White Mountain Peak (Big Pine) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

White Mountain Peak (Big Pine)


All the cycling data and info you'll need to climb White Mountain Peak (Big Pine)

Page Contributor(s): Greg Matherly, Encinitas, CA, USA; Dan Magaw, Auburn, CA, USA; John Berude, Berkeley, CA, USA.

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Climb Summary

Cycling White Mountain to its peak from Big Pine

Ride 45 miles gaining 12,160’ to elevation 14,252’ at 4.3% average grade.

Photo:  Greg Matherly

This is a MONSTER bike climb - it would be #5 US/#26 World if ranked[1].  The climb begins in Big pine by riding pavement for 21 miles to the Bristlecone Forest Visitor Center.  From the Visitor Center parking lot, we ride 24 rolling miles at 3.2% average grade (misleading figure due to 1,890’ of descent along the way).  The steepest quarter mile is 18% and steepest mile averages 13% - you get the picture - ouch!

We start the climb in Big Pine (4,166’) on road bikes and ride for 10.6 miles at 5.8% to elevation 7,440’ on Hwy 168 to White Mountain Road on the left.

Cycling White Mountain - roadway, meadow, mountains and clouds

This is good circumstantial evidence of the weather to expect at the start of the climb.

For the next  10 miles we climb paved White Mountain Road to the Visitor Center parking lot at 10,290’ and 5.2% average grade.  

The final 24 miles is gravel at 3.2% average grade and many rollers (1,890’ descent) to elevation 14,252’.

Photo:  Greg Matherly

Locked gate (end of SAG, if any) about 7 miles from the peak.

Photo and ride article:  TheRadavist.com


Photo:  John Berude

This is a fully unsupported climb over very difficult challenging terrain that becomes nearly impossible to ride over the last mile or so.

Photo:  John Berude

Photo:  John Berude

Photo:  Greg Matherly

Some sections are tough even on a mountain bike.

Photo:  Greg Matherly

It’s worth it!!!

Photo:  Greg Matherly

Ancient Bristlecone tree (oldest

Photo and ride article:  Windinmyface.com

We can see ancient bristlecone trees on this ride which are considered the oldest living non-clonal[2]organism.  The Mehtuselah tree in Methuselah Grove near the start of the paved section is the oldest non-clonal tree in the world going on 4,852 years old.

Mehthselah Tree


Greg Matherly (in response to the question “Can I do this on a gravel bike with 43mm tires?”

If you choose to go up White Mountain via Route 168/White Mountain Rd…most of that ride is perfect for a road bike with 28-32mm tires. Just make sure you have plenty of gearing…there are a few very steep se


However, if you choose to go up via Silver Canyon, I’d highly suggest a MTB. Silver Canyon is very steep and slick in many sections. It’s super cool but it’s a bitch (physically).


Either way, when you get to Barcroft Station (~6 miles from the summit) it gets very rough, rocky, and technical. You can ride most of the 6 miles on a MTB if you are very skilled but it will be tough going on a road/CX/gravel bike. You’ll end up hike-a-biking most of it. Doesn’t matter what you’re on for the final 1-2 miles. It’s a rock field (no soil). You’ll be carrying the bike.


BTW, I’ve done BWR several times. 28mm is best if you want to go fast. There is nowhere on the course where you need more than 28mm unless you have sketchy bike handling skills. And…there are a LOT of extended road sections. I wouldn’t go any fatter than 32mm.

John Berude (following up on Greg’s response):

I agree with Greg. 43s would get you all the way to Barcroft, but from there the trail is rough double track with large rocks and deep sandy sections. I feel that an MTB is necessary beyond this point, and you’ll definitely be walking a bit in the last mile regardless of your bike choice. Especially given the fact that you’re at 13,000’, and have been above 10,000’ for 20+ miles. The gravel road beyond the pavement gets progressively bumpier, so I actually felt that it was nearly as efficient to ride my MTB back out. It was nice to just slay the road instead of having my eyes rattled out of my head on the way back.

FWIW I rode the paved section on 25s and switched to 40s for the gravel and to a full suspension MTB with 2.6” tires from the Barcroft gate onwards and back to the pavement. If all you want to bring is 43s, then I think it would go with a few miles of walking. Though I think a road bike/XC hardtail combo would be the ticket for this beast.

It truly is a world class ride. Like nothing else. If you’re going in May, be aware that the road may not be melted out. It was still snowing there until early June last year and was barely clear of snow by early July... Silver Canyon looks burlyyy, and I’m looking forward to giving it a go next year!

Dan Magaw:

Hi John. From the beginning of the dirt to the locked gate it is 2WD graded road (though at times I have read the washboard is worse at some times than others. Luck of the draw there). You will hit some 19% ramps but it is still rideable. If you have done some of the Grasshopper series (I have only done Kings Ridge Supreme in a mud year on a CX bike) then you will have few issues until you get to the base of the last climb to the peak. On our assault the double track past Barcroft was very dry so often loose and rocky. A little recent rain would have been a blessing. Immediately past Barcroft there is a short nasty section. Don't lose heart. It gets better. It is hard to remember all the numbers (not enough oxygen?) but I think you are above 13K before things get really rocky. Sometime after that I felt really challenged on a 29er with 2.3 front and 2.1 rear. Gearing 22X36 low end. I had just done Leadville 3 weeks prior on higher gearing. Your adventure bike will be much easier to carry than me pushing my rig. At one point I was required to carry it but that was because of a wrong choice in single track at the top. I was very glad for my large volume tires and full suspension on the way down but I also rode from Bishop and was returning there so needed all the help I could get. We were also over cautious as help was a long way away. If you are starting at the end of the pavement then you can afford a little extra weight. Good walking/hiking shoes would not be a bad idea if you want to make the peak. If you go, I would love to know and see your post. There is a detailed and useful blog at White Mountain Epic. Windinmyface.com under White Mountain Peak MTB Good luck. P.S. If you do entertain the thought of routing up Silver Canyon on anything other than an MTB. Don't.

Dillon Sharlet:

Up to the research station is a pretty good dirt road, but near the observatory there are some pretty rough sections, and the last 1-2k feet are pretty rocky. Here is a video of parts of the descent from the top down to the last gate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kMdlQDFyKY There's another 15-20 miles of dirt road similar to the last part of the video to get to the pavement.

[1] It has over 10% paved (53% is unpaved) which is our rough criteria for inclusion in our ranking system.

[2] Basically, growing from a seed (in this case, a pinecone).