This page contains what we believe are many of the most epic bike climbs in the United States. We have listed our Top 10 US Most Epic Bike Climbs in our summary at the bottom of this page. Note that this is our subjective ranking and is not based on objective data or formula, just our experience and personal opinion.
What makes a bike climb “epic”? Since this is a very subjective issue, we will give you our thoughts on the topic, but by no means do we consider this an end-all or exhaustive list. While we can surely debate what are truly the most “epic” US bike climbs, we feel confident that all of the climbs included in our Top 10 list belong there.
We also welcome your thoughts on this category via our Contact Us page.
#10 OF 10 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
NATE HARRISON GRADE, CALIFORNIA
Spectacular backdrops to this ride: Pauma Valley in background with Pacific Ocean beyond.
We have climbed Nate Harrison Grade twice and thoroughly enjoyed each of our ascents. The climb is challenging, remote (we only saw one car total in our two trips), and has spectacular views of San Diego’s Pauma Valley for much of the ascent.
Pavement ends at mile 1.1 but picks up again at mile 8.
The first mile is paved, but the majority of the climb is on a dirt fire trail with very steep grades. There is intermittent pavement along the seven mile stretch from miles one through eight, but we would estimate 90% of the climb is gravel and rock, with miles five through eight being particularly challenging, with a couple of stretches that are barely manageable on a road bike. We used compact chainring with 30t cassette and 28mm tires on a Specialized Roubaix. This is a must-do for anyone in the area that loves an adventurous climb.
Hairpins up gravel road (manageable, but challenging, on road bike) to the top.
#9 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB
TIOGA PASS, YOSEMITE NP, CALIFORNIA
This fantastic bike climb ends at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Cycling Tioga Pass -- One of the greatest bike climbs in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range
Ride 12 miles to 9,948’ gaining 3,272’ at 4.9% average grade.
Tioga is named for an Iroquois and Mohawk term meaning "where it forks". The most spectacular part of Tioga Pass is the sheer drop off that is dramatically obvious when you look back at the viewpoint at mile 8.3.
Tioga Lake -- one mile from the park entrance and climb’s finish.
#8 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB
HALEAKALA, MAUI, HAWAII
Boasting amazing hairpins, a 36 mile descent, and 10,000’ above the sea -- Haleakala is one of a kind.
Maui is a wonderful cycling destination, what with Haleakala, Road to Hana and Waipoli Road. Haleakala is an epic and challenging volcanic climb that takes us into a National Park on one of the most beautiful Hawaiian Islands. The 35 mile climb from Paia to the Haleakala Lookout and the Visitor Center (located half a mile below the lookout) shares its first eight miles with another US Top 100 Climb (Baldwin Avenue/Olinda Road). We have climbed Haleakala five times and it never gets old; this is a must-do bike climb for adventurous cyclists travelling to, or living on, Maui. We would even say that it is worth the trip to Hawaii just to climb this magnificent mountain.
Start the climb at sea level.
Last 20 miles are on Highway 378 (Haleakala Highway).
Markers on the roadway from 4,500’ to 6,500’
Only 4,000’ more to go. 👍😅
#7 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
MOUNT EVANS, COLORADO
You cannot cycle any higher than this in North America.
Echo (mirror?) Lake at mile 2. Mt. Evans Summit center photo.
There are not many rides you will do where you can say "This is the highest . . .", but this is one of them. Mt Evans, Colorado -- the highest paved road (therefore the highest paved climb by bike) in North America! For all that strive to climb the hardest, the longest, the steepest, the highest, this is a must-do!
250’ from the Mt. Evans finish.
#6 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
BEAR CAMP WEST, OREGON
Cycling Bear Camp West is a Top 100 U.S. Bike Climb and that ranking is well deserved. The ascent is brutal and the descent one of the most difficult, and even treacherous, we have ever encountered in the US. We initially ascended from the east for the 20 miles to Bear Camp Overlook, then began the 16 mile descent to the Rogue River and beginning of the western ascent. The “roadway” has, by our rough estimate, six short gravel sections and several extremely slick mossy patches that can prove quite perilous to the unwary, particularly in damp and/or rainy conditions. The roadway is single lane, very narrow and windy.
