South Lake Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

South Lake


Last 6 miles are a peaceful climb to a beautiful Sierra Mountains lake.

Page Contributor(s): Ron Hawks, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

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Climb Summary

cycling South Lake - cyclists on road surrounded by trees and mountain 

Cycling South Lake, Owens Valley

#26 Top US Bike Climb

19 miles, 5,625’ gained to elevation 9,840’ at 5.4% average grade

The South Lake bike climb is one of the Top 100 most difficult climbs in the U.S. that begin in the Owens Valley (PJAMM Owens Valley Climb Area Page)  on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the central/eastern portion of California.  Other Top 100s in the area:  #6 Onion Valley, #7 Horseshoe Meadow, #9 White Mountain, #13 Whitney Portal, #28 Rock Creek, #29 Lake Sabrina, and # 65 Pine Creek.  

The first 11.7 miles of the climb are along Highway 168, which is a bit disconcerting at times with cars whizzing by at highway speeds.  The 11.7 miles to the turnoff to South Lake is a 5.6% grade with an elevation gain of 3,500'.  

Climbing South Lake by bike - start - cyclist on road

Start of climb - just west of Bishop and Hwy 395.

    Cycling South Lake - Hwy 168 - road sign

Ride is along Hwy 168 for the first 11.7 miles.

Cycling South Lake - Hwy 168 - road sign

The final 7.2 miles along South Lake Road up to South Lake itself are quiet, wooded and scenic, with minimal traffic.  

Bicycle ride up South Lake - cyclists on road 

Bicycle ride up South Lake - cyclists on road

  Bicycling South Lake - lake and mountains

South Lake - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in background.

The climb along the 7.2 miles of South Lake Road are at 5.5% average grade gaining 2,000', although there are some healthy pitches along the way, including the last .7 miles at 8.7%.   This climb shares the first 11.7 miles with the Lake Sabrina climb which continues past the South Lake turn off another 3 miles on Hwy 168 to its summit.


Steepest ½ mile is at the very end of the climb - 9.4%

Traffic and Roadway report:  The roadway surface is excellent and there is a good bike lane most of the way along Hwy 168. Traffic, as can be seen in the YouTube video, travels by very fast along the 11.7 miles of highway and this is not a stretch of road for the faint of heart.  The last 7.2 miles are much calmer and very scenic.