The Best Kid-Friendly LA Bike Paths & Parks

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So your two-wheelings tots have maxed out on riding around the block? Fortunately, LA is raising its bicycle-friendly status thanks to infrastructure improvements and crowd-pleasing bike-only events (hello CicLAvia!), making riding around town on two wheels easier and safer than ever before. For our favorite bike paths, routes and parks, check out the list below. 

Lake Balboa Bike Path

Calling all nature lovers! Covering 80 acres, the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area is a great spot to explore the outdoors right in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. In addition to playgrounds and parks, it also features the beautiful Lake Balboa. The path around the lake is fairly flat, offering an easy trek for novice riders, but it’s by no means boring. There's tons to look at, especially in the spring when the cherry blossom trees are in bloom. After your ride, relax by the lake, where your little explorers will love watching the ducks and swans swimming around.

Insider Tip: For little kids, avoid the larger bike path that runs nine miles around the entire basin and take the shorter, off-street loop around Lake Balboa. Begin on the path from the east side of the lake and head past the Japanese Garden. 

Online: laparks.org/aquatic/balboa

Lake Hollywood Reservoir

Lights, camera, cruise! Tucked into the Hollywood Hills (besides 3 million dollar homes) is the serene Hollywood Reservoir surrounded by a 3.5 mile walking and biking loop. With gorgeous views and a wide-open, flat paved path, this is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing and easy bike ride. Be sure to take a quick break at the Mulholland Dam as this is the ideal spot to snag a family selfie with the iconic Hollywood sign looming in the background!

Insider Tip: The best place to start your ride is from the North Gate off of Lake Hollywood Dr. Weekends tend to be more crowded with pedestrian traffic, so a weekday ride is a great time for beginner bikers to have the path all to themselves!  

Online: californiathroughmylens.com/hollywood-reservoir-biking

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (a.k.a. “The Strand”)

When it comes to bike paths in LA, there’s none more famous or picturesque than the one that runs along the Pacific Ocean. Stretching 21 miles from Torrance to Will Rogers State Beach, this long and winding road offers a well-maintained expanse of flat surface to ride that is perfect for new bikers but just as fun for more experienced ones as well. With the shimmering Pacific by your side, pull over to put little toes in the sand, breathe in that salty ocean air, and let your worries melt away!

Insider Tip: Skip the heavily congested areas around Venice and the Santa Monica Pier and start your ride either north of the Pier towards Will Rogers or South in Playa del Rey towards Manhattan Beach.

Online: traillink.com/trail/marvin-braude-bike-trail/

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDPyVePMbWr/?hidecaption=true

Ballona Creek Trail

While the LA River path is popular with lots of riders, it tends to be pretty populated and a bit more challenging for beginner bicyclists. For something similar that’s much more easy-going, head over to the Ballona Creek Trail in Culver City. Running seven miles from the east side of Culver City to Playa del Rey, this mellow-yet-scenic route runs right along the Ballona wetlands and Marina del Rey, which is certain to delight the boat lovers in your family!

Insider Tip: Seven miles can be a bit long so shorten the ride by starting at the Sawtelle Avenue or Centinela entrance. 

Online: ballonacreek.org/bike-path

Lacy Park

For a super simple ride, perfect for beginning bikers, check out the 3/4 mile loop at Lacy Park in San Marino. The refurbished wide, paved path that makes a loop around the center of the park is an ideal place to practice brand new bicycle skills. With soft grass along both sides of the path, there’s always a safe place to stop (or great for cushioning those learning falls). After you ride, you’ll definitely want to take some time to explore the rose garden and the playground. If you’re not a San Marino resident, entrance to the park is $5 on weekends.  Kids 4 and under are free.

Insider Tip: Bikes are not permitted on the outer loop (walking path) of Lacy Park and even bikes on the inner loop are not permitted to zoom around at top speeds. That’s why this park is ideal for training wheel warriors!

Online: cityofsanmarino.org

Chandler Bike Path

Converted from railroad tracks in 2004, this two-way concrete path runs through Burbank, starting near Victory Blvd., into the artsy section of North Hollywood, ending at Vineland Ave. It's not a loop, but it's fairly straight and almost completely flat making the ride easy-breezy for beginners. (It's about 3 miles each way.) There are lights at major intersections and stop signs along the way, which keeps the cars cruising parallel to the path from going too fast. Kids can check out Burbank's tiny homes on Chandler Ave., which give way to art murals in NoHo.   

Insider tip: You may want to start at Cahuenga and head east into Burbank to avoid a cluster of homeless encampments that have cropped up in the other direction. 

Online: burbankca.gov

The Jeff Seymour Family Center Bicycle Park

Jim Shanman, Executive Director of Walk 'n Rollers—a community outreach program that encourages kids to bike to and from school and runs Safe Routes to School guidance, bicycle and pedestrian safety programming and community workshops—alerted us of this bicycle park in El Monte. Run by the El Monte community, this is a great spot for beginners and intermediate riders to practice and test their skills. Picture super fun pump tracks, lumber elevated trails, dirt rollers, a teeter, and more. 

10900 Mulhall St.
El Monte, CA

Online: activesgv.org/bike-park

Watts Towers Bike Path

Combine art and bike riding with this path that puts you up close and center with living history, Watts Towers. There are two paths, both relatively short, around the towers—one to the north in the park and one to the west on Graham Ave.

 

The LA River

While there is a plan for a connected bike (and pedestrian-friendly) path that leads all the way from The Valley to Long Beach, at the moment, there are various paths that will give you the adventure around the LA River that you are looking for. Each path has its own points of interest, along with a number of parks along the way, making this route a fun, all-day affair as you meander your way down (or up) the path.

Our favorite section to bike? The area known as Frogtown. Start your day at the Spoke Bicycle Cafe where you can fuel up on their breakfast bun—a griddled soft bun filled with a soft-scrambled egg, bacon or tempeh, cheese, caramelized onions, and their special sauce. Once you've had your fill, head onto the bike path and get ready to explore all the various museums, coffee shops, public art, breweries, and even catch some live music if you're lucky. 

Online: lariver.org

Kids in Need of Bikes

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for kids but not everyone is so fortunate to have access to the two-wheeler freedom ride. Walk 'n Rollers, the non-profit that provides bicycle and safety programming for communities, recognized the disparity and during the pandemic started a bike repair hub. "We discovered there are lots of used bikes in our communities and there and lots more kids that need some wheels. We immediately started collecting and repairing used bicycles. Within the next six months we received over 100 requests and have fulfilled 80 of them." 

If you want to help provide kids with a bike who don't have access to them, consider supporting this effort via their GoFundMe page. "The funds we are seeking will cover the cost of a freight container to store the bikes, parts, tools and supplies we need to successfully make this part of our regular programming. Any additional funds will allow us to bring free bike repair workshops to low income communities in and around the Los Angeles area. 

Online: gofundme.org/bikerepairhub

feature image Mark Stosberg via flickr

–Jenifer Scott & Andie Huber

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