Cycling Gibraltar Road - Santa Barbara’s hardest bike climb.
Ride 9.9 miles gaining 4,633’ to 3,978’ elevation at 7.3% average grade.
Note: Gibraltar Road will host the Hillclimb World Championship October 19, 2019.
Gibraltar Road to La Cumbre Peak is a very challenging climb that begins within the city limits of Santa Barbara, California. Although the ride starts in the beautiful though populous city of Santa Barbara, we quickly climb into rural surroundings which offer exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara to the west (for most of the ride) and the Santa Ynez Mountain Range to the east (in the last couple of miles).
Gibraltar Road -- Santa Barbara and Pacific Ocean in background.
Views south to Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.
(One would think west but the view is actually south.)
E. Camino Cielo with Santa Ynez Mountain Range in the background.
This is an excellent and challenging climb with spectacular views, and is highly recommended for those living in or visiting the Santa Barbara Area. For those not shy about traveling to climb: the one-two punch of Gibraltar and Old San Marcos-Painted Cave Road-E. Camino Cielo is hard to beat. East Camino Cielo is where both the Gibraltar and Painted Cave climbs finish, although there are 4.1 miles between the finish of each (488' of climbing and 835’ of descent from the Gibraltar to Painted Cave finishes). If your legs can bear it, the out-and-back is well worth the effort to climb these two spectacular and beautiful routes, each exceptional in its own way.
The locals refer to this as the Alp d’ Huez of Santa Barbara, or just plain “Gib.” Beware that flies are a serious irritant towards the top in hot weather, and the descent is commonly quite cold as we drop down towards Santa Barbara.
The climb tops out on La Cumbe Peak which is the highest point in Santa Barbara County. This climb has it all: views of the Pacific Ocean, views of mountains, and an overall challenging climb. It is one of the best climbs in Southern California and we recommend those nearby -- or those willing to travel -- check it out.
Hop the gate, ride up the rough narrow path, past the radio tower and . . .
. . . ride up a service road/hiking path ¼ mile at 11% . . .
. . . past the old radio and fire watch tower and . . .
. . . enjoy the spectacular view of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean,
and Channel Islands beyond.
On the way up, beware of cars and anything that could be coming down this steep descent.
Make sure to turn left at Angostura Pass at mile 8.5 where Gibraltar T’s into East Camino Cielo -- we continue straight at this point to get the most climbing for our buck. This climb ends 1.6 miles west on East Camino Cielo. The views at the very top, over a gate and up a public path to the radio towers and abandoned fire lookout are breathtaking and by themselves worth the trek.
TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
2016 Gibraltar mountain-top finish
Stage 3 winner Julian Alaphilippe (FRA)
2016 Stage 3 route map.
Stage 2 Tour of California
Stage winner Egan Bernal in KOM time of 27’12”
Photo: Santa Rosa Press Democrat (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
2018 Stage 2 route map -- May 14, 2018.
2018 Stage 2 profile
Legendary hill climber Phil Gaimon wins 2018 Worlds on Gibraltar.
Steepest ¼ mile begins at mile 1.4 (12%) and steepest mile at mile 1.3 (9.8%)
Roadway Surface and Traffic: We’d give a nine of 10 for the first segment, and a five out of 10 for the last 1.3 miles. Five miles on Gibraltar road are newly paved as of 2015. The last mile is a bit rough, but very manageable. The last 50 yards are up a paved footpath after we legally hop the fence (it’s just there to prevent motor vehicle traffic). There is very little traffic on this route and it is cycle-safe as we pass several Share The Road signs posted along the climb.
WHERE TO STAY?
PJAMM Cycling stayed at the Best Western Pepper Tree Inn on our Santa Barbara cycling trip. This was a very nice and centrally located hotel with a restaurant and Bar next door, and we would recommend it.
 We do not benefit at all from this endorsement and have no connection or affiliation with the hotel.