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

5.1 mi
2,657 ft
9.9 %


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


Hicks Road North is the most difficult road bike climb in Santa Clara County and the Bay area. This monster bike climb has the steepest five mile segment in all of California, and the eighth steepest in the US (79th World). The climb begins at the southern tip of Guadalupe Reservoir and finishes at an unmarked high point 1.5 miles before the iconic "Cube" (a five-story Cold War era radio building) which sits atop the mountain.
Warm up first!! The first quarter mile averages 16%. It is likely no surprise that a climb that averages 10% has some very steep segments - the steepest quarter mile is 17% and the steepest mile is 13%. There is a 300 yard stretch that averages 16.5% beginning at mile 3.3.  51% (2.6 miles) is at 5-10% grade, 37% (1.9 miles) 10-15% and 6.7% (.3 miles) is at 15-20% grade.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button above.
Roadway:  The road is in excellent condition as of 2020.

Traffic:   There is very mild traffic for the entire route.  Traffic is not a problem, this is a peaceful ride - well, other than the suffering.

Parking:  I have always parked at the climb start, just before the bridge - Streetview.
Since this is such a steep climb, standard "race" gearing would be a problem on this one.  I've never used anything below a compact chainring and 28t cassette - but, hey, I'm an old man, don't rely on me . . . . 
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.
The start points for both Umunhum climbs are very close together.  We like this start a little better because its a bit steeper at the start - but, we are sick!  Riding both sides is 21.5 miles and 5,353' (Map).

The full Hicks Road + Mt. Umunhum ride is 11 miles if you start at Blossom Hill Road in Campbell - the road is narrow with no shoulder, but a lot of cyclists do this.

The San Jose area has no shortage of accommodation options, including hotels and vacation rentals.



Difficulty: Strenuous



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Dec 29, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 4
traffic: 4
road: 4
Dec 29, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 4
road: 4
Hicks was absolutely brutal. Mt u was tough but not absurdly difficult. There was one section where it was an absolute wall but besides that I just had to find my rhythm and rest when the road let me.
Jul 6, 2021
Lead abatement on the cube at the moment - top of the summit is still closed as of 7.6.21... You'll still get 99% of the climb, but won't get the last ~100 ft...
May 22, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
May 22, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
It seems like the last bit of road up to the Cube is closed on weekdays through the end of 2021, as per the photo. Not sure why, perhaps some construction on the Cube? The road was closed on Saturday morning, 5/22/21 but maybe the Park Ranger just hadn't opened it yet. I went past the gate and up to the Cube, everything seemed normal...
May 18, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
May 18, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
A great climb and steep on Hicks and bottom of Mt Um Rd, but then is eases off. It's now open to the top. There is NO WATER. Nearest water is New Almeden. About halfway up Mt Um Rd, there's a gravel trail to the right which is a wonderful alternative to the upper half of the climb if you have a grav or mountain bike.

Climb Profile Not Found

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!

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson

“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.)

Before heading out to climb Mt. Umunhum, 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.

It’s all about getting to The Cube!

How does Mt. Umunhum North 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:  #7
  • World: #136


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.

Turn off Hicks Road onto Mt. Umunhum at mile 1.2.

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.

Views from the observation deck next to The Cube.

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!!

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