Horseshoe Meadows Rd Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Horseshoe Meadows Rd


Long and very difficult climb out of the southern Owens Valley - view of the 4 monstrous switchbacks from Higway 395 is dramatic.

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Climb Summary

Hairpin #2 on Horseshoe Meadow Road, Lone Pine, Owens Valley, CA 

View north of hairpin 2 just before hairpin 3.

California Top 10 Most Epic Climb 

Horseshoe Meadows Road is ranked the second most difficult climb in California and #7 of the most difficult cycling climbs in the United States and #36 in the world with a Fiets Index score of 14.5.  Located in the the heart of the Owens Valley (PJAMM Owens Valley Climb Page) which at 4,500' and surrounded by 14,000' peaks makes it one of the deepest valleys in the U.S. The Owens Valley is a mecca for road bike climbing and boasts the greatest concentration of Top 100 U.S. and Top 75 California Climbs than any other area in the country. Owens Valley is a graben (“down dropped” block of land between 2 vertical faults) which creates the unparalleled extended steep grades along its eastern border with the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Cyclist riding bike up Lubken Canyon Road, Big Pine, Owens Valley

Climb begins on Lubken Canyon Road

Cyclist riding bike at intersection of Lubken Canyon Road and Horseshoe Meadow Road Big Pine, Owens Valley

Turn left on Horseshoe Meadows off Lubken Canyon Road at mile 3.2

Start of the Descent on Horseshoe Meadows Road

Just before the .9 mile -5.2% (255’) descent at mile 16.

This ride does not have the grade its #6 most difficult cycling climb in the US neighbor Onion Valley Road. 21 miles north (8.2% average grade vs 6.5%), but it is 4 1/2 miles longer with 800' higher elevation and 1,200' more climbing.  There are no provisions along this route and the temperatures during the summer will often exceed 100 degrees for the first half of the climb (see weather map, below).   One of the most unique features of this ride are the massive switchbacks which are easily observable from Highway 395, 4 miles to the east.  The first switchback begins at mile 8.5, is 1.7 miles, gains 651' with a 7.1% average grade (switchback #2 1.2m / 467' / 8.3%.)

When to climb Onion Valley Road by bike:   The average high temperatures for the summer time frame are 92 June, 98 July and 96 August.  We suggest May or September as the months just before or after could put you into a snowstorm as we climb towards the top of this dead end climb that tops out just above 10,000’.

Start of the Descent on Horseshoe Meadows Road 

It can be mighty cold up there . . .

PJAMM’s Bruce Hamilton braves the elements May 28, 2019

How to climb Onion Valley Road by bike: Pick the right time and train well as this is the second hardest climb in California at 19.3 miles, 7,041’ gained at 6.2% average grade (¼ mile at 14.7% and ½ mile at 11.6%).  Climb begins just south of Lone Pine, CA on Lubken Canyon Road at 36.54224, -118.05151 latitude/longitude.  We commonly stay in Bishop, California (57 miles north of Lone Pine, CA and the start of the Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal climbs) at the Creekside Inn, next to Erick Schat’s Bakery,  but have also stayed 3 times in Lone Pine at the Best Western Plus Frontier Motel which is a decent, although not great, place to stay.


Stacy Topping checks off yet another US Top 100 Climb!

 The most dramatic switchbacks in the United States


From Highway 395 just south of Lone Pine

As seen from the lower portion of Horseshoe Meadows Road

In 2013 and 2015 we included Horseshoe Meadows in our 4 of the Top 5 Climbs in California in a Day trip - at 22,000’ of climbing with an average grade around 7% in 100 degree temperatures, this is quite the adventure.

Cyclists at top of Horseshoe Meadows Road after riding Horseshoe, Onion Valley Road, White Mountain and Whitney Portal Roads in a day.  

 Horseshoe #1 of 4 in 2013

Cyclists at top of Horseshoe Meadows Road after riding Horseshoe, Onion Valley Road, White Mountain and Whitney Portal Roads in a day.

Horseshoe #4 of 4 in 2015 (stupidly 2 days before Death Ride)                              

Roadway Surface and Traffic:  The roadway surface in July, 2014 was poor (video of roadway) and descending should be done with caution.  Traffic has been very light the 5 times we have made this climb between 2011 and 2015. The road was in great shape our last trip in 2017.

Landslide and rocks on Horseshoe Meadows road during bike climb. 

We hopped the gate and bootlegged this one May, 2011

Ran into snow at the top, though.

 Bear sign with bike on Horseshoe Meadows Road.

That’s a wrap!  

No . . . Wait!



Horseshoe Meadows giant switchbacks from intersection of Horseshoe Meadows Road and Whitney Portal Road near Hwy 395, Big Pine

Switchbacks of Horseshoe Meadows (photo right center) from Whitney Portal Road  

The alternative route begins at the intersection of Horseshoe Meadows and Whitney Portal Roads.  On this route we ride 19.5 miles, gain 5,821’ at 6% average grade at a Fiets index of 10.98 (versus PJAMM’s charted route:  ride 19.2 miles, gaining 6,582’ at 6.2% average grade).  Alternate Route map.

Bear sign with bike on Horseshoe Meadows Road.

Travel through cool canyon and rock formation at the outset of this route.

Bear sign with bike on Horseshoe Meadows Road.