Cycling Hwy 198 (General’s Highway) - a magnificent bike climb into Sequoia National Park.
This is one of our favorite cycling climbs in California, the US and the World.
Hwy 198 is #35 on the Top 100 U.S. Climb List and is just 2 miles from #16 (Mineral King Rd) and 24 miles from #43 (Hwy 21-245-180-198). You enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks within the first mile of the climb which has a shallow entry (3.1% average grade for the first 4 miles). The remaining 13 miles averages 6.2%, gaining 4,435' over that distance.
We enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at mile 4 of the bike climb.
We took on this climb (and foolishly Mineral King on the same day) July 7, 2015. Along the way, we ran into (well, came up on) long time Hwy 198 climber Bill Pooley. Bill has ridden this climb over 50 times and even counted the turns and hairpins manually (i.e., by counting them in person - pre Google Maps, of course) - 24 hairpins and 240 turns. What that does is make for an “extraordinary” descent - this was one of the funnest descents we have ever encountered - great road, not too steep, not too shallow, juuuuuust right!
The ascent also offers 2 extremely unique opportunities along the way: (1) unparalleled (and we don’t use that term loosely here) views down at more switchbacks than you will see from any vantage point in the U.S. that we are aware of - beats Palomar, Pikes Peak, Onion Valley, Haleakala, etc., and (2) the largest tree by volume in the world - General Sherman Tree. The tree can be observed by riding .7 miles from the finish of our climb to the General Sherman Tree (most of the road is paved and then you ride/walk your bike down the footpath to the tree (about .2 miles) - it’s well worth the detour.
Hairpins on this climb rival the best in the US (e.g., Beartooth Pass, Horseshoe Meadows and Palomar Mountain)
The amazing and must-see General Sherman Tree - largest tree by volume in the world.
Another point of interest to be aware of is Moro Rock, a large granite dome formation located near the center of the park which we see in the far distance s we enter the park, but gradually approach and ultimately pass it along our journey.
Roadway surface/traffic: Traffic is heavy, but travels slowly. The roadway surface is excellent.
Entering National Park: We enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks within the first mile of the climb - there was a $10 fee as of July 2015 for cyclists to enter the park.
Ultra Climber Joey Galloway writes of this climb:
The Hwy 198 climb from Three Rivers to Giant Forest Museum is a stout 17 mile HC climb summiting at nearly 7,000 ft. The official start of the climb is the Pumpkin Hollow Bridge at the Gateway Restaurant, about 1/3 mile before the Sequoia Nat'l Park entrance at Ash Mountain. The first few miles is rolling terrain following the Kaweah River where oak trees and dry grass abound. Upon reaching Hospital Rock the rest of the climb is all uphill and averages around 7% for the last 10 miles. There are many switchbacks and the views are reminiscent of the French Alps, spectacular. Looming above you is Morro Rock, a solid granite dome. A quick stop at Amphitheater Point is a must as the views are simply stunning. Look to the west and see the San Joaquin Valley. Look to the east and south to see craggy mountain tops. And of course Morro Rock looms large. From Amphitheater Point you slowly enter alpine territory as pine trees appear. Skirting around Deer Ridge you finally enter Giant Forest. The road is now shaded and the temperature falls dramatically. Upon entering Giant Forest you will ride by the biggest trees, hence, the biggest living things in the world, the Giant Sequoias. A nice treat for summiting this magnificent climb.