Climb Summary: Mike Persellin, Minneapolis, MN
Empire Grade is a well known climb from near sea level in Santa Cruz to the ridge line of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It has the advantage of ending at or near the top of the descents of several other climbs, meaning you can easily combine Empire with one or more other climbs.
The climb starts at High Street at the bottom of the beautiful campus of UC-Santa Cruz and goes along its west side for a short distance. The grade is variable and rolling. It is not a remote climb and there can be significant traffic, though it has never been a problem for me.
There are some big redwoods, especially in the first half of the climb, but there are prettier climbs in the area. At the summit intersection, the descent of Ice Cream Grade/Bonny Doon is to the left and that of Felton Empire Road is to the right. The top of the Jamison Creek Road descent is a further 9.2 miles along Empire Grade.
I like to descend to Bonny Doon and climb back up, because the Bonny Doon ascent starts at Highway 1, meaning you can’t get a warmup without riding on the highway.