You may not associate Los Angeles with rugged outdoor beauty. But that's exactly what we have at our fingertips - no matter which side of town you live on. I personally live closer to the Pacific - which means I have easy access to hundreds of miles worth of dirt trails in the Santa Monica Mountains (and a few other incredible spots).
Folks on the other side of town have the insanely beautiful Angeles National Forest to contend with. Crossing LA at rush hour on a weekday can be a bit of a mission ... but that's exactly what three intrepid mountain bikers did on a recent Friday evening.
As it sometimes goes when planning trips like this in "adulthood" (aka, when schedules tend to be busy months out) - we had to reserve the time about a month ahead of time. Once you fight through LA traffic and reach the base of Highway 2 in La Cańada Flintridge - the remaining journey is pretty simple. We parked our cars at a trailhead about 2-3 miles shy of the Mt. Wilson summit and began our ride to the campsite in the dark.
One of the best parts of riding into a campsite at night is the next morning's realization of the wilderness surrounding you. Mt. Lowe Campground is free and only about 3-4 miles from where you park, making this one of the more ideal spots for quick/easy overnight trips. You're also a 5 minute bike ride from Inspiration Point (with one of the dankest views of LA you'll ever see).
Another beautiful thing about quick overnight trips: you don't have to pack much. Coffee is a given ... but aside from that, we ate oats and bananas. And we of course got super-lucky when we explored Mt. Wilson the following day (hint: Cosmic Cafe will sling you delicious chili + pie).
Typically when I go "car camping" (aka, when I can throw as much stuff in my Subaru as desired) I'll bring a plastic French Press and make several cups for several people. Bikepacking is a different animal - depending on how much space you have to pack, this collapsable pour-over from Snow Peak works super well (as does, of course, the Aeropress ... just a bit more clunky to fit in a saddle / frame bag).
These quick overnight trips always help hit the mental 'reset' button that we all need once in a while. So grab some toys, pack your car (or bike), grab some delicious coffee, and get going!
(More info about the insanely badass history of Mt. Lowe here.)