East Portal Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

East Portal


One of the steepest climbs in the U.S. - Unique climb out of a deep canyon Gunnison National Park.

Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton/Stacy Topping

Explore this Climb

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Climb Summary

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - bike parked in front of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Cycling East Portal

Ride 3.3 miles gaining 2,001’ (0 descent) at 11.4% average grade.

Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, Colorado -- Established 1999, 30,750 acres.

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - panoramic view of flat mountaintops with large valley between them

This one is a bit of an outlier, but well worth the drive to get to Black Canyon! The climb itself is brief, but similar to Mt. Ascutney in Vermont, gives you as much pop in three miles as you will get on any of the Top U.S. 100 Climbs. The Colorado climb is incredibly steep and gives you spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and vegetation.

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, PJAMM white SAG van parked next to NPS sign for Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationla Park, aerial views of road snaking up hillside, bike parked in front of signs for 16% grade and "Use low gear" sign, bike parked against white fence with PJAMM cycling jersey draped over it

We start the climb at the bottom of an extremely steep canyon along the Gunnison River.

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - cyclist wearing PJAMM Cycling jersey parked on roadside next to creek surrounded by grey rocky hillsides

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, signs for Gunnison Tunnel and Diversion Dam, bike parked next to sign, sign for National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - informational signs, photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

On a climb this steep there are bound to be hairpins, and this one does not disappoint with 13 compressed into this 3.2 mile monster.

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - aerial views of road snaking through hillsides, PJAMM cycling logo in corner

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, cyclist climbing on one-lane, rural roadway surrounded by dirt and scrub brush

The views are spectacular and the climb quite challenging (on the ascent, however, you’ll have your back to the views and likely have your head down and grinding it out!). The National Park Service describes the area "Deep, Steep and Narrow: Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest and craggy spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky."

Cycling East Portal, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, views along the climb

Bicycle ride up East Portal - road far below

View from the top.

Steepest quarter mile (well, it’s ALL steep!) begins at mile 1.1 (16.6%) and mile at 0.4 (13.7%).

Consider camping at the East Portal Campground, which looked like a great place to camp and gets high ratings on Yelp.  Since you are travelling to one of the more remote of the Top 100 climbs, making a day or weekend of it in this amazing National Park and canyon area is worth the while.

Roadway Surface and Traffic Report:  Roadway is in excellent shape and there is minima and slow moving traffic on the way up.

You will get a very good sense of the climb and surroundings by viewing our YouTube videos
here and here. ​