Kitt Peak Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Kitt Peak


Remote climb to Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA

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Climb Summary

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%

Note:  As of 11-25-20 the road is closed due to Covid19 - see bottom of page for details.

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