Hwy 74-243 to Pine Cove Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

19.2 mi
4,503 ft
4.3 %



This climb begins at a section of Highway 74 that has been recognized a scenic state route. At mile 11.5 we turn left onto Highway 243 to ride through Idyllwild and complete the climb up to Pine Cove.
4.3% average grade (4.8% climb only).  There are a few brief descents along the climb - 7% of the climb is descent, 48% is in the 0-5% range, and 44% is at 5-10%.  The steepest quarter-mile is 7.7% and steepest mile 6.3%.

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Roadway:  This is a two lane highway in good condition with a shoulder that varies from none to wide enough to ride the bike in.  There is no rideable shoulder much of the climb. 

Traffic:  Mild, but it does pick up on Friday and Sunday afternoons.  

Parking:  On the side of the road at the start of the climb - Map; Street View
Provisions:  A couple of great spots for food and beverages along this climb - Mountain Center at 12.7 miles (Map) and our favorite, the quaint town of Idyllwild, 17 miles from the climb's beginning which has nice diners, a bakery, store, etc. (Map).
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We got pastries and coffee at The Village Lane in Idyllwild and that was a very nice place.  However, there do appear to be many choices for fun and good food in Idyllwild - Google Map and Reviews

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Difficulty: Strenuous



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Dec 22, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 4
Dec 22, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 3
road: 4
Second attempt at this climb. On Veterans Day I turned back at Mountain Center (thanks work stress and booster shot). Several sources have described it as “underrated” and I would agree. The grade never seemed to get over 8% and often was in the 3-5% range. It is a Highway climb but I am so desensitized to traffic it doesn’t bother me. If I had to guess, maybe one car every few minutes but it wasn’t constant. Most cars (actually lots of pick ups and SUVs; I’ve also seen lots of motorcyclists too) give you a good berth going up or coming down. Climbing up and out of the San Jacinto river drainage is quite stunning, as is the descent. Then you continue grinding up to the Idyllwild sign followed by a short downhill into town. Then after the fire station back climbing to the fire station in Pine Cove. That was probably the most challenging stretch. There was still snow on the ground from last week’s storm but the road was completely clear, though with the usual road detritus in spots.

Climb Profile Not Found


This climb begins at a section of Hwy 74 that has been recognized a scenic state route.  At mile 11.5 we turn left onto Hwy 243 to ride through Idyllwild and complete the climb up to Pine Cove.

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Hwy 243 along this stretch is also a recognized scenic state route, and rightly so!  We have many opportunities over the first 14 miles of the climb to look back to the east, down large canyons back to Valle Vista and Hemet far to the east.  The lower portion of the climb is quite stark and barren (but, that is what permits the great views down the canyon to the east).  There are exceptional views of the San Jacinto Mountains and Tahquitz Peak as we climb up towards Mountain Center and Idyllwild.  So often we climb out of stark desert-like surroundings into desolate remote and unpopulated areas.  Not so for this climb.

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 There is much activity and vibrance as we near and enter the music and artistic community of Idyllwild (do not pass through without having the apple pie at Idyllwild Bake Shop and Brew – you won’t be sorry!).


Roadway and traffic report:  The roadway for both climbs was very good and traffic moderate but polite and seemed to travel more at the speed limit than many of the other Southern California “highway climbs” we have charted (e.g. Hwy 18 from both sides and Hwy 330).

Highway 243 – this is a great climb that can be done as an out-and-back from Hemet or Banning, or, better yet, by dropping down from your base camp at Idyllwild.  We have excellent views of back to Banning as we climb through a set of steep switchbacks around miles 2-3.  There are some great boulder formations and views of Lake Fulmor at mile 8.  We end in Pine Cove and we encourage a visit to Idyllwild 3 miles down 243 from the summit at Marion Road.

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