Sherman Pass West Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

15.5 mi
5,320 ft
6.5 %


Page Contributor(s): Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA; Stacy Topping, Tacoma, WA, USA


Cycling Sherman Pass - the fifth hardest bike climb in California,  This is a very remote bike climb that can be extraordinarily hot during the summer.  This climb is all about challenge and offers little in the way of scenery due to terrible wildfires which have devastated this previously scenic section of Sequoia National Forest.  
5,305' gained, 3' of descent over a 15.5 mile climb - that's a good start for CA #1/USA #13. The average grade is 6.5%.  27% (4.1 miles) of the climb is at 0-5% grade, 64% (9.9 miles) at 5-10%, and 8% (1.3 miles) is at 10-15% average grade. The steepest quarter-mile is 10.1% and the steepest continuous mile is 8.5%.  The climb never exceeds 15%. 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  1-2 lane narrow road with no center stripe.  As of 2020 the road was fully paved and in fair condition. 

Traffic:  Minimal - you will see no more than a handful of motor vehicles during your climb.

Parking:  At climb start if you are exiting to the west in the Bakersfield-Visalia area (Map; Street View) or at the top and ride down to the start then back to the summit if you are leaving to the east towards Nine Mile Canyon and Highway 395 (Map; Street View).
Provisions:  There are no provisions along this climb.  The nearest provisions are at the Kennedy Meadows General Store 29 miles east of Sherman Pass - MapStreet View

Weather:  Due to the potential extreme heat during the summer and cold during spring/fall, be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the weather conditions for the start and finish of the climb at the times you expect to be riding.  
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.
We have done this climb twice and each time have come from the east and done it in conjunction with Nine Mile Canyon.  The first time we did these two together we rode the entire route from Highway 395 up Nine Mile Canyon to the start of the Sherman Pass climb and back - 137 miles 17,715' of climbing (Map) - it was 106 degrees coming up the canyon from the start of Sherman Pass - brutal stuff.  Our second go at these two climbs, we did Nine Mile then drove to the start of Sherman Pass and did that one as a stand alone. 

Sherman Pass is located in an isolated part of Sequoia National Forest.  There are places to stay in Kernville, including hotels and house rentals.



Difficulty: Extreme



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Sequoia and Kings Canyon
United States (CA)
11 POIs


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Jul 27, 2022
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
Jul 27, 2022
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
Nice ride in an out of the way place. Pretty moderate grade throughout, so neither easy nor super steep. You can park at the lot at the bottom or I went about half-way up so I would have some cold water at that point. Nice view at the summit and the rolling hills past the summit are nice. Pair it with Parker East for a bit more challenge.
Jul 5, 2021
difficulty: Extreme
scenery: 3
traffic: 5
road: 3
Jul 5, 2021
scenery: 3
traffic: 5
road: 3
This climb is a brutal climb, but well worth the solitude and views from the top. I highly recommend bringing lots of water. I started this climb at 3:30 PM and my Wahoo was reading 114 for the first half of the climb. You can park right at the bottom and start up the climb. There are some sweeping views towards the top and especially at the summit. Traffic is light, and the gate that was closed in the summary was open for me. If you are interested, you can also camp at various locations right off the road
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Climb Profile Not Found

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

The Sherman Pass bike climb in California is a very challenging climb in a remote region of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in the Sequoia National Forest.  Before you get excited about seeing Sequoia National Forest, a la Bear Creek Road, Whitaker Forest, Highway 198, and the like, don’t be misled. While this climb will surely test your climbing abilities, it should not be mistaken for climbs on the southwestern side of the Sierra with much lusher surroundings, not to mention actual Sequoia Redwoods along the routes.  

Sherman Pass is a hot, dry, private climb on a narrow road with minimal traffic.  If you are one to check off the toughest climbs in a state/country/the world, then this is a good climb for you.  If views precede challenge on your priority list, you may rethink this one.  Its landscape has sadly been decimated by wildfires over the years and it lacks a bit on the forest side.  We have climbed this brute twice and know it fairly well.  


Climb begins at Highway 99 adjacent to the Kern River.

“There are some ascents out there that are difficult to get to but worth the effort. This climb up the west side of Sherman Pass certainly qualifies as one of the most difficult in the United States. Isolated and with its start from the scenic Kern River, the road immediately heads up along a ridge above a drainage at a fairly steady grade. Dry and desert-like over the lower stretches, you gradually leave the harsh terrain behind and ascend into a bit more semi alpine scenery including some big trees near the top. Be prepared before you tackle this one as this long hill will test you over a stout grade and through multiple turns. There is a bit of exposure over part of its length as well and keep in mind there is no water along the route (and little shade). Near the top the grade eases a bit and the listed climb ends just shy of the actual pass at over 9,000 feet (listed top is just beyond the cattle guard)...” (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 154.)


Most of our surroundings are high desert and dry.

Gate at mile 6 . . .

. . . not a problem  😉😉


Our cycling friend and frequent contributor, Ron Hawks, toward and at the top of the climb.


Thank you Ron (left) and Bruce (right)!!

Although the views throughout the majority of the Sherman Pass bike climb are generally of arid landscape and distant mountainous terrain, we do enter an alpine setting for the top last third of the climb.  

Beware that the heat during the summer can be stifling. The temperatures when we first climbed Sherman Pass in August 2011 hit 106°F at the bottom of the climb.

Traffic and Roadway Surface Report:  The roadway surface is rough, but major potholes and cracks had been patched within a week of our climb in August 2014.  Descend with caution, as there is gravel/dirt/sand in places, which create a real hazard for the unwary.  The road is narrow with no shoulder, bike lane or center line, although the very few vehicles you will encounter along the way generally travel at low speed.