My First Bikepacking Experience – Mount Wilson and the Mount Lowe Trail

By Maxwell Lehrich

The hour I touched down in Los Angeles California, was the same hour I would be preparing for what would soon be my first bikepacking trip.

I arrived at Topanga Creek Outpost, we immediately looked through Chris’s checklist of packing supplies, we packed food to cook, cooking supplies, basic toiletries, tents/hammocks, as well as some other camping essentials, but most importantly, water, lots of it. We loaded our bags onto the bikes and the bikes onto the fire truck, we headed out. Our first stop was burritos and one last chance to load up on carbs before burning them during the ride. The trip from the restaurant to our starting location on Mount Wilson was full of scenic mountain views, I rolled the window down to catch a fresh whiff of cool mountain air, which felt like a pure shot of dopamine. We arrived, at a small gravel lot next to the trail. We unloaded the bikes, and chugged a bottle of water before beginning our ascent on the rocky trail.

I soon realized that what seemed to be a never ending torturous uphill climb, would only be a short lived start to our windy descent to the campgrounds. All I could think was, as fun as all this downhill riding is, it would flip to being an exhausting uphill ride in the morning, I tried to push these thoughts aside, as the whole point is to have fun, and live the moment. We arrived at the campground, Mount Lowe Campground, it was a former lodge/hotel in the early 1900s according to the historical signs with photos and information. All of the original lodge that remained was a giant stone wall, with colorful flowers growing out of the cracks. We unloaded, and set up camp, I decided to try something new, and slept in a hammock for the first time. We unloaded the bikepacking bikes, and decided to take a short ride to Inspiration Point, a lookout above Los Angeles.

Only then I realized just how high up we were, it was incredible.

On the way back to the campground, we stopped at what appeared to be a perfect spot to view the bright orange sunset. We arrived back at the campground, and started a campfire (after checking with the current forest rules).

After the fire got going, Jules starting preparing our dinner. He carefully fired up the camping stove to heat up oil in a stainless steel bowl. Chicken, corn, shallots, dried mushrooms, dehydrated coconut creamer, and a few other ingredients came together to be one of the best camping meals I had ever had. By the time we had finished it was too dark to see without fire or lights. We did some light cleaning up before I got settled in the hammock. It was tricky at first, when laying completely straight there’s an annoying line of tension that prevents you from laying in the middle. I was then given a tip, to lay diagonal rather than straight, to distribute the tension and lay more comfortably, it worked, and the distributed tension acted like a make shift pillow, allowing me to rest my head on the side. As a began to fall asleep, Chris and Jules made sure the fire was completely out before they slept. On a windy night, a fire can be incredibly unpredictable.

Bikepacking the Mount Lowe Trail Campground near Mount Wilson Observatory

We woke up to the sound of Chris chopping fire wood. Meal #2, breakfast, was again prepared by Jules. Scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, and avocado on an olive oil toasted English muffin. After that amazing breakfast, we packed up and headed out.

Jules made great coffee while bike camping. Jules regularly prepares amazing meals that are tasty and the food we prefer while riding bikes and bikepacking.

One of the most important things I learned this trip, was to take the hills very slowly. I made the mistake of taking the hills too fast at the start, causing me to exhaust myself very quickly and take multiple breaks to catch my breath. We made it about 2/3 of the way up the 3 mile incline before I decided to walk most of the rest of the way. I reached the top, with Chris patiently waiting for me before the downhill section that would conclude the riding of our bikepacking trip, at least for Chris and I, Jules decided to climb a little over a mile up to a historical observatory, we met him up top with the fire truck.

As we all headed back to the shop, I let the experience sink in. My biggest takeaway was something I got from Chris, which was, when there’s an opportunity, take it, what’s the worst that could happen? Sleeping in a hammock, something I never tried before, but with the opportunity present, I took it, and it was awesome. Overall I loved it, I loved pushing myself and having others there to push me as well. To anyone out there looking to indulge in their first bikepacking trip, do it, you won’t regret it, if anything, you’ll have tried something new, and tested your limits.

Stop by and visit us in Topanga at the adventure bicycle shop. Topanga Creek Outpost