Yosemite Valley: El Capitan + Half Dome
View from Washburn Point, Yosemite National Park
Glacier Point climb - California #1 Most Scenic
We began this website in July 2014 and have since then adhered to a rule of objectivity -- rankings have always been based on objective criteria, almost exclusively the Fiets Index. While there can be mild disagreements regarding the proper formula to use for ranking cycling climbs, any dispute focuses on the formula, not our personal opinions. The problem with straying from the formula to create PJAMM’s Most Scenic and Most Epic pages is that we are now dealing my opinion versus the formula. However, after five years of significant world, US, and California travel with the sole purpose of documenting the most difficult, scenic, and epic bike climbs, I have accumulated a body of work that I believe permits me to offer a reasonably well-founded opinion in the subjective fields of scenic climbs and epic cycling experiences. Thus, in ascending order, our Top 10 Most Scenic California Bike Climbs, ranked from #10 to our #1.
#10 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
GEYSERS ROAD, SONOMA COUNTY
Sonoma County’s Wine Country marvel -- Geysers Road.
Offering spectacular views of the Alexander Valley, one of the premier vineyard regions in the world, the Geyser’s Road bike climb in Sonoma County boasts perhaps the best vineyard views of any bike climb in California, or the US. The climb, with a couple of exceptions, has a fairly even, albeit steep, 6-8% grade throughout. The descent of the Geysers is one of the most exciting in the county. During the summer, the temperatures can approach and exceed 100 degrees, so beware of the weather.
Views of the exceptional Alexander Valley AVA for much of the climb.
#9 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
SONORA PASS WEST, TUOLUMNE COUNTY
Our favorite climb.
This is a short but stout climb in a fairly remote area of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. While we think the sign at the beginning of the climb is an exaggeration (26% grade), this climb will test you in a few spots, including 10%+ grades at the very beginning for half a mile. Miles 0.5-3.0 average 10.0%, and there is a three-quarter mile stretch from 6.0-6.75 that averages 12.3%. As can be seen from the YouTube Playlist, the views along this climb of high sierra forest and granite rock faces are spectacular. The climb can be done as an out-and-back two climber by going down the east side of Highway 108, then back up Sonora Pass East.
#8 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
MT. ST. HELENA, NAPA COUNTY
By a long stretch, the Mt. St. Helena climb ranks #1 on the Sonoma-Napa-Lake County Top Bike Climbs List, with a Fiets Index of 7.23 (well beyond its closest competitors: Bald Mountain, Socrates Mine Road, and Geysers Road). The first six miles are paved (three miles on Old Lawley Toll Road and three miles on Highway 29), and averages a respectable 6% which is fairly steady throughout, particularly on Highway 29.
Bottom right photo: Mt. St. Helena as seen from the south (Knight’s Valley).
All other photos: Along the climb to Mt. St. Helena Summit.
360 degree views of Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties, the best views in the North Bay.
#7 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
MT. TAMALPAIS, MARIN COUNTY
The view from Mt. Tam’s West Peak is the best of San Francisco and the SF Bay anywhere.
Cycling Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County from Alpine Dam
View of San Francisco from Mt. Tam’s West Peak
Ride 7.9 miles gaining 2,017’ at 4.4% average grade.
This climb is one of the five primary bike climb routes to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County and may be the most scenic of them all. The climb is mild throughout and the roadway, as with most, if not all, Marin roads, is in great shape. There is no shoulder to speak of, but motor vehicle traffic is light and not a real issue during this climb -- you will likely encounter at least twice the cyclists as motorists in this part of Marin.
#6 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
DANTE'S VIEW, DEATH VALLEY NP
In our opinion, this is the jewel of the five Death Valley Top 100 U.S. Climbs; it is epic and a must climb for any adventurous climbing cyclist. First, we start just across the highway from the "Sea Level" sign at the intersection of Badwater Road and lightly traveled Highway 190 and then begin a 24-mile journey that offers some of the most exceptional views in Death Valley.
Finish - Dante’s View
Zabriskie Point -- mile 3.2 of the climb.
We could not imagine ice when we rode this climb in July. 😅
#5 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
HIGHWAY 198, SEQUOIA NP
The giant sequoia is the world’s most massive tree.
This is an extraordinarily beautiful and special bike climb into Sequoia National Park and a spectacular giant sequoia forest. This ascent offers two extremely unique opportunities along the way: (1) unparalleled views down to more switchbacks than you will see from any vantage point in the US that we are aware of (beating Palomar, Pikes Peak, Onion Valley, and Haleakala), and (2) the largest tree by volume in the world, the General Sherman.
The amazing and must-see General Sherman Tree,
The largest tree by volume in the world.
#4 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
GLENDORA MOUNTAIN ROAD, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
Cycling Glendora Mountain Road --
PJAMM Cycling’s choice for the most scenic cycling climb in Southern California.
Though located only a few miles from Los Angeles, this climb gets rural real quick, allowing it to be included in our list of California’s most scenic road bike climbs. GMR, as it is referred to in Southern California, begins its ascent between Mt. Baldy Road to the East and Highway 39 (Dawson Saddle and Crystal Lake) to the West. This climb shares its last 4.5 miles with the Mt. Baldy climb.
Tour of California Queen Stage (Stage 6) 5-17-19 -- Glendora Ridge Road.
As of 2019, GMR has been included in the Tour of California five times.
Climb finishes at Mt. Baldy Ski Resort.
#3 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
DONNER SUMMIT, NEVADA COUNTY
Cycling Donner Summit (Donner Pass).
Donner Pass Road is bottom center of photo and Donner Lake top center.
The iconic Donner Summit (Rainbow) Bridge - top right/bottom left.
WOW! This is an iconic and gorgeous climb out of Donner Lake near Lake Tahoe, California. We begin in a cool and sweet smelling alpine setting at the western end of Donner Lake by riding up (you’ll know!) Donner Pass Road from its intersection with South Shore Drive.
#2 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
GIBRALTAR ROAD, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Cycling Gibraltar Road -- Santa Barbara’s hardest bike climb.
Ride 9.9 miles gaining 4,633’ to 3,978’ elevation at 7.3% average grade.
Gibraltar Road to La Cumbre Peak is a very challenging climb that begins within the city limits of Santa Barbara, California. Although the ride starts in the beautiful though populous city of Santa Barbara, we quickly climb into rural surroundings which offer exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara to the west (for most of the ride) and the Santa Ynez Mountain Range to the east (in the last couple of miles).
Gibraltar Road -- Santa Barbara and Pacific Ocean in background.
Sunset from La Cumbre Peak, top of the climb.
The locals refer to this as the Alp d’ Huez of Santa Barbara, or just plain “Gib.” Beware that flies are a serious irritant towards the top in hot weather, and the descent is commonly quite cold as we drop down towards Santa Barbara. The climb tops out on La Cumbe Peak which is the highest point in Santa Barbara County. This climb has it all: views of the Pacific Ocean, views of mountains, and an overall challenging climb.
#1 OF 10 CALIFORNIA MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMBS
GLACIER POINT, YOSEMITE NP
Yosemite Valley, El Capitan left center and Half Dome upper center background.
The Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point bike climb has the greatest 1-2 scenic viewpoint punches in the United States - Tunnel View and Glacier Point (and you could throw in Washburn Point, just before Glacier Point as a bonus).
View from Tunnel View at mile 1.5.
PJAMM’s 2017 Cycling Valley to Glacier Point + Hike to Half Dome via Panorama Trail.