Lee Canyon  Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

17.3 mi
5,371 ft
5.9 %


Page Contributor(s): Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A


"One of the most difficult hill climbs in the United States and perhaps the most difficult in the state of Nevada, Lee Canyon (Route 156) pulls away from Highway 95 within a wide, desert valley on a very straight and steady grade road toward massive Mount Charleston. Wide open, the straight routing makes for efficient travel but unfortunately also lets you see much of the agony to come (and can be quite hot in the warmer half of the year).
The hill has a shallow to moderate start but soon becomes very steady grade as you head higher, passing through mesquite and cactus patches along the way. As you ride west the grade remains fairly steady and you will also pass major altitude signs at intervals..." (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 196.)
The average grade on this climb is 5.9%.  25% (4.3 miles) is at 0-5% and 74% (12.8 miles) is at 5-10%. The steepest quarter-mile is 8.4% and steepest continuous mile 7.3%.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Excellent.

Traffic:  Mild but travelling at highway speeds of 55-60 mph.  The climb is to a dead end so there are not a lot of commercial trucks on the road.

Parking:  At climb start - MapStreet View.  
Provisions: None on the route.

Weather: This climb is in the Mojave Desert and the average high for June-August is 99-104. Additionally, you finish the climb nearly 5,000' above your starting altitude. Therefore, be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at climb start and finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride.
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.
Also consider climbing Kyle Canyon as part of your cycling day.  You can cut across to Kyle Canyon, Highway 157 via Highway 158, at the 14 mile mark of this climb (or 3.3 miles back down from the finish). 

We stayed in Las Vegas when we did these climbs and drove the 18 miles from Vegas to this climb for our long riding day.  



Difficulty: Challenging



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Apr 27, 2022
I've done Mt. Evans, but Lee Canyon felt more difficult due to the monotony. No shade, no flats, no turns, and the desert looks the same for much of the ride. Just straight and straight up. It's as much of a mental challenge as physical. The sun was brutal even in April; wear long sleeves, bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Easy parking at the base.
Oct 23, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 5
Oct 23, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 5
Great and easily accessible climb. I parked right at the bottom of the canyon across the road in a gravel lot. In mid October, traffic was light, but temperatures at the peak were very cold. Gorgeous dessert views for 80% of the climb, while the last 20% were far more alpine and woodsy.
May 11, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 3
May 11, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 3
A big climb, likely the most difficult in NV but the steady grade can help (no grade surprises on this one). There is now a traffic circle near the top and the road dead ends within high mountain scenery. You may want to avoid in summer and the descent is quite amazing.

Climb Profile Not Found

Cycling Lee Canyon-Hwy 156 is a Top 25 US Bike Climb

#24 in the US at 17.3 miles, 5,380’ gained to elevation 8,681 at 5.9%.

Nevada’s most difficult bike climb.

This bike climb begins in a fairly desolate and desert-like setting about 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Beginning of Lee Canyon Bike Climb - Hwy 156 long, flat and straight

This climb can be extremely hot and probably should be avoided between June and August when the average high temperature ranges from 99 to 104.   The first 11 miles are through high desert landscape with many Joshua Trees, which turns gradually to pine and fir forest beginning around Mile 12.  

Bicycle ride up Lee Canyon - Joshua Trees

Many Joshua trees along the first segment of the bike climb.

Climbing Lee Canyon Bike Climb (Hwy 156) by bike - view of desert and plains below - hwy 95

Desert gives way to alpine surroundings as we cycle up Hwy 156.

By the time we top 8,000', we are in a completely different climate zone made up of pine forest and scenic mountain formations.  The climb ended at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort in 2015 when we rode to the top, but Google Street Views as of December 2018 suggest the climb now continues another quarter mile up the mountain.

Bike up Lee Canyon Bike Climb - end at Upper Bristlecone Trail Head


Thank you Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, NV, USA

​The climb is fairly steady, between 4-7%, and with very few higher extended grades throughout.

The Lee Canyon bike climb can be done in conjunction with 3 other climbs in the immediate area (the Hwy 156-158 #34 cycling route shares its first 14 miles with the Lee Canyon climb; #49 Hwy 157-158 and ​ #70 Kyle Canyon/Hwy 157). Be careful if doing this ride without support as the only provisions are likely to be at the Mt Charleston Resort at the end of Hwy 157. Support is highly recommended for any effort involving Lee and​ Kyle Canyons in the same ride.

Roadway Surface and Traffic: This climb is primarily along a Nevada state highway (Hwy 156) which does not have a shoulder or bike lane to speak of, yet traffic is minimal, making the ride much less nerve-wracking than riding on the busier state highways.  

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