast (soft-boiled eggs, toasted bagels with cream cheese, and coffee) wasn’t too bad, bundled up in all my layers, and with the sun coming up.

The ride was one of our longest in a while, but relatively easy due to the flatness, and the facilities. Early on, a guy with his riding group stopped to chat and help us navigate the route to the bike path that parallels US-101 in various forms, the best being a long section where the path is the only thing between the highway and the ocean. No beachgoers and no cars to deal with!

Bike path south of Carpenteria.

The path eventually led us back to our friend California Highway 1, here finally signed as the PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway. We hit a miles(?) long section of “campground” along the shoulder of the highway, which, on paper, sounds like the worst campground ever, but in practice, looked surprisingly cool. The RVs are packed so densely that they essentially form their own wall, separating the road from the ocean, and from all of their elaborate oceanside setups above the narrow beach. There were regularly spaced porta-potties/dumpsters, and even mobile dump station units driving the line!

Rincon Parkway Campground.

We turned inland a bit at Ventura (on a horrible pedestrian-packed beachfront not-at-all-a-bike-path) and sideswiped Oxnard, partly to route around a couple of military bases claiming the coast.

F-18 taking off at Point Mugu Naval Air Station (ok, not really taking off).

Soon the Santa Monica Mountains started looming ominously. Another of the “Transverse Ranges”, they’re a very un-American range that runs east-west rather than north-south. It seemed impossible from a distance, but there was room to go around them, by squeezing along their southern edge, between their heights and the ocean, where it somehow remained mostly flat (in contrast to most of the coast-hugging ranges that line the Pacific).

Overall the section (and really, the whole day) had some similarities to Big Sur, where there were long stretches of nothing but road, with water on your right and mountains on your left, and not much else. This was rather surprising, since the Santa Monica Mountains eventually turn into the Hollywood Hills that divide Los Angeles in half. Just thirty miles from the heart of the second-largest and famously-sprawling metro area in the United States, it remains unexpectedly remote (at least from this one particular approach!)

The western end of the Santa Monica mountains; we would go around the right side where Rett is looking, squeezing between them and the ocean on Highway 1.

The hiker/biker area at Leo Carrillo State Beach is completely different than Carpenteria, but equally good, and on this night, equally empty. Here, it was completely isolated from the rest of the campground, and surrounded by monumental sycamore trees. For what would likely be our last hiker/biker campsite in a while, and especially one so close to Los Angeles, I had not expected to go back to the skip-the-bathrooms pee-in-the-bushes ease of months-ago, so that was nice. As was our solitude, which made the fears I’d had about security and “local” hikers (so close to Los Angeles) evaporate.

Leo Carrillo hiker/biker campsite.
Leo Carrillo hiker/biker campsite.

Partly to ward off another chilly night/morning, we sprung the $9 for firewood, which burned silently and beautifully in the steady breeze.




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