Kitt Peak Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

12 mi
3,591 ft
5.7 %


Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA; John Summerson, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) 2d. Ed.


This is Arizona's third most difficult bike climb, and is a long climb to Kitt Peak Observatory along a remote and quiet roadway.
***As of Nov 2021, this road is closed because of forest fire repairs. More info and updates can be found here.

"Kitt Peak is a very isolated and scenic climb located deep in the Sonoran desert west of Tucson.  It is over a twisty and mostly steady grade route with no steep pitches.  The road eventually comes around the opposite side of the mountain towards the top with good views of the surrounding desert."  (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 127.)

Want to climb Mount Graham, Mt. Lemmon, and Kitt Peak with PJAMM? Join us in Tucson on one of our PJAMM Guided Cycling Tours.

Average grade is 5.7%.  34% of the climb is at 0-5% grade and 60% is at 5-10%.  The steepest quarter mile is 8.7%, and steepest mile 7.4%.   

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Excellent.  During COVID, the road was closed so check the official Kitt Peak Website to ensure the road is open and the ours it is open.  

Traffic  Minimal.

Parking:  There is plenty of parking at the start of the climb.  MapStreet View.  
Gear and Weather:  It can get very cold and windy on Kitt Peak in the spring, fall, and winter - be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride.

Provisions:  There are snacks and beverages and a picnic area at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center at the top of the climb. 

Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Kitt Peak has always been part of our Big Three Arizona Trip (plus spring training 😊).  We stay at the Jeremiah Inn (Google Map + Reviews) in Tucson for our Mt. Lemmon-Mt. Graham-Kitt Peak trips - this location is near the start of the Mt. Lemmon climb and 56 miles east of the Kitt Peak start (map).  There are also lots of options for vacation rentals in Tucson. 

At the finish of the climb, consider spending some time at the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center (Google Map + Reviews). 

Want to climb Mount Graham, Mt. Lemmon, and Kitt Peak? Join us in Tucson on one of our all-new PJAMM Guided Cycling Tours launching this fall.

Current AZ Tour Dates:



Difficulty: Challenging



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Apr 10, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
Apr 10, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
This is a good steady climb to mix in with some of the other climbs in the Tucson area. There is no shade so it can get very warm in some months. You have great views out over the desert for the entire climb. You can park at the bottom or the top, but the gate at the bottom of the road is closed at certain times. There are facilities only at the top (when open). Since it is so isolated, it's difficult to ride to the bottom from somewhere else.
Mar 28, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 4
Mar 28, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 4
No traffic, very steady grade, always between 5-7%
Mar 21, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
Mar 21, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
A very interesting place, Kitt Peak is also a solid cat 1 climb. One of the first big hills I did, it is along steady grade and with outstanding desert views. Catch this one on a warm Feb or March day and you are in heaven. A fun descent as well.

Climb Profile Not Found

Cycling Kitt Peak - Kitt Peak National Observatory road sign

Kitt Peak -- top center of photo

Ride 12.3 miles to 6,816’ gaining 3,770 at 5.5%

Before heading out to tackle Kitt Peak, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

This is an isolated climb in southern Arizona, about 40 miles southwest of Tucson, not far from the Mexican Border (Sasabe), rising out of the Sonoran Desert.  Kitt Peak National Observatory is an astronomical observatory southwest of Tucson in the Quinlan Mountains.


Photos at or near the start of the climb.

The climb begins with moderate grades that give way to several quarter mile stretches at 9-10% mixed in with 5 and 6% quarters for the last two-thirds of the climb.  When we climbed Kitt Peak on February 28, 2015, the weather was mild at the bottom but absolutely howling at the top -- the wind speed is dramatically higher at the very top of this climb than throughout the first 12 miles (which were windy, but not the devastating gusts that were downright spooky at the top.  We were blown back trying to take photos at the observatory at the summit.  The views are classic Arizona high desert -- the mountains, rock formations and plains below reminiscent of a John Ford western.


Dramatic views of the Arizona plains.

Climbing Kitt Peak by bike - cyclist on road with Sonoran Desert in background 

We generally have the road to ourselves on this bike climb.

Biking Kitt Peak - roadway and many observatories

First eight miles of the climb on the northwest side of Kitt Peak.

Climb by bike Kitt Peak - 5000' elevation sign with bike leaning against it

Last four miles after turning the corner at mile 8.5 and riding on the southeast side to the top.

Climb by bike Kitt Peak - 5000' elevation sign with bike leaning against it

You don’t have to guess at your elevation.

View of the many Kitt Peak observatories

Mile 10.4 looking northeast.

Climbing by bike Kitt Peak - 6,750' sign

Just about there.

Mile Marker 12, the last one before the summit.

2.3m telescope (front) and Mayall 4m telescope (rear).

Top center photo:

Mayall Telescope photo upper center left - visible from over 50 miles.

We pass the entrance to the Mayall 4m Telescope at 250 yards from the finish.  The telescope was constructed between 1968 and 1970.  When completed, the Mayall 4m Telescope was one of the largest optical telescopes in the world.  Named after Nicholas U. Mayall (former Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory) the building is 18 stories and can be seen from over 50 miles away.


Top of the ride -- Visitor Center, mile 12.

Biking Kitt Peak - roadway and many observatories 

Foreground -- Mayall 4m and the 2.3m telescopes

Left:  Visitor center, Kitt Peak National Observatory and various telescopes.

In the distance to the right:  ARO 12m Radio telescope and MDM Observatory.

Roadway Surface and Traffic:  The roadway is in very good condition throughout the climb, with minimal traffic the entire way.

Biking Kitt Peak - cyclist at steep grade sign

Great descent.

Thank you for your contributions Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA.

Also visit our Arizona Climb Page.

Photos clockwise from top left:

Mt. Lemmon; Mt. Graham; South Mountain; Kitt Peak

Thanks to Bo Jensen, Syracuse, NY for this information

Note:  if you receive details of the road opening, please contact us a

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