The Bay Area is a fantastic destination for climbing by bike.
We have documented all of the top climbs in California’s Bay Area. Those climbs are found in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. Below are brief summaries of each, along with links to our climb pages for the Top 10 San Francisco Bay Area Bike Climbs.
OUR FAVORITE FIVE
Photos clockwise from top left
Mt. Tamalpais (Marin County); Mt. Hamilton (Santa Clara Co);
Mt. St. Helena (Napa Co); Mt. Umunhum (Santa Clara Co); Mt. Diablo (Contra Costa Co).
While the Top 10 Bay Area Climbs List below is objective (based on the Fiets Index), our Fave Five (collage above) are purely subjective, but based on a lot of bike climbing in the Bay Area. 👍🚴⛰👍 If you live in or spend much time in the Bay Area, be sure to ride the five climbs shown above at least once -- you won’t be sorry.
THE TOP BIKE CLIMB IN THE BAY AREA
MT. UMUNHUM NORTH
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
Cycling Hicks Road-Mount Umunhum from the north (the southern tip of Guadalupe Reservoir)
Ride 5.1 miles gaining 2,673’ at 10% average grade.
This is the most difficult bike climb in the the Bay Area, and one of the most popular as well. Although the climb officially ends short of The Cube, be sure to continue another 1½ miles from the finish to the Mt. Umunhum Cube, a five story Cold War era radio building built in the early 1960’s that is now out of commission.
That’s the profile of a very difficult road bike climb.
How does Umunhum rank in Santa Clara County, California, the United States, and the world, compared to the other top bike climbs?
- Santa Clara County/Bay Area: #1
- Northern California #5
- California: #41
- USA: #82
- Santa Clara/Bay Area: #1
- California: #1
- USA: #8
- World: #79
BAY AREA #2 TOP BIKE CLIMB
MT. UMUNHUM SOUTH
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
Hicks Road South up Mt. Umunhum is the second most difficult bike climb in Santa Clara County, behind only Mt. Umunhum North. Hicks-Umunhum South begins at the western end of Almaden Reservoir. At 3,486 feet, Mt. Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountain Range, and is part of the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The summit of Mt. Umunhum has been newly restored and revived by the Midpeninsula Open Space District (MOSD), and has been recently reopened for public access. From the peak beautiful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada mountain range can be enjoyed.
BAY AREA #3
MT. ST. HELENA
This is a very challenging bike climb at 11.5 miles gaining 3,815’ at 6% average grade.
Out of all the bike climbs in the Bay Area and Northern California, Mt. St. Helena and Mt. Diablo offer the only true 360° views of the valleys below. Although the last half of this climb is on dirt and gravel (Roubaix or gravel bike with 30-32mm knobby tire in the back is recommended) do not let that deter you. In our opinion, the best views from the top of a bike climb in the Bay Area are: (1) Mt. Tamalpais, (2) Mt. St. Helena, (3) Mt. Diablo and (4) Bald Mountain.
Ride from the heart of wine country to 4,000’ with unobstructed views of Napa, Lake, and Sonoma Counties.
BAY AREA #4
An absolute beast!
Ride 4 miles gaining 2,190’ at 10.5% average grade.
The Mix Canyon climb is along a narrow two-lane (or wide one-lane?) road in a remote area of Solano County near Vacaville. Mix Canyon is the steepest 2.5 mile bike climbing segment in California and #7 in the US. On this climb, the grade increases with each mile – the first mile is 5.8%, mile two is 8.8%, mile three is 12.8%, and finally, the coup de grace: a whopping 13.4% for mile four.
BAY AREA #5
MT. DIABLO - NORTHGATE
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Ride 12.4 miles gaining 3,680’ at 5.5% average grade.
Mt. Diablo is upper center as seen from Mt. Tamalpais’s West Peak.
The ride to the Beacon and Visitor Center atop Mt. Diablo in the east bay is the most popular bike climb in the Bay Area. The summit of Mt. Diablo offers the best full 360° views of anywhere in the Bay Area. The North Gate route to the summit is a bit more difficult to Summit Road than South Gate (7.9 versus 6.1 miles, and 5.4% versus 4.5%) and a bit more exposed with less shade. As for popularity, South Gate to Junction had 71,790 Strava attempts as of September 1 2015 versus only 36,589 for the equivalent segment from the north.
BAY AREA #6
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
Ride through the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains on this demanding climb.
Ride only 3.8 miles but gain 2,040’ at 10.3% average grade.
Located in the forested area of Ben Lomand, this climb is a distance from the hustle and bustle of the Silicon Valley. Even with its rural location, this is a very popular climb. Be sure to stop and check out Alba Schoolhouse about two miles up from the start.
BAY AREA #7
SODA SPRINGS ROAD
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
The third toughest climb in Santa Clara County.
Ride 5.4 miles gaining 2,415’ at 8.5% average grade.
This climb ends dead ends at a locked gate, but there are three other great climbs within a couple of miles of the start that offer ample climbing in this area. The climb begins at the southeastern end of Lexington Reservoir and is a very peaceful bike ride with little to no vehicular traffic.
BAY AREA #8
Sonoma County’s top bike climb.
Ride 4.1 miles gaining 2,050’ at 9.5% average grade.
This is the hardest bike climb near our hometown of Santa Rosa. We absolutely love Bald Mountain. While it takes a gravel bike to get to the top (we have done it on 28mm’s but recommend a Rouibaix with 32mm knobbies), the unobstructed views of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys at the top are unparalleled in Wine Country.
BAY AREA #9
WELCH CREEK ROAD
Such a fun ride!
Cycle 3.8 miles gaining 1,980’ at 9.9% average grade.
This is a fairly remote East Bay climb that travels through the Sunol Regional Wilderness Area. The first 2½ miles through the dark narrow canyon on a one-lane road is so much fun -- we really love this climb.
BAY AREA #10
MOUNT DIABLO - SOUTHGATE
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Mount Diablo from the south rounds out our Top 10 Bay Area bike climbs
Ride 10.5 miles gaining 3,200’ at 5.7% average grade.
The last 4.4 miles at 7.1% of Mount Diablo from the south overlap the climb from the north. Both routes end at the summit and a historic beacon tower and museum-like visitor center at this bicycle climb’s finish. According to an article about Mount Diablo’s history and use as an “initial point,” this mountain is “the starting point for the establishment of land boundaries throughout most of Northern California and all of Nevada. The summit is the location of the "Initial Point," the north/south meridian, and east/west baseline intersection point that is the basis for most Northern California and Nevada property boundaries” (read full article here).
Visitor Center, Beacon and Observation Platform at the top.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
CLIMB MOST OFTEN FEATURED IN THE TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Summit Mt. Hamilton, Lick Observatory at sunset.
Mt. Hamilton is the most featured mountain climb in the history of the Tour of California, having been featured six times between 2006-2019. Mt. Hamilton has never been a mountain-top finish in the ToC.
10 STEEPEST BIKE CLIMBS IN SAN FRANCISCO
Broderick Street #2 Steepest
We have ridden and documented the 10 steepest cycling climbs in San Francisco, plus Lombard Street (just because!). Below is a table showing these climbs:
MOST FAMOUS AND COOLEST
“THE CROOKEDEST STREET IN THE WORLD”
Just before the turn onto Lombard.
CYCLING THE BAY AREA’S GREATEST CITY
WE LOVE CYCLING SAN FRANCISCO!!!
That’s a wrap!