Grand Mesa North Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

21.4 mi
5,779 ft
5.1 %



"The north side of Grand Mesa in the western part of the state is a long and scenic ascent and is one of the most difficult in Colorado. It also carries the 3rd greatest elevation gain in the state. It is close to Interstate 70 so pretty convenient and worth a visit if you are in the area. Typically there is little traffic on this hill and you can enjoy the ride and scenery. There is a bit of steeper climbing at the beginning of the ascent and that ends quickly as you head through the small town of Mesa along Route 65 on a straight stretch of road. The grade eases somewhat after leaving town and the mesa looms in front of you..." (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in Colorado, pg. 124.)
This climb is divided in two for gradient sake - the first 13.6 miles average 6.2%, while the final 7.8 average 3.1%.  Average grade is 5.1% (5.6% with descent removed).   40% of the climb is at 0-5% grade and 45% is at 5-10%.  The steepest quarter-mile is 10.1% and steepest mile 8%.

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

Traffic:  Mild.  We are on Highway 65 the entire route and traffic can pass by in the 50 mph range, but there is a shoulder for the cyclist, and the climb felt safe the three times we have done it. 

Parking:  We always park at the start of the climb at the intersection of Highway 65 and 45 1/2 Road (true name) - Map; Street View
Gear and Weather:  We climb to nearly 11,000' on this climb so the weather at the top may be quite different than at the start.  Consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride.

Provisions:  Other than in Mesa at mile 1.8 there are no places along this climb to get food or water. 
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.
You may also consider doing both Grand Mesa North and Grand Mesa South as an out-and-back (81 miles, 10,450';  Map).  You are also within easy driving distance to Colorado National Monument (40 miles) and East Portal (roughly 90 miles).  

Cedaredge is a good choice to stay (vacation rentals) if you are riding Grand Mesa North and/or South.  



Difficulty: Challenging



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Sep 2, 2023
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 3
traffic: 4
road: 4
Sep 2, 2023
scenery: 3
traffic: 4
road: 4
August 17, 2023 I parked at the community center in Mesa, across from the wagon wheel restaurant. Didn't like the high-speed traffic with no shoulder up to the town of Mesa. Lighter traffic from mesa up to the summit. This is a long climb but not a steep climb. Typically hot/warm at the start then much cooler at the summit 10,839ft so best to bring wind/rain jacket and gloves for the decent. Restrooms at the summit parking area but no water. The first ½ of the climb from Mesa up to about the ski area is on a very good road. The road from the ski area to the summit has separation cracks, bad repairs, sunken pavement. Not an issue when climbing, but take care on the decent. Once past the ski area, you can go enjoy a full speed decent back to Mesa.
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Cycling Grand Mesa North - daisy flower, horses, gray skies Cycling Grand Mesa North, a top US bike climb in the Rocky Mountains.

Ride 21.4 miles gaining 6,110’ to 10,830’ at 5% average grade.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

The Grand Mesa North bike climb is a remote one -- it is the furthest west of the nine Top 100 U.S. climbs in Colorado, and is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Its claim to fame is that Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. The pass can be reached from both the north and south, the north being the most scenic approach.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, NPS service sign for Grand Mesa National Forest, road sign for 45 1/2 Road, view of straight two-lane road headed toward mountains, road sign for Moose Crossing, views of forested lands

Both the Grand Mesa North and South bicycle rides are in Grand Mesa National Forest (346,555 acres, established 1892).

As can be seen from our video of the climb, the first seven miles are spectacular, thanks to the distant mesas in view for much of the first two-thirds of the climb, although the surrounding scenery is fairly modest with plenty of pasture surrounding us during the initial climb.

Location:  The Grand Mesa North bike climb begins on one side of the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway at the intersection of Highway 65 and 45 1/2 Road (yes, that is its name, see photo below!), 30 miles east of Grand Junction, and 257 miles west of Denver International Airport. This one is out there!

Cycling Grand Mesa North - cyclist riding on roadway near road sign for 45 1/2 Road

Start of climb.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked next to road sign for Mesa and Cedaredge, bike parked next to Scenic Byway road sign, bikes parked against PJAMM Cycling white SAG van, view of van on roadside from above, back of Van with the doors open looking in

On our three times climbing Grand Mesa North we have parked at the intersection of Highway 65 and 45 ½ Road.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, town of Mesa

Ride through the interesting small town of Mesa at mile two.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked at various points along first 4 miles of climb - against sign for Moose Crossing against a rustic fence near a pasture, against a rusted metal gate, and against a pole on the side of the road

First four miles of the climb.

   Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, distant view of white mountain (Chalk Mountain) from above, bike with PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over it parked in grass overlooking Chalk Mountain

Chalk Mountain (photo center) to the west as we climb.

We have some extremely scenic, interesting, and entertaining views after passing briefly through Mesa and beginning our ascent in earnest.

Bike climb of Grand Mesa North - horse trailer in field with sign

Entertaining . . .

(Trailer reads: “Caution: The floor of this trailer is covered with political promises”).


   Bicycling Grand Mesa North - Moose Crossing sign

. . . interesting . . .

Cycling Grand Mesa North - PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, agricultural land

. . . agricultural . . . and . . .

    Biking Grand Mesa North - mountains and roadway

. . . Scenic . . .

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, informational signs regarding USDA Forest Service, NPS sign for Grand Mesa National Forest

. . . in the Grand Mesa National Forest (est. 1892; 346,555 acres).

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked overlooking pond near climb's finish, NPS sign for visitor's center and Lands End, stretch of long, flat, straight roadway

The last 2.5 miles are nearly flat at 1.5%.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - climb finish at Elevation sign for 10,839 feet, cyclist John Johnson standing next to elevation sign with bike, waving, PJAMM Cycling's white SAG van parked next to sign

Finish at the elevation sign.

Roadway Surface and Traffic Report:  For both the northern and southern approaches to the pass, the roadway is very good and while there is moderate and briskly moving traffic along the first third of the route, the traffic thins as you ascend and was never really a concern for us.

At the top of the climb, you can take a dirt road to the right to the Land’s End Observatory: 

“Land's End Observatory is a ranger observatory on the rim of Grand Mesa in Colorado. It is accessible from the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway via Land's End Road, which is about half paved and half gravel. . . . The observatory was built by the United States Forest Service and the Works Progress Administration in 1936-37, with some assistance from two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) side camps. A large viewing area outside the building provides a panoramic view of western Colorado and eastern Utah. As of 2014, the observatory building itself is closed and boarded up. . . .”

That’s a wrap!!