Well, this one has to be on the bucket list. It is one of nine Top 100 U.S. climbs located in the Bishop area, and is said to be the highest paved accessible road in California. The bottom portion of the ride takes us through the northern Owens Valley with great views of the steep and dramatic Eastern Sierra Nevada range to our left for the first five miles of this 20 mile journey. Beware that the temperatures during the summer can be stifling.
Rock Creek Road is as bike friendly as it gets.
More bike signs and road markers here than we have seen on any road.
Climb start - Lower Rock Creek Road
This ride is really two climbs linked together -- the lower portion (Lower Rock Creek Rd) has an average grade of 4.3% over a 9.2 mile stretch (to Hwy 395).
Lower Rock Creek Road for 9.2 miles.
We are then on busy Hwy 395, though with a very wide bike lane, for about one mile, then we turn west onto Rock Creek Road and climb 10.5 miles at 5.7% average grade to the end of the line.
On Hwy 395 for 1 miles.
The last 9.2 miles are in an alpine setting with views of the majestic Eastern Sierras as we climb. The Rock Creek Resort Grill and Cafe is located at mile 18.8. The scenery is spectacular along the second portion of the climb which, even without the first 10 miles, would be a Top 100 climb on its own. The roadway from Tom's Place to Mosquito Flat (the end of the road) is pristine -- one of the top five roads in the U.S. Top 100, right up there with Whiteface Mountain in New York. There are over 40 Share The Road signs and painted roadway cyclist images over this section -- the highest concentration we’ve ever encountered.
Turn onto Rock Creek Road at mile 10.2
Several Campgrounds along the way.
In Inyo National Forest most of the climb.
Rock Creek Lake on our left 1 ½ miles from the finish.
Finish at Mosquito Flats - the highest paved road in California.
Continue on with a hike “Mono Pass from Mosquito Flat Trailhead is a 8.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Bishop , California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from March until October.” All Trails
When to climb Rock Creek Road by bike: The average high temperatures for the summer time frame are 92 June, 98 July and 96 August. We suggest May or September as you could encounter snow during the months just before or after as the finish of this climb tops out just over 10,000’’.
How to climb Rock Creek Road by bike: Train will for this climb because, not only is it very challenging (20.7 miles/5,983’/5.1%) it is the highest road in California. Altitude will likely have an effect on this climb, so if you can ride a few of the lower rides along the 395 corridor (e.g. Mt. Rose, Monitor Pass East, Sonora Pass East, Tioga Pass from north or Onion Valley, Whitney Portal, Nine Mile Canyon from the south), this would prove helpful. Be sure to avoid July and August if possible. There are campgrounds and a cafe along the way, so you will likely have opportunities for water and food - thus, no need to pack it all from the start. Climb begins at the intersection of Lower Rock Creek and Boundary Roads (3.7 miles north of the intersection of Pine Creek and Lower Rock Creek Roads (Latitude: 37.46332, Longitude: -118.59316). We stay in Bishop, California a few miles south of the climb start at the Creekside Inn, next to Erick Schat’s Bakery for this ride.
The steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 12.1 (10.4%) and the steepest mile beings at mile 11.6 (9%)
There is fantastic hiking, fishing, lake activity, and scenery along Upper Rock Creek Road -- all around this is a wonderful and must-experience area -- we LOVE IT. During our 2016 trip, we camped at East Fork Campground and had a blast. There are grills/stores at Rock Creek Resort and Tom's Place, as well as pay showers at Rock Creek Resort.
Traffic and Roadway report: The roadway surface throughout the first portion of the ride is excellent. The ride has one mile on busy Hwy 395, but there is a nice wide bike lane the length of this segment. The roadway leading up to the top of the climb is as pristine as you will ever encounter, and as a bonus, there is actually a bike lane the entire length of this lightly traveled road -- it is just perfect!