Top 10 U.S. Hill Climbs for 2016
You don't have to travel to the Alps or Pyrenees to experience the high cols. The U.S. has some of the most beautiful, iconic climbs in the world. Make sure you add one of these to your Bucket List.
Great road cyclists love a challenge and know how to suffer. Climbing high mountain passes is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. There’s a magical allure - a thing that is hard to accomplish, deal with, or understand? Climbs that are hard to endure make us stronger and there is no better feeling than getting to the top of a difficult climb. Cyclists immerse themselves in nature, appreciating the beautiful scenery that surrounds them at every turn, the magic and beauty of the landscape. There's no better way of feeling alive and free.
10. Hurricaine Ridge
Port Angeles, Washington, August 7th
From Vancouver Island, the looming mountains of the Olympic National Park are something of a forested wall, visually creating a disconnect between two countries, as if America put their binder on its side in class to hide the contents of its school desk from neighboring eyes! Ascending these peaks has long alluded cyclists in the Vancouver and Washington regions. It offers scenery and roadways like you’ve never experienced, that will leave you speechless.
This unique event allows cyclists to have the famed Olympic National Park Hurricane Ridge Road all to themselves from early on in the morning. There are 3 options, the first allows you to ride from sea level to the Hurricane Ridge summit of 5,200 feet in a 38 mile round trip. The others at 700 and 1,100 feet with round trip distances of 26 and 36 miles respectively.
From port Angeles to the top is a whopping 19 miles at an average of 5%. At 1,584 metres of climbing, this is HC (haute category climb).
Participants receive 5 aid stations which will have water and snacks available along with portable toilets. The Summit House will be open and snacks and beverages will be available. Celebratory “I made it to the top” photos will also be taken and available on line after the event.
An informal after ride party takes place afterwards
Plan to get up really early!
9. Whiteface Mountain
Wilmington, New York, June 4th
Almost worth relocating to upstate New York for, Whiteface Mountain is New York's 5th highest peak with 360 degree panoramic views of the Adirondack’s, New England and Montreal. It has a consistently moderately steep grade throughout. There are exceptional views through breaks in the forest that surrounds us you climb – Taylor and Franklin Falls Ponds to the north after you pass the Toll Booth up to the switchback where you’ll see Lake Placid for the first time.
The starting is at Whiteface Mountain's Ski center and ends at the Castle on top of Whiteface.
The climb is11 miles long at an average of 8% with 3,529 feet of climbing.
Fruit, snacks and beverages are served at the Finish Line and Post Race Meal (veggie option) is served after the race which is included in the entry fee.
8. Mount Equinox
Manchester, Vermont, August 6th
Although the Mt. Equinox is only 5.4 miles what it lacks in length it makes up for in gradient, the average overall grade is 12%, with 3,143 feet of climbing. The Mount Equinox Uphill Bike Climb is a well-known, well attended hill climb that’s timed and contains more than 40 hairpin turns.
It’s also known for being the longest, continuously run motorcar hill climb, first running in 1954.
Awards and a BBQ follow the race at the Skyline Drive Welcome Center, participants eat free and T-Shirts are available.
All funds raised from this event help fund research for a Lyme disease cure as well as support the local charities of the Rotary Club of Manchester.
7. Mount Lemmon
Tucson, Arizona, May 13th
Mount Lemmon is one of the nicest climbs in the southwest of the U.S. It's a long, steady climb with near perfect tarmac - a real hill climber’s paradise. Mt. Lemmon is a rare jewel in the Arizona desert. Jutting up 9,157 feet (2,791 meters) above sea level in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona, this magnificent mountain peak stands amidst the pale backdrop of the sparse desert sand and cactus. Not far from Tucson - a haven for Professional teams in the warm winter climate.
Mount Lemmon received its English name in honor of botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain with Native American guides by mule and foot in 1881. Sara Lemmon is also known for getting the Golden Poppy adopted as the California State Flower in 1903.
Hardly anywhere else in the US can you climb so high for so many miles in succession. Mount Lemmon is in the top 25% of toughest hill climbs in America - with a rating of HC "hors category" on the scale used to rank climbs in European stage races, like the Tour de France.
Mount Lemmon is right up there with the famous passes in the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees.
In comparison, the Colle dell'Agnello (Italian) or Col d'Agnel (French), used in this years Giro d'Italia. It is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region on the French / Italian border and belongs to the Alps range of mountains. Starting from french town of Guillestre, the Col d'Agnel ascent is 26 miles. Over this distance, you climb 1,736m. The average percentage is 4.5 % and this climb has been used twice in the Tour De France and Giro d'Italia. Very similar to Mount Lemmon in distance, difficulty and height - although the Italian side is much harder.
