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Top 10 U.S. Hill Climb Challenges for 2017

The U.S. has some of the most beautiful, iconic climbs in the world. Make sure you add one of these hill climbing challenges 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. Hurricane Ridge

5,314 feet, 8.6 miles - Port Angeles, Washington, August 6th

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 5,314 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 5,314 feet of climbing, this is HC (haute category climb).

Participants receive 5 aid stations in Ride the Hurricaine challange 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!

 Ride the Hurricaine

Hurricane Ridge  5,314 feet, 8.6 miles - Port Angeles, Washington, August 6th


9. Whiteface Mountain

3,539 feet, 11 miles - Wilmington, New York, June 4th

Located in the Adirondacks of up-state New York, this climb is almost identical in length and grade to l’Alpe d’Huez, considered one of the most difficult climbs of the Tour de France.

Correction on April 4th 2017, from Gary Steinberg "Whiteface has been open to bikes during regular hours for many years now. They charge $8 for bicycles." -

Plan an hour and a half to tackle it (though the record stands at 43 minutes). The grade is sturdy right from the start, so a warm up is probably a good idea. After three miles and a toll booth, the grade averages ten percent for three miles. Closer to the summit, the slope finally eases, the trees clear, and views begin to appear. A few large and graceful turns lead you higher on the mountain over moderate grade. The climb ends where the road dead-ends at the upper end of the parking lot, from where you can hike or take an elevator to the very top of the mountain.  The visitor’s center is in Whiteface Castle, at the peak’s crest, where you can see all the way to Vermont and Canada on clear days.

The climb is 11 miles long at an average of 8% with 3,529 feet of climbing. Fruit, snacks and beverages are served in the Whiteface Mountain Hill Climb at the Finish Line and Post Race Meal is served after the race which is included in the entry fee.

 Whiteface Mountain Hill Climb

Whiteface Mountain  3,539 feet, 11 miles - Wilmington, New York, June 4th


8. Pikes Peak

4,725 feet, 12.4 miles - Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 12th

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.

 Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb

Pikes Peak  4,725 feet, 12.4 miles - Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 12


7. Mount Lemmon

6,600 feet, 21 miles - Tucson, Arizona, May 12th

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 Alpes, Dolomites and Pyrenees. 

In comparison, the Colle dell'Agnello (Italian) or Col d'Agnel (French), used in last years Giro d'Italia, is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region on the French / Italian border and belongs to the Alpes 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 gillet.

The almost continuous 26-mile descent down is exciting without ever being terrifying, so the total round trip of 56 miles.

The Mount Lemmon Hill Climb is organized by the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association. An early start is required!

 Mount Lemmon Hill Climb

Mount Lemmon  6,600 feet, 21 miles - Tucson, Arizona, May 12th


6. Mount Washington

4,683 feet, 7.6 miles - Gorham, New Hampshire, August 19–20th

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. 2017 is the 44th edition of the cycle climb.

 Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

Mount Washington  4,683 feet, 7.6 miles - Gorham, New Hampshire, August 19–20

5. Mount Haleakala

10,000 feet, 36 miles - Maui, Hawaii, June 24th

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).

The Cycle to the Sun is the annual hill climb event. 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.

 Cycle to the Sun

Mount Haleakala  10,000 feet, 36 miles - Maui, Hawaii, June 24


4. Mount Baldy

4,855 feet, 13 miles, Ontario, California, April 30th

Be a pro for a day and experience one of the Amgen Tour of California's toughest stages the men will tackle on Stage 5, Thursday May 18th. Join thousands of cyclists taking part in the seventh edition of the L’Etape California.

The steep switchbacks up to the Mt. Baldy Ski Area at 6,500 feet elevation could serve as the deciding factor in crowning the overall champion for this year's race. Mt. Baldy is located 45 miles from downtown Los Angeles and is a popular location for hikers, sightseers and cyclists year-round.

Cyclists from far and wide visit Mt. Baldy to climb the challenging switchbacks, which ascend over 2,000 in only 4.3 miles. The stage includes the categorized climbs of Glendora Ridge Road, Glendora Mountain Road and Mt. Baldy Road and is approximately 80 miles and includes around 11,000 feet of climbing. Cycling enthusiasts will be able to tackle the same stage on April 30th, just over a week before the racing begins.

