From the campground exit left onto the Angeles Forest Highway, heading South. This is an easy descent and very soon you will be at the junction with Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, at 1.42 miles. Go left, and prepare for some climbing. For a paved road this is quite a warm up and especially if the sun is already beating down, since there is no shade; that’s why I like to get this section of the ride done at the start rather than the end of the loop.
After 4.96 miles you should see the ungated fire road 4N18 on the left (note at the time of writing it’s position on google maps is wrong).
From here it’s a 3.5 mile climb that gets progressively steeper. In spring and early summer expect a few stream crossings, but nothing too deep. To keep you entertained there are varying views of well known peaks such as Mount Wilson and Strawberry to the South. From this side Strawberry peak looks remarkable different to the view seen from the front range, being very shear and not resembling a strawberry at all. Also, at 7.7 miles there is a car that has certainly seen better days. Little remains to identify what make/model it was; our best guess is a 60’s era Ford Mustang.
The road appears to plateau at 8.44 miles, but the climbing starts again after dropping 100’. Finally at 9.11 miles the climbing is over and the real challenge begins! The road was once paved, but that was long ago and now it is typically heavily rutted and potholed. That would not be a problem to fat mountain bike tires, but the real challenge comes from the gradient which puts most single tracks to shame. According to Topo! the road drops 879 feet in 1.32 miles, or 665’/mile! With the exception of one short section it is rideable, with care and good brakes.
After navigating the steepest downhill sections you enter an area of abandoned mines, although unlike some mines in the San Gabriels the remnants are not visible from the trail due to shrubs and trees. At 9.89 miles turn left at the junction of 3N23 to begin the most pleasant part of the ride as it descends into the Monte Cristo campground.