Review: Looking for an off-the-beaten-path trail (pun intended)? This 12 mile round trip section of trails is sparsely populated and incredibly beautiful.
How to get there: Take PCH North to Kanan Dune Rd, take a right and continue for about 6.4 miles and take a left at Mulholland Hwy. When you come to the fork, stay left on Encinal Canyon Road. The trailhead will be on the left in about 1.3 miles. There is a large turnout right before where you can park. Note that this is NOT the Zuma Ridge Motorway trail, which you will pass as well.
The trail begins past a fence and a an "Authorized Vehicles Only Sign". After a short uphill climb on a firetrail you hit the start of the first single-track trail (Trancas Trailhead). Be warned - unlike other trails in Malibu, this section lacks trees and bushes, meaning if you misjudge a turn, you'll end up off the side of the cliff.
OTC Tip: On this downhill section, there can be a lot of small ditches running the length of the trail, perfect for getting your tires stuck in, so hug the rails even tighter than usual.
The trail bottoms out and crosses a short bridge and creek before the treacherous climb begins. At this point, I thought the climbing would end and I would get to embrace my inner speed-demon and get my adrenaline pumping...but no. Once the Trancas Trail ends, you cross Encinal Canyon Road and bike through a dirt parking lot before beginning the next section, Encinal trailhead. The start of the trail can be found here. Continue up on the trail (also part of the Backbone set of trails in Malibu) until you hit Decker canyon road. And yes, this part is entirely uphill as well. Get used to using your granny gear.
OTC Tip: Like most trails, horses are allowed, but for the first time we actually saw some, coming within a few feet of literally running into two riders. Unlike hikers, in this case the bikers don't win in a head-to-head collision, so be very aware.
After crossing the street, the real fun begins. And by fun, I mean more climbing. It just doesn't end, but the views are worth it - just make sure to keep your eyes on the trail. Eventually you'll end up at Etz Meloy Mtwy, a wide firetrail. Stop and enjoy the amazing view (seen the top photo on this post).
OTC Tip: All of the breathtaking views come with a price. There trail doesn't very much high-growing foliage, so be prepared to face the full force of the sun. Bring sunscreen. And even more cold water than you think is necessary. Trust me, you'll need all of it.
Now the fun begins. All of your hard work and sweat will be rewarded with an amazing downhill run. The trail offers a ton of banked turns, so you can keep your speed up while whipping through the cutbacks.
OTC Tip: Bushes and flowers invade the trail space, so if you dont want small scratches up and down your arms and legs (or if you have any type of floral allergies), I suggest wearing long pants/tights and sleeves. Or yknow, man up and take the thrashing.
The adrenaline filled ride left me wanting more, but instead I got to end my trip with a torturous (and I mean AWFUL - my biking partner had both of his quads cramp up) climb back to the car. The only positive that kept me chugging along back up the initial singletrack was knowing that I had a very fast firetrail to bomb down. (Remember that there is a fence at the end, so don't get going too fast.)
The entire ride took about 2 and a half hours, but that was with a handful of water and food stops, as well as intermittent photo opportunities (and also a few stops to pick myself off of ground and stop the bleeding - I tend to get a little too excited with some of the hairpin turns). Throughout it, I only saw 3 other bikers, 3 hikes, and 2 horses. This was on a perfect Sunday afternoon, and the parking lot for Latigo Canyon and Kanan road Trailhead completely packed. If you want to spend an afternoon in relatively undisturbed biking paradise, try this out.