Mount Lemmon grade averages 4.5% for 6,600 feet (2012m) of elevation gain over 27.5 miles from base to the top. The temperature on the way up to Mt Lemmon is 20 to 30 degrees colder than the Tucson area. Weather can also change quickly. Check the weather day before the ride to know the conditions and bring appropriate clothing to keep yourself warm, like armwarmers and a Gillette.
The almost continuous 26-mile descent down is exciting without ever being terrifying.
The event is organized by the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association. An early start is required!
6. Mount Diablo
Danville, California, September 25
Mt. Diablo is one of the three iconic San Francisco Bay Area climbs. It’s less tranquil than Mt. Hamilton and less scenic than Mt. Tam, but it’s grand nonetheless. No other ride gives you such a distinct sense of “climbing a mountain.” It’s a long climb but not a hard one until the last 100 yards. The view from the top is a tourist attraction, and for good reason—they say on a clear day a person looking north and east can see further than from any other spot on the planet except Kilimanjaro. You can see the mountains around Lake Tahoe.
The Mount Diablo Challenge is an 11 mile timed bike ride climbing up Southgate Road 3,356 feet (1,024m) to the summit of Mount Diablo. The climb itself is mostly moderate, with occasional steep turns and a final 150-yard stretch of straight 16% grade. The average gradient is 5.8%
Every year around 1,000 cycling enthusiasts compete and prizes are awarded for several categories in a ceremony at the summit with food and beverages for all.
All proceeds benefit Save Mount Diablo’s land conservation efforts. Only half of Mount Diablo’s wilderness is preserved. The other half is at risk of being lost to development forever. They work to preserve, defend and restore the remaining natural lands for people and wildlife to enjoy. Please ride and help save Mount Diablo’s animal and wildlife. There’s no better way to enjoy riding your bike uphill and raise money for such a worthy cause.
5. Mount Mitchell
Spartanburg, South Carolina, May 16
The Mt. Mitchell is situated in North Carolina and belongs to the Appalachian, Black Mountains. Mount Mitchell has one of the greatest elevation gains of any climb in the United States, and the climbing styles are very diverse. The first section from Route 80 starts out shallow but gradually gets steeper as you ride. Its top portion contains a series of 180-degree switchbacks as it nears the Blue Ridge Parkway. After several tunnels and a descent, the climb resumes on Mount Mitchell State Park Road, which is a bit steeper than earlier climbing.
The dead-end road is the highest road in the eastern US. It’s 24.1 miles with 5,161 feet of climbing with an average gradient of 3.6%.
This event isn’t just a hill climb it’s a full Century ride finishing with the climb up Mount Mitchell. The Assault on Mt. Mitchell is a 103 miles from Spartanburg, South Carolina, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, to the summit at Mt. Mitchell State a total vertical ascent of more than 10,000 feet.
Riders are well looked after with 10 rest stops along the way, you will be able to refill, refuel, and make mechanical adjustments as needed.
The Assault on Mt. Mitchell have been limited to 750 finishers due to the National Park Service and the Mt. Mitchell State Park rules. The Assault on Mt. Mitchell began in 1975 and the annual event has become one of the best known centuries in the country. Upon finishing, riders will have access to food and beverage and changing stations. Buses will transport riders off the Mountain to enjoy post-ride festivities.
4. Haleakala Volcano
Maui, Hawaii, June 25
Ride the Longest, Steepest Paved Road On Earth! Haleakala is arguably one of the world’s premiere climbs for cyclists. On the pacific island of Maui, Hawaii, the ride Cycle to the Sun, climbs 10,000 feet over 36 miles. It has an average gradient of 5.5% and rarely gets above 8% - but can reach gradients of 18%.
Hawaiian's named the mountain Haleakala, which means ‘house of the sun’. The crater at the summit was home to the grandmother of Maui, the demi-god after whom the island is named after. It starts at sea level and finishes up on top of the Volcano at just above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).
Last year’s event attracted hundreds of international riders with the fastest men’s time of 2:57:59 set by Inui Tomoyuki of Sagamihara City, Japan, and fastest women’s time of 3:37:50 by Trina Van Dyck of Airdrie, Alberta.
The event is well supported, with three aid stations. The first near Kula Lodge, the second just outside the entrance to Haleakala National Park, and the last will be at the 8,000-feet.
There’s a post-race barbeque were the results and prizes are announced.
