Page Contributor(s): Dan Razum, Campbell, CA, USA; Dennis M., Cupertino, California, USA
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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!
“The top of Hicks Road North/Mount Umunhum is very steep and scenic and may be the most difficult in the hill rich Bay Area of California. It carries a variable grade and little traffic over much of its length. The first mile is over double digit grade and then Hicks Road crests. At that point descend a very short distance and quickly turn right on Mount Umunhum. Very soon you are climbing again over gradually increasing slope with more severe slope ahead. Continue through another very steep mile before the grade eases and rolls a bit. Soon the road becomes quite shallow and at 2.9 miles a locked gate appears. . . .. [PJAMM note: the road is now open to Cube - see below]. You can also begin this hill over the south side of Hicks Road. It has a very difficult first mile as well (though not quite as steep as the north side) and stats for its full climb are 4.5 miles at 9.5% average grade.” (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 162.)
It’s all about getting to The Cube!
How does Umunhum rank in Santa Clara County, California, the United States, and the world compared to the other top bike climbs?
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.
Start: Hicks Road just east of the southern tip of Guadalupe Reservoir.
Turn off Hicks Road onto Mt. Umunhum at mile 1.2.
Beginning of Mt. Umunhum Road.
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.
The Cube, with its angular shape visible from great distances, leaves no doubt where the top of Mt. Umunhum is.
Mt. Umunhum Road just below center of photo;
Mt. Hamilton (Lick Observatory) is center in mountain range in background.
Views from the observation deck next to The Cube.
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!!