Left Hand Canyon Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Left Hand Canyon


Popular and pleasant climb near Boulder to Brainard Lake.

Explore this Climb

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Climb Summary

Climbing Left Hand Canyon by bike - finish of climb at Brainard Lake

Cycling Left Hand Colorado - a long but generally mild Top 100 US Bike Climb

Ride 22.5 miles gaining 5,193’ to elevation 10,500’ at 4.1% average grade.

Left Hand Canyon is a Top 100 U.S. Climb and one of the most popular bike climbs in the Boulder, Colorado area.  The climb follows Left Hand Creek until Left Hand Canyon turns into Indiana Gulch Road at mile 15.  While we do not see the creek the entire climb, we are close enough to hear it and when we do not hear the creek, we hear the wind blowing through the trees that fill the canyon - this is a very calming and peaceful ride.  

    Bicycle ride up Left Hand Canyon - Left Hand Creek and bicycle on bridge

The grade rarely approaches double digits and is fairly mild throughout.  The toughest section of the climb begins at a sharp right turn where Sawmill Rd, a popular mountain biking road, intersects Left Hand Turn Road at around mile 15 - this segment is 1.6 miles @ 8.5% gradient.

Cycling Left Hand Canyon - roadway sign at Sawmill Road 

Near Sawmill Road and the start of the steepest segment at mile 15.

Cycling Left Hand Canyon - cafe in Ward

Pass through Ward (pop. 155; 2017)

Turn right onto Hwy 72 at mile 16.9 of the route and then take the very next left onto Brainard Lake Road. The RideWithGPS cue sheet for this route is too confusing. There are only 2 turns - right 16.9 onto Hwy 72 and then an almost immediate left onto what is signed as Brainard Lake Road - follow that to the top of the climb.  


Right onto Hwy 72 at mile 16.9


Left onto Brainard Lake Road in 30 yards.

The remaining portion of the climb is along Brainard Lake Road up to Brainard Lake.  We enter Brainard Lake Recreational Area at mile 19.6 and as of /August, 2015, there was no charge for cyclists.  While on this road, we are completely surrounded by thick forest.  The road ends at Brainard Lake Recreation Area and Brainard Lake with exceptional views of stark surrounding mountains. Overall it is peaceful, not too strenuous, and lovely climb just outside of Boulder, CO.

Bicycle ride up Left Hand Canyon - park entrance and toll booth

Toll Booth mile 19.6 - as of 2015 no toll for cyclists.

Climbing Left Hand Canyon by bike - road bordered by trees with mountain in the background

The bike ride up to Brainard Lake is very scenic and peaceful.

This is a high-cyclists route.  We know this from (a) seeing many cyclists on the route on an early Monday afternoon, (b) there are more unique cycling road signs on this route than we have ever seen before [see slideshow], and (c)  according to the owner of the popular (and by his own volunteered comments - eclectic) Utica Street Market in Ward, 200-300 cyclists per day stop at his place on the weekends.  

Provisions along the way:  The aforementioned Utica Street Market is a haven for cyclists as many stop and take advantage of the front benches, espresso, home baked cookies and other fuels of choice.  This is a bicycle friendly venue as is evidenced by not one, but three bicycle pumps available on site for use to anyone with a need.  

This climb ends just above 10,000’ so, as with all climbs that end at higher altitude, expect the temperatures to be much colder than where you started and come prepared with (a) appropriate additional warmer gear, and (b) pre-review of weather reports.

Steepest mile begins at mile 15 (11.3%) and steepest mile at 15.5 (8.6%)

Roadway/Traffic:  The road has no shoulder for much of the climb, yet this is never an issue as there is not much traffic along the route and the speed limit is a maximum of 35 (reducing to 15 mph as we near and enter Ward).