AMGEN Tour of California organizer AEG announced the 575-mile course for the 2017 UCI WorldTour race, which will take many of the world’s best cyclists on an always picturesque, challenging and highly competitive competition through California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines this spring.

The four-day AMGEN Breakaway from Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM will bring the best in the sport to race in Northern California May 11-14, followed by the men’s seven-day stage race May 14-20. The twelfth annual edition of the men’s race will visit 12 Host Cities from Sacramento to Pasadena. Former Champions Kristin Armstrong, Jens Voigt and Freddie Rodriguez were recently named official race Ambassadors.

Peter Sagan, the 2015 overall Amgen Tour of California winner and record holder with 15 stage victories since riding for the first time in 2010, will headline an all-star peloton when America’s most prestigious cycling stage race launches the 12th edition in May, 2017. Sagan, one of the most popular cyclists ever to compete in the Amgen Tour of California will be racing for his recently launched BORA-hansgrohe team hoping to add on to his current record of 15 stage wins including two in 2016. The 2015 and 2016 (current) World Champion will be racing in the Golden State for the 7th consecutive year.

L’Etape California by Le Tour de France is a ride designed to challenge cyclists on a course comparable to an Alps Mountain stage of the world’s most well-known cycling race. It is part of the Etape du Tour Series which encourages cyclists around the world to ride like Tour de France legends in over 10 international locations including Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. Three-time Tour Champion Chris Froome serves as an ambassador for the series.

Previous editions of L’Etape du Tour have allowed cycling enthusiasts to ride the Queen stage of the Tour of California which have include the climbs of Mount Diablo, Rock Store in the Santa Monica Mountains, and Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County.

2017 L´Etape California by le Tour de France - Photo Credit: AMGEN Tour of California

2017 L´Etape California by le Tour de France - Photo Credit: AMGEN Tour of California

 L'Etape Du California by Le Tour de France

Mount Baldy  4,855 feet, 13 miles, Ontario, California, April 30th

3. Onyx Summit

6,177 feet, 30 miles - Redlands, California, May 6

Onyx Summit is the longest and highest Southern California climb and quite a challenge.  6,177 feet over 30 miles at 8,443 feet above sea level.

The Breathless Agony is a legendary and rewarding century. The standard 114 mile route includes four "passes" with 12,000 feet of climbing, and a mountain-top finish at Onyx Summit. The clock stops at the top of the mountain in the Breathless Agony ... just like in a Mountain Stage in the Tour de France.

It will be a great party with the Grim Reaper at Onyx Summit at 8,443 Feet. All 4 Pass Finishers will also receive a well-deserved medal at the top.

Only riders who complete the full course are entitled to purchase an exclusive Breathless Agony jersey proclaiming their accomplishment.

 Breathless Agony

Onyx Summit  6,177 feet, 30 miles - Redlands, California, May 6


2. Mount Mitchell

5,161 feet, 24.1 miles - Spartanburg, South Carolina, May 15

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 (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. 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. 

The Assaults on Mount Mitchel and Mount Marion is considered to be the Southeast's Premier cycling experience.

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 began in 1975 and the annual event has become one of the best known centuries in the country and is the South East's premier cycling event. 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.

 The Assaults on Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Marion

Mount Mitchel  5,161 feet, 24.1 miles - Spartanburg, South Carolina, May 15

1. Mount Evans

6,630 feet, 27.4 miles - Idaho Springs, Colorado, July 15th

This year is the 52nd anniversary of the epic race that everyone should do at least once. It’s also the 2017 Colorado State Hill Climb Championships

Riding from the base to the summit of a 14,000 feet 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.

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.

Bob Cook Memorial Mount Evans Hill ClimbTaking place on July 15th 2017, 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.

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 other Pro races.  You will have the opportunity to race on the same course as those that have made it to the highest level of cycling. 

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 medallist 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 -

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.  

Mount Evans Course Profile, Idaho Springs

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. The Gran Fondo is open to any amateur cyclist. 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:

The 51st Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb, July 23rd, Idaho Springs, CO




Tag: hillclimb
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