Alternate Route 14 Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Alternate Route 14


Spectacular climb into Wyoming's Rocky Mountains.

Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton and Stacy Topping.

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Climb Summary

Cycling Alternate Route 14, Wyoming.  

Ride by bike into the Bighorn Mountains as they rise from the Great Plains.

Bike climb up Alternate Route 14 is 13 miles

gaining 5,440’ to 9,090’ at 6.7% average grade.

 Alternate U.S. 14  runs east-west across northern Wyoming.  This bike climb is exceptionally scenic, yet one of the more remote Top 50 U.S. Cycling Climbs.  This is the only signed alternate route in Wyoming and is just 65 miles from the start of the other Top 100 Climb in Wyoming (Granite Pass, #53).   The distant views to the south of the Wyoming’s northern plains and mesa formations are phenomenal.  These exceptional views are  to our right as we climb out of the “flatlands” (keeping in mind we start the climb at 3,745’) and are with us for at least half the climb until  the brutal grade softens a bit as we enter the last segment consisting of rolling hills and grasslands.  

We enter Bighorn National Forest just after mile 7.  This is one of the older forests (established 1897) and consists of 1,107,571 acres. Bald Mountain Campground is a few miles past the summit.

 Hwy 14A is also known as the Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway, formerly Dayton-Kane Highway.

We leave the Great Plains far below us as we cycle up Alternate Route 14

This is not a “pass” on the map or by definition as the east side does not drop off but rather continues eastward but not downward from the peak elevation on the west side of the climb (no out-and-back here; 10 miles past our stop point we are still above 9,000’ elevation).  

Steepest ¼ begins at mile 11.3 (14.1%) and steepest mile begins at mile 7 (11%)

Traffic and Roadway:  The roadway is in good shape, in spite of the several “Road Damage” signs we encountered in August, 2015 along the brutally steep section of the climb – it appears roadway repair had been completed, but the signs not removed.  Traffic can be quite disconcerting until about 5 miles - essentially all of the big rigs that seemingly “fly by” over the first 5 miles turn onto a dirt road that by our review appear to lead to a couple of quarries (born out by the sign at the beginning of the turn off which includes several warnings not encountered on normal rides – e.g., “Heavy Truck Haulage”  “Explosives in Use” “Warning Signal:  Prior to Blast Short Audible Horn Sounds”, etc. – photo).  Traffic from mile 5 to the top is mild.

This is the most difficult climb we have charted in Wyoming and is #26 on our Top 100 U.S. Climb List.  The first 6-7 miles of this climb are fairly tame at 3.2% average grade gaining 1,410' while the last 10 miles are at 7.1% gaining 4,030'.  The killer portion of Hwy 14 Alt Route is the 3 miles from 11.25 to 14.25 gaining 1,570' at 10.2% average grade.

Nutshell:  This is an incredibly scenic climb that is highly recommended and can comfortably be included in a Yellowstone/Beartooth Pass/Chief Joseph/Granite Pass trip (Hwy 14 Alternate Route bike climb begins 59 miles from Cody, WY [start of the Chief Joseph Hwy/WY Hwy 296 climb], 84 miles from Red Lodge [start of Beartooth Pass North], 134 miles from the beginning of Beartooth Pass South and 178 miles from the northeasternmost Yellowstone National Park Lodge [Roosevelt Lodge].

Other Contributions:

  • Elite ultra runner Gary Gellin describes the ride:  It's pretty epic, John. A very long ramp to the base of the climb followed by endless sections of 10%. Great views of the Bighorn Valley if you stop to take a breath.
  • Mark Seedall, Oakland CA describes the ride:   I found this climb rather difficult. The bottom from Bighorn Lake is quite exposed and there are strong winds in this area. Once you get to the meat of the climb, it certainly does impress. It has a 10% plus grade section for about 10 miles as I recall. A local bike shop owner in this area told me it was 12% for 12 miles. As I recall once you pull up out of the Bighorn lake you can look up and see a road that is just carved out and steep up the side of the mountain and you really have to wonder at that point what you have got yourself into. Luckily there is a flatter spot just before this very long steep pitch. The steep hard pitch goes for a long time and I was riding slowly just trying to survive. I think just about everyone in our group was feeling this way. We rode this climb on day 7 of a 1,000 mile ride in Wyoming. Once to the top of the steep section, the road flattens out some but you still have a ways to go to the real top. But the upper portions of the climb are really nice, above the treeline with views in all directions. Very isolated. The drop off from the top is very long and stays well above 8,000 feet for many miles to the intersection of Hwy 14. There is no water or anything until you get to the intersection of Hwy 14 - Probably 50 miles from Bighorn Lake. So, this is a very remote area and there is not much traffic. I am not sure how I would rank it in terms of climbs and all. I know that fresh legs would have made it a touch easier and likely more enjoyable. The climb the next day up the other side out of Buffalo was much better for me as it was far less steep. Hope this helps. Mark.
  • Strava member David Stauffer, Ithaca, NY created an excellent and informative blog regarding his climbing trip to Wyoming which included ascents of both Routes 14 and 14A