Hicks Road to Mt. Umunhum (north) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Hicks Road to Mt. Umunhum (north)


Steepest 5 miles in California.

Page Contributor(s): Dan Razum, Campbell, CA, USA; Dennis M., Cupertino, California, USA

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Climb Summary

Hicks Road, Mt. Umunhum: Hands down the most difficult road bike climb in the Bay Area.

Ride 5.1 miles gaining 2,673’ at 10% average grade!

How does Umunhum rank in Santa Clara County, California, the United States, and the world compared to the other top bike climbs?

  • Difficulty overall:
  • Santa Clara County: #1
  • California:  #41
  • USA:  #82
  • Steepest 5 miles:
  • Santa Clara: North #1
  • California: North #1
  • USA:  #8
  • World: #79


Drone video of The Cube: San Jose, Silicon Valley in background.

Hicks Road North up Mt. Umunhum (Ohlone for "resting place of the hummingbird") is the climbing test of Santa Clara County.  Accessed from the San Jose (north) side of Mt. Umunhum, the northern start is ranked slightly higher on the difficulty scale than Mt. Umunhum South, and it does hit us very hard from the very beginning, carrying an 11.5% average grade to the turn off to Mt. Umunhum Road 1.2 miles up from the start.

Cyclists on Hicks Road on way to Mt Umunhum by northern route

Start: Hicks Road just east of the southern tip of Guadalupe Reservoir.

Cycling Mt. Umunhum - PJAMM cyclist on bike entering Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve on Mt. Umunhum Road

Beginning of Mt. Umunhum Road.

PJAMM cyclists on Hicks Road riding bike to Mt Umunhum

Mt. Umunhum Road is cycle friendly.

We enter Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve (the route to Mt. Umunhum) at around 1.2 miles up Hicks Road from the start.  From here it is about 4½ more miles to the high point of the climb.  We have great views of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the Silicon Valley, Mt. Hamilton, and the Diablo Mountain Range to the east.  The ranked route ends about 1½ miles from The Cube.  Full routes to The Cube from north and from south are accessed via the links.  When you arrive near the summit, there is a main parking lot for cars but you can go to the right and continue a couple hundred yards up to the handicap parking lot at the top and view The Cube in all its glory.

PJAMM cyclists on Hicks Road riding bike to Mt Umunhum

PJAMM cyclists on on bikes at finish of Mt Umunhum

The Cube, with its angular shape visible from great distances, leaves no doubt where the top of Mt. Umunhum is.

View on climb by bike up Mt Umunhum - Mt. Hamilton and Lick Observatory in background.

Mt. Umunhum Road just below center of photo;

 Mt. Hamilton (Lick Observatory) is center in mountain range in background.

PJAMM cyclists on Hicks Road riding bike to Mt Umunhum 

Cube Top.

PJAMM cyclists on Hicks Road riding bike to Mt Umunhum

Drone take off from the top of The Cube.

Roadway Surface and Traffic Report:  Hicks Road from the Silicon Valley side is a great ride but the two lane road is narrow, and there is mild traffic with many curves along the way that make it a slightly unsettling climb, particularly if starting from the South Bay.  Mt. Umunhum has minimal traffic and a pristine road from start to finish -- I mean, shoot, where does Santa Clara County get all of its money??

PJAMM 1 comin in hot . . .

About the Area:  At 3,486 feet, Mt. Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range, and is part of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve.  The summit of Mt. Umunhum has been newly restored and revived by the Midpeninsula Open Space District (MOSD), and has been recently reopened for public access.  From the peak, beautiful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada mountain range can be enjoyed.  Visit MOSD’s website for more information on this unique public space, including the peak’s historical significance as a Native American ceremonial site, and later as an important part of the west coast’s Air Force presence with what is now known as the Mt. Umunhum Cube, a five story Cold War era radio building built in the early 1960s.

That’s a wrap!!