Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton and Stacy Topping.
Alternate Route 14
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Cycling Alternate Route 14, Wyoming.
Ride by bike into the Bighorn Mountains as they rise from the Great Plains.
The bike climb up Alternate Route 14 is thirteen 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.
Highway 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,” neither on the map nor 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 quarter mile begins at mile 11.3 (14.1%) and steepest mile begins at mile 7 (11%).
Traffic and Roadway Surface Report: 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 five miles in -- essentially all of the big rigs that seemingly “fly by” over the first five 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 turnoff 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 six to seven 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 Highway 14 Alternate Route consists of the three miles from 11.25 to 14.25, gaining 1,570' at 10.2% average grade.
In a 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. Highway 14 Alternate Route bike climb begins 59 miles from Cody, Wyoming (the start of the Chief Joseph Highway/WY Highway 296 climb), 84 miles from Red Lodge (the 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).