They don’t leave much doubt about the remote and risky nature of these climbs!
This climb is the epitome of REMOTE -- but, heck, that is why this one is ranked in our #10 Top US Epic Climbs, after all . . .
Top of the climb.
#5 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
MAUNA KEA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
If you have spent any time on our site, you know that Mauna Kea is A SPECIAL PLACE! It is the World #1 Most Difficult Road Bike Climb, by far. Mauna Kea almost defines the term epic. However, sheesh, we cannot constantly give our all-time favorite bike climb top billing in every category . . .
Warning Signs: they don’t give you much incentive to continue past the Visitor Center.
Notwithstanding our Mauna Kea bias and hesitancy to give it top billing nearly everywhere, there is no doubt it is an epic bike climb -- by anyone’s criteria and by any fair standard.
Mauna Kea -- THE hardest bike climb in the world.
There can be snow in them thar hills . . .
Mauna Kea summit, December 20, 2013.
PJAMM + MK, throughout the years:
#4 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
MT. WASHINGTON AUTO ROAD, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Start of the annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb.
Mt. Washington, according to “The Climbing Bible,” John Summerson’s The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), is “the most difficult hill climb race in the U.S. and perhaps the world,” and “the annual hill climb race up its slopes is perhaps the most brutal on earth” (Summerson 249, 62).
We have travelled the world and researched, ranked and documented the top bike climbs. We can attest to the validity of Summerson’s claims. Mt. Washington is one of the hardest climbs you will ever encounter and it is, in our opinion, the most difficult bike climb road race that we are aware of anywhere in the US.
#3 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB
WHITAKER FOREST, CALIFORNIA
Cycling Whitaker Forest, one of the most difficult road bike climbs in California.
23 miles, gain 7,240’ to elevation 7,586’ at 5.2% average grade.
Whitaker Forest is much more than just a challenging climb -- it is an exceptional experience. Whitaker Forest is ranked #22 in the U.S. so there can be no disagreement to its claim as a very tough ascent. In addition to tackling another very hard climb, with this one, you get some experiences that range from unique, to exceptional to one-of-a-kind.
We are surrounded by giant sequoias for much of the ride.
#2 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB
MAUNA LOA, HAWAII
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to ride a bike on Mars?
We have ridden this magnificent climb twice from Hilo (the southern and steeper route), and twice from Waikoloa (northern and longer route). Mauna Loa is one of the great bike climbs in the United States and the world. How often can you say you have ridden the “#1” of anything in the world? At just over 62 miles, Mauna Loa is the longest bike climb in the world and it will just flat out wear you down, but it is well worth the effort you’ll put into it. The bonus round after knocking off the longest climb in the world, is the hardest climb in the world -- Mauna Kea. These two volcanoes are just across the road from each other and each are clearly visible from the flanks of the other.
This climb is remote and at times downright spooky.
Photo taken from upper Mauna Loa Observatory Road.
Mauna Kea in the background.
#1 OF 10 US MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS
PIKES PEAK, COLORADO
Cycling Pikes Peak
Ride 24 miles gaining 8,037’ to elevation 14,115’ at 6.1% average grade.
We have ridden Pikes Peak three times and consider it one of the most epic climbs in the world. If we use the traditional and common definition of “epic” to equate to “legendary” or “monumental”, you would be hard pressed to ignore Pikes Peak. The climb is extremely challenging (#4 US/#22 World), scenic, and unique in that it is the second (a mere 15’ behind Mt. Evans) highest paved road in North America. The hairpins at 12,500’ are extraordinary and give us unobstructed views to the Colorado plains over a mile below.
This is one where you definitely high five each other just past that sign!
That’s a wrap: the 10 US Most Epic Bike Climbs, in our opinion. We welcome your thoughts and further contributions to this page.