Cycling Lion Rock (Strava Segment)
Ride 10.5 miles gaining 3,484’ at 6.3% average grade.
This is a remote climb just north of Ellensburg (pop.21,111 2019) in the Cascade Range and the Wenatchee National Forest (est 1908; 1,739,057 acres). This is the 4th most difficult bike climb in Washington and the second if you travel past the paved finish to our climb another 2 ½ miles on gravel to the high point of Table Mountain Road (not recommended on a road bike; route).
Here is a great story about riding Lion Rock by ultra adventurer Mike McQuaide, author of 75 Classic Rides Washinton: The Best Road Biking Routes:
Ever since my Seattle Times story of a month ago when I featured five killer climbs of Washington State, I've been itching to head down Ellensburg way to try out something called Lion Rock, also referred to as Table Mountain. A couple readers (Justin Yeager and Christopher Fast) had alerted me to it. Well, my itch has been scratched as yesterday I climbed the beastie. It's an amazing climb, the toughest section: a 6-mile stretch that climbs 2,600 feet. Closest thing I've ridden is McNeil Canyon near Chelan, which climbs 2,200 feet in 5 miles.
View back down Kittas Valley from the road to Lion Rock
Several things make this a unique and worthwhile climb. First, it's in the middle of nowhere, about 12 miles north of Ellensburg in Wenatchee National Forest and though it's a mostly paved road (more on that in a sec), it doesn't really lead anywhere so during my ride, I came across one bicyclist, two motorcycles and two cars. Interestingly, though paved, it's only one lane. So you feel like you're riding some of those crazy skinny mountain roads featured in the Giro. And given the forested mountain setting, it has somewhat of a mountain biking feel to it too.
Second, the wind. Not sure if I was riding on a particularly breezy day--the dozens of wind farm turbine towers on the exposed hills and fields all around Ellensburg would suggest it's typical (none of which, by the way, were turning)--but I was treated to a constant 20- to 30-mile-per-hour northwest wind. Once I started climbing up the mountain and was somewhat protected by the folds of the forested hillside, it wasn't so bad. In fact, on some of the short little east-west switchbacks, I definitely felt the wind was aiding me when it was at my back. Heading west, I was in my tiniest 34-27; head east, I could shift down one, two, sometimes even three gears.