Rock  Creek Road Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

10.7
FIETS
20.7 mi
DISTANCE
5,866 ft
GAINED
5.1 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

“This very big climb up the spectacular eastern side of the Sierra Nevada begins on scenic Lower Rock Creek Road over moderate grade with giant mountain walls to your left. After just over five miles of variable grade ascending you encounter a nearly mile long descent and then climbing resumes over solid grade. Soon after you reach four lane and busy at times Route 395. At the junction with 395 continue north for 0.9 miles and then turn left on Rock Creek Road at the small community of Toms Place. Fairly shallow to start, the grade soon increases as you ascend into a shallow canyon.  grade through this section is fairly steady and there is shade in places as the route follows the drainage uphill..." (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 134.)
The average grade on this 20.7 mile trek is 5.1% (upgraded to 5.7% if descent is eliminated).  The bulk of the Rock Creek Road climb is at 5-10% (11.4 miles/54.9% of the climb), while 4.2%/0.9 miles averages between 10-15%.  There is no point on the climb where your bike computer will read over 15% grade.  The steepest quarter-mile averages 10.8% and the steepest mile 9.5%.
Roadway: Pristine condition.
 
Traffic: Other than a brief mile at 2.5% on Highway 395, traffic is minimal.

Parking: There is ample parking at the relatively remote climb start. 
Gear:  If you are riding this route during any time other than the summer, be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride because you finish the climb above 10,000', which is 5,500' above where you begin.

Provisions:  There is a market and restaurant at Toms Place Resort (good meals) at mile 10.3 and Rock Creek Resort (excellent meals) at mile 18.8.  
We prefer to stay in Bishop at the Creekside Inn and get our sandwiches and baked goods at Schat's Bakery next door. 

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cyclist climbing upper Rock Creek Road Owens Valley

This ride has to be on your 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.

 

Rock Creek has it all: scenery, challenge and altitude, making it a  must-do bike climb.  👍

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.  

 Cyclist approaching share the road sign and road marker on Rock Creek Road

Rock Creek Road is as bike friendly as it gets.

There are more bike signs and road markers here than we have seen on any road (35 in all).

Beginning of Rock Creek Road climb by bike

Climb start, Lower Rock Creek Road.

This ride is really two climbs linked together -- the lower portion (Lower Rock Creek Road) has an average grade of 4.3% over a 9.2 mile stretch (to Highway 395).  

Bicyclist passing Smoky the Bear sign on Rock Creek Road Inyo County

Lower Rock Creek Road for 9.2 miles.

Approaching Sherwin Pass.

Sherwin Summit:  Mile 7.3 of the Rock Creek climb.

We are then on busy Highway 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.

  Hwy 395 sign at Rock Creek Road bicycling to top

On Highway 395 for 1 mile.

 

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.

Rock Creek Road bike climb - Rock Creek Lodge and Rock Creek Lakes Resort sign 

Turn onto Rock Creek Road at mile 10.2.

Bicyclists starting up Upper Rock Creek Road.

Rock Creek Campground sign and roadway

Several Campgrounds along the way.

We are in Inyo National Forest for most of the climb.

 Rock Creek Lake near end of Rock Creek climb by bike

Rock Creek Lake on our left 1 ½ miles from the finish.

The road narrows to unmarked narrow two lanes just past the lake.

Entering Mosquito Flats.

Mosquito Flat Trailhead sign at end of Rock Creek Road

Finish at Mosquito Flats, the highest paved road in California.

Hike Mono Pass.

If you haven’t had enough just yet, you can continue on with a hike.  AllTrails tells us, “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.”

When to Climb Rock Creek Road by Bike:  The average high temperatures for the summer timeframe are 92°F in June, 98°F in July, and 96°F in August.  We suggest planning your trip for May or September, as you could encounter snow during the months just before or after since the finish of this climb tops out just over 10,000’.

How to Climb Rock Creek Road by Bike: Train well for this climb because not only is it very challenging (20.7 miles/5,983’/5.1%), it is also the highest road in California.  Altitude will likely have an effect on you during 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. The 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.



Steepest Gradients.

The steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 12.1 (10.4%) and the steepest mile begins 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 Surface Report:  The roadway surface throughout the first portion of the ride is excellent.  The ride has one mile on busy Highway 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!    

That’s a wrap!