Page Contributor(s): Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA; Stacy Topping, Tacoma, WA, USA
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Cycling Mt. Baldy - one of Southern California’s toughest bike climbs.
Ride 13.1 miles gaining 4,748’ at 6.7% average grade.
This is one of three routes to the top of Mt. Baldy:
“Giant Mount Baldy, located in the scenic San Gabriel Mountains just northeast of Los Angeles, is a big climb and a contender for the most difficult in Southern California. It runs along a two lane road with a variable grade and finishes between big mountain walls. It now also has professional cycling history on its slopes as sections of the route have been used multiple times in the Tour of California. The start is close to big city clutter but with scenic views leading into the mountains and this hill is a must do ascent for serious climbers.
As you begin the climb the first two miles are fairly shallow and then the grade picks up. Soon the route enters a drainage and heads north along moderate grade and with big mountains looming in front of you. The grade increases just after the two short tunnels which appear around the five mile mark as you continue to ascend the ridgeline. Soon find a fairly sharp descent but it is short and stout climbing resumes. The slope moderates before you pass the junction of Glendora Ridge Road on the left. Stay straight to enter the mountain village of Mount Baldy where you encounter some congestion/vehicles at times. Just beyond the village however the true nature of the hill reveals itself. The road here seems caught between sowaring mountain walls as the grade gradually increases beyond a bridge over a drainage. Jagged rocks seem to be everywhere and give the impression of trouble ahead. Just under 10 miles in, turn left to pass the 5,000 ft elevation sign and encounter steeper grade and a more sinuous road. This final section is classic alpine climbing as it is narrow and twisty and contains ramps of 10-14% in places and is the key stretch to making the summit. Robert Gesnic put in a spectacular performance through this stretch to win a stage in the 2012 Tour of California which locked up his overall race win that year. You encounter multiple tight switchbacks, one of which contain the maximum grade on the hill and will very likely get your attention. Once beyond the switchbacks the road straightens a bit. At the sign for the Mount Baldy Ski Area, turn left where the grade finally eases as you enter a parking area. Follow the parking lots uphill to the very top of the listed climb.
As mentioned much of Mount Baldy’s route was used during a stage in both the 2011 and 2012 Tours of California and made an impression on the top professionals as everyone can struggle on this hill. It is significantly longer and almost as steep as the famous Tourmalet in France and has a more difficult finishing stretch. Its upper section is a particularly difficult descent as well.”
(This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 158.)
Aerial drone photo: View southwest from hairpins above mile hairpins mile 9.5.
Before heading out to adventure up Mt. Baldy, 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.
Most Challenging Route: This is the most challenging but not the most scenic of ascents to the top of Mt. Baldy (see GMR, below and GMR Climb Page). The main Baldy route travels from North Mills Road 13.1 miles to Mt. Baldy Resort parking lot -- the mountain finish for many Tour of California stages. The fifth hardest bike climb in the US is accessed by turning left onto Falls Road about 100 yards from the Mt. Baldy Ski Resort sign a half mile from the finish and then riding to The Notch at the top of the ski mountain 3 miles up a gravel road (Mt. Baldy to the very top).
Begin climb by riding up Mt. Baldy Road from its “T” intersection with N. Mills Ave.
Enter Angeles National Forest (est. 1908; 655,387 acres) at mile 2.6.
Mt. Baldy Village -- Mile 8.
We highly recommend you have a meal at Mt. Baldy Lodge.
They are definitely bike friendly.
There is a water fountain at the Mt. Baldy Post office just before Mt. Baldy Lodge.
Though we’re only a few miles from LA, it gets rural quick.
Saw a coyote a mile south of Baldy Village August, 2019
Bear left and stay on Mt. Baldy Road at mile 9.7 where the hairpins begin.
5 of the 12 switchbacks on the last three miles.
We hit 5,000’ soon after beginning the hairpins.
Riding up one of 12 hairpins over the last 3 miles.
Sign just before the left turn to the ski resort parking lot.
Ski resort ticket booth 4/10’s mile further
The ¼ mile leading to the Mt. Baldy sign is the steepest of the entire climb (13.3% average).
You WILL encounter snow during the winter . . .
. . . the climb ends at a ski resort, after all. 🙂
AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Andrew Talansky wins Mt. Baldy Stage 5 of the 2017 Tour of California.
It is always a raucous crowd during a ToC Mt. Baldy stage.
After Stage 6 of the 2019 Tour of California is complete, Mt. Baldy will have been a stage finish five of the 18 years the Tour has been held (each year since 2006). The route on the Mt. Baldy stage is always the same route, as follows:
The route for all five ToC Mt. Baldy mountain-top finish stages (2019 Map).
The General Tour of California Mt. Baldy Route is:
Chris Horner wins 2011 ToC, but Levi gets stage 7!
Robert Gesink wins 2012 Stage 6.
After Mt. Hamilton in Northern California (East Bay/Silicon Valley), Mt. Baldy has been included in more Amgen Tours than any other mountain climb.
Tadej Pogačar wins 2019 Stage 6.
Beginning 16 seconds behind at the beginning of Stage 16, Tadej Pogačar won the Queen Stage (Stage 6) on May 17, 2019 and held on for the overall win in 2019 making him at 20 the youngest winner of the ToC ever.
2015 -- Jullian Alaphilippe.
Stage Profile for all Glendora Mountain / Mt. Baldy ToC stages.
Summary from 2015 Tour of California Website:
“Route Information: May 16, 2015 - Stage 7 Finish
The climb up to Mt. Baldy is an integral part of the Amgen Tour of California’s nine-year history. Since 2011, when it was first introduced as the race’s first true mountaintop finish, the steep switchbacks up to the Mt. Baldy Ski Area at 6,500 feet elevation have served as the deciding factor in crowning the overall champion. Due to overwhelming demand from the fans, Mt. Baldy is back for the Amgen Tour of California 10th Anniversary after a two-year hiatus!
Mt. Baldy is located 45 miles from downtown Los Angeles and is a popular location for hikers, sightseers and cyclists. During autumn, spring, and summer you will find hundreds to thousands of outdoor enthusiasts traveling Mt. Baldy every week to summit the tallest peak in Los Angeles County, Mt. San Antonio (Elevation 10,068 feet), which is accessible from a trail network originating at the Mt. Baldy Ski Area. For those who prefer a two-wheeled adventure, cyclists from far and wide visit Mt. Baldy to climb the challenging switchbacks, which ascend over 2,000 in only 4.3 miles (9% average gradient). In the winter months Mt. Baldy is known for its steep ski terrain and easy access from the big city below.” See also - 2019 ToC summary of Baldy Stage.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S TOP BIKE CLIMBS
Top Southern California Road Bike Climbs - clockwise from top left to middle:
Glendora Mountain Road, Los Angeles; Mt. Baldy, Los Angeles
That’s a wrap!