Just south of Marina del Rey there’s a concrete riverbed, dutifully draining its modest share of the LA Basin into the bottomless bowels of the Pacific. And while you may have heard of the Los Angeles River, and perhaps you’ve even become acquainted with the Rio San Gabriel, chances are the name “Ballona” to you is nothing more than a blasphemous (however understandable) misspelling of your favorite childhood sandwich.
Allow us to clear up the confusion.
Ballona Creek, like so many of LA’s waterways, isn’t much to look at. It feels industrial with its angled banks and border fences. Its weeds are pervasive, its bridges a place of refuge for the sun-beaten homeless.
And yet, where cycling is concerned, there’s an air of both intimacy and fun to be found along the accompanying bike path that follows Ballona Creek from Culver City to Playa del Rey. Maybe it’s the 12 overpasses that provide a near-constant barrage of invigorating inclines and exhilarating descents. Or perhaps it’s the proximity to city neighborhoods, making access to the trail simple and warding off the sneaking suspicion that you’re cycling through some barren megalopolis.
There’s even a kind of natural beauty to be found here, if you keep an eye out for it.
At 7 contiguous miles, the Ballona Creek Bike Path isn’t just an ideal commuter corridor: it’s perfect for cyclists looking to log their miles without figuring out a ride back to the starting point. The trail runs bidirectionally from Syd Kronenthal Park in the east to the southern half of the Marvin Braude, meaning you’re free to continue along the coast for as long as your heart desires or make an easy, 14-mile round trip pass. As an added bonus, the Ballona Wetlands near the mouth of the creek provide some pretty scenic views as well, so don’t be surprised if you’re tempted to Instagram a few shots along the way.
On a practical note, although the bike path is commendably well paved and maintained, there’s a full bike repair station outside the Syd Kronenthal entrance in Culver City should you need it. We’re talking air, tools, bike stand, the works. Provided the city can keep it freshly stocked as parts inevitably begin to go missing, the pit stop is definitely a reassuring resource to have at your disposal.