3. Pikes Peak
Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 13
The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike and is a designated National Historic Landmark.
The Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb is one of the ultimate tests for cyclists as who compete on the same 20km legendary course that the automobiles and motorcycles use in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb every summer.
At an elevation of 14,115 feet (4,302m), Pikes Peak, is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, mountains that rise more than 14,000 feet (4,267.2 m) above sea level.
This year, it’s the home of the USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championship. There will be a timed Gran Fondo too, so anyone can enter!
2. Mount Washington
Gorham, New Hampshire, August 20–21
The Mt. Washington is the highest peak in the north eastern U.S and is known to be one of the toughest hill climbs in the world. It’s not the longest, but is one of the steepest – an intense effort is required just to keep moving.
Mt. Washington is the U.S’s equivalent of the legendary Italian climb of the Passo di Mortirolo, one of toughest and most feared climbs in the world, regularly used in the Giro d’Italia that brings a lump in throat to the most seasoned professional riders.
At 7.6 miles in length, it has an average grade of 12% with extended sections of 18% and the last 50 yards is 22%.
Every year, over 600 cyclists take on the challenge of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb also known as Climb to the Clouds which raises funds for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center located in Albany, which promotes appreciation of the environment and dates back to 1973. It’s also one of the oldest automobile hill climbs in the country, first run on July 11th, 1904.
1. Mount Evans
Riding from the base to the summit of a 14,000' peak is a challenging and memorable achievement.
The world seems a little different at half the height of Mt. Everest. The whole Front Range of Colorado, the Continental Divide, the vast expanse of the Rockies - it’s all there.
Taking place on July 23rd The Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill climb is an iconic bicycle race that takes place on the highest paved road in the United States at 14,264 feet above sea level. People have been racing the Mt. Evans Hill Climb for 50 years.
It’s an epic event that creates memories for a lifetime.
The Mt. Evans Hill Climb includes professional cyclists that race / have raced in the Tour de France and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. You will have the opportunity to race on the same course as those that have made it to the highest level of cycling. Colorado USAC licensed cyclists will compete for the Colorado State Hill Climb Championships for Masters, Senior and Junior Women and Men.
The Gran Fondo is open to any amateur cyclist.
The race was renamed in 1981 in honor of five-time race winner Bob Cook, who died of cancer at the age of 23. Bob Cook held the course record from 1975-1980. Over the years, some of the world’s best-known cyclists added their names to the list of challengers, including Olympic gold medalist Alexi Grewal, Jacques Boyer, Ron Kiefel and Andy Hampsten.
To get a glimpse of the climb from a cyclists perspective, you can view this "unofficial" Strava segment - analytics.strava.com/segments/642991
The race starts in the historic mining town of Idaho Springs at an altitude of 7,540 feet and finishes at 14,130 feet, 130 feet below Mount Evans' summit. The race is 27.4 miles in length and climbs 6,630 feet. Echo Lake to the summit averages 5.6% for 5.5 miles, then 4.1% for 2.7 miles and finally 5.7% for 4.25 miles to the top. Maximum grade is 10%. There are 11 switchbacks that take you to an unforgettable view of the Rocky Mountains and an achievement of a lifetime.
This epic race is has been named one of “The Best and Hardest Climbs in the US”.
Over the years, the race has attracted well-known professional riders from all over the United States and from France, Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. The age range of the participants is from nine to eighty-five years. Volunteers from the Colorado cycling community, including Team Evergreen Cycling, and Racer X Cycling, help marshal, drive support, work the feed zone and the award celebration.
The event includes categories for all levels of racing and encourages riders of all abilities. Around one thousand riders compete each year in the race and Gran Fondo categories. The event offers mechanical support, a feed zone and transportation of clothing bags to the summit for the trip down the mountain. There is an award celebration in Idaho Springs for all participants and spectators.
Think about it – when else will you have the opportunity to climb a 14’er and have full support? And there is a rocking party at the bottom to celebrate!
What is the difference between the Gran Fondo and USA Cycling Categories?
USA Categories are for individuals interested in competitive racing and do it on a regular basis or are planning to race on a regular basis. A USAC license or 1-Day license is required for USAC categories. A BRAC membership is also required for all USAC Categories.
Gran Fondo is an open event and is also timed, no license or membership is required.
Registration is online, pre-registration only, no day of registration.
Categories are limited and they sell out very quickly, so register early!
More information at: bicyclerace.com
More Hill Climbs
The above list isn't exhaustive and there are many more climbs in the U.S. For details of confirmed dates for other hill climbs, please visit our U.S. Hill Climbs Calendar