Angeles Crest Highway has quite the reputation as a dangerous place for motorcyclists and deservedly so. Any canyon road in southern California can be a risky ride simply due to the nature of the roads themselves; they’re narrow, mountain-hugging, twisty, prone to falling debris and full of blind turns. Angeles Crest Highway adds its own unique risks thanks to its popularity; it’s a favorite weekend getaway road for motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists and hikers all looking to enjoy L.A.’s native forest. Put all of those people together on the same snaking asphalt and bad things are going to happen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be safely enjoyed.
In the years since 2004 when I first started riding Angeles Crest Highway and its connected roads, I’ve noticed it looks tremendously different at 2:00 PM than it does at 10:00 AM. Tremendously different as in much less crowded and much safer. There seem to be three distinct shifts when it comes to visitors to The Crest:
1. The early birds – they start around 7:00 AM and are off the mountain by mid-morning.
2. The hordes – they start around 9:00-10:00 AM and are off the mountain by early afternoon. Unsurprisingly, police activity is also at its peak during this shift.
3. The afternoon strollers – they start around 1:30-2:00 PM and are off the mountain before sundown.
If you’re new to The Crest and want to ride it on a weekend, the safer bet is the third shift. It’s surprisingly empty at that time and you can take your sweet time getting to know the twists and turns. Just make sure you get off the mountain before it gets dark and cold.