The 10 Hardest Bike Climbs in North Carolina

#1
Mt. Mitchell
USA, NC
#2
Roan Mountain South
USA, NC
#3
Blue Ridge Parkway to Waterrock Knob from Hwy 19
USA, NC
#4
Fie Top Road
USA, NC
#5
Blue Ridge Parkway - Cherokee Hill
USA, NC
#6
Clingmans Dome
USA, NC
#7
Stoney Fork Road North
USA, NC
#8
Blue Ridge Pkwy to Craggy Gardens
USA, NC
#9
Blue Ridge Parkway - Route 151 to Mount Pisgah
USA, NC

Climb List: North Carolina's Most Difficult Bike Climbs
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling North Carolina's Most Difficult Bike Climbs

North Carolina Top Bike Climbs - photo collage, signs for Blue Ridge Parkway, highest elevation in North Carolina, elevation signs

Cycling the Top Bike Climbs in North Carolina

North Carolina is an exceptional state for bike climbs.  First and foremost is the amazing Mount Mitchell, the state’s highest and hardest bike climb.  We also have two extremely scenic national byways, the incomparable Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Parkway from the North Carolina side.

HIGHEST AND HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN NORTH CAROLINA

MOUNT MITCHELL

Climbing Mt. Mitchell by bike - photo collage, Mt. Mitchell elevation sign with bicycle leaning against it, Blue Ridge Mountains, sign for Mt. Mitchell State Park, cyclist riding on road, lush green forest,  Blue Ridