Cycling Shirley Meadows: a challenging Top US 100 bike climb in the southern Sierras.
Ride 9.9 miles, gaining 4,255’ to 6,786’ at 7.9% average grade.
Shirley Meadows bike climb is a serious climb (#29 U.S.) in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California at Sequoia National Forest. The average grade for the entire 9.9 mile climb is 7.9%, and there are a couple of mile stretches in double figures, with a 12% average grade for one mile beginning at mile 4.3. Top U.S. climbs within 75 miles of this climb are: #13 Sherman Pass at 24 miles, #33 Nine Mile Canyon at 67 miles, #69 Portuguese Pass at 26 miles, and #107 Breckenridge Road at 19 miles. The climb ends at the Alta Sierra Ski Resort & Terrain Park. We enter Sequoia National Forest at Mile 3, but the forest does not really start in earnest until around Mile 6.
See also Shirley Meadows West.
The bike climb begins in Wofford Heights and we enter Sequoia National Forest at Mile 3.
Strava member J. Wolfe of San Luis Obispo describes the climb: "If you're talking about the ride as a whole, it is unrelentingly steep, and felt decidedly more brutal than, say, the longer Whitney Portal. The beginning is dry, brown and residential - and carries some traffic, which is a little challenging considering the road's twisty profile & narrow shoulder. However, with the rapid elevation gain, the setting changes to a more alpine feel with beautiful hardwoods. At the top of the pass you take a left toward the ski area (Rancheria Road) and proceed through a dense, stunningly gorgeous forest of massive trees with peekaboo views down a beautiful canyon flanked by impressive mountains. This section is short (2-3 miles) but amazing for its remoteness. You won't see a soul. The ride ends at a tiny ski area (called Alta Sierra) which has seen better days. My advice for amateurs like myself: pack a granny cassette or be prepared to get out of the saddle.”
All right, we at PJAMM have now climbed this monster! Wow -- you absolutely get more bang for your climbing buck on this baby than on most other climbs. We liken the Shirley Meadows bike climb to Utah’s Powder Mountain (#23), the last four miles of which are 12.1%. While not quite reaching the Powder Mountain quad-popping 12.1%, Shirley Meadows stands tall with 10.2% average grade from miles 1.8 to 5.8 (11.4 from miles 4.0 - 5.5). Surprisingly, but perhaps a testament to the slightly “outlier” status of this climb, there was no Strava segment for the entire climb until we created our own (see Veloviewer, below).
That is a very steep road that will challenge the best climbers.
While we are on lightly travelled Highway 155 for the first 7.65 miles, the final two miles along Rancheria Road to Alta Sierra Ski Resort were new as of July 2015, and in excellent shape with minimal to no traffic.
Signs say Shirley Meadows, but the Ski Resort and internet say Alta Sierra Ski Resort.
The descent is very fast and you will pick up speed quickly as you travel down Highway 155. There are some of the fastest descent stretches in the country along this road.
Roadway Surface and Traffic Report: Traffic is light and the road is in excellent condition. Most areas along the route do not have much shoulder, but minimal traffic mitigates that problem.