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 - bike with canyon and mountains in background

Cycling East Portal

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

This one's 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 3 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. On the banner photo above you can make out some of the switchbacks at the beginning of the climb (middle of photo). The views are spectacular (on the ascent, however, you will have your back to them and likely have head down and grinding it out!) and the climb quite challenging. 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."

Bicycle ride up East Portal - road far below

Begin climb along the Gunnison River

Climbing East Portal by bike - start - road, trees and grade cut into mountain 

Start of the climb

   Climbing East Portal by bike - view of canyon and road cut into mountain.

The grade cut of the road is upper center of photo.

Bicycle ride up East Portal - road far below

We climb very quickly (well, we gain altitude in a short distance).

Bicycle ride up East Portal - road far below

View from the top

Steepest (well, it’s ALL steep!) ¼ mile begins at mile 1.1 (16.6%) and mile at .4 (13.7%)

Consider camping at the East Portal Campground which looked like a great place to camp and gets high marks 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:  Roadway is in excellent shape and there is minimal traffic (and slow moving) on the way up.

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