Empire Grade Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

2.8
FIETS
12.4 mi
DISTANCE
2,611 ft
GAINED
3.8 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Mike Persellin, Minneapolis, MN, USA

INTRO

Empire Grade is a well known climb from near sea level in Santa Cruz to the ridge line of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It has the advantage of ending at or near the top of the descents of several other climbs, meaning you can easily combine Empire with one or more other climbs.
3.8% average grade (4.6% climb only).  54% of the climb is at 0-5% grade and 29% is at 5-10%.  The steepest quarter-mile is 12.9%.  

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Two lane roadway with double yellow center stripe and minimal to no shoulder.  The roadway is in fair to good condition.

Traffic:  Mild to mild-moderate. 

Parking:  There is street parking on Toledo Street to the left as you approach the start of the climb (MapStreet View). 
Provisions:  All along Cabrillo Highway near the start of the climb.
Consider staying Santa Cruz on your trip - the Boardwalk and Natural Bridges State Beach are fun places to spend time. See our climb area page at Santa Cruz County.

There are many scenic and moderately challenging bike climbs in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Use the “Routes in Area” button on the menu bar to see other bike climbs in this area. 

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Empire Grade

Ride 12.4 miles gaining 2,611’’ at 3.8% average grade.

This is the primary road bike climb directly out of Santa Cruz.  After leaving the suburbs of Santa Cruz and passing UC Santa Cruz, we wind our way through redwoods to the intersection of Empire Grade, Ice Cream Grade and Felton-Empire Grade and then another 3 miles to the top of Empire Grade.

Climb Summary:  Mike Persellin, Minneapolis, MN

Empire Grade is a well known climb from near sea level in Santa Cruz to the ridge line of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It has the advantage of ending at or near the top of the descents of several other climbs, meaning you can easily combine Empire with one or more other climbs.  

The climb starts at High Street at the bottom of the beautiful campus of UC-Santa Cruz and goes along its west side for a short distance.  The grade is variable and rolling.  It is not a remote climb and there can be significant traffic, though it has never been a problem for me.  

There are some big redwoods, especially in the first half of the climb, but there are prettier climbs in the area.  At the summit intersection, the descent of Ice Cream Grade/Bonny Doon is to the left and that of Felton Empire Road is to the right.  The top of the Jamison Creek Road descent is a further 9.2 miles along Empire Grade.

 I like to descend to Bonny Doon and climb back up, because the Bonny Doon ascent starts at Highway 1, meaning you can’t get a warmup without riding on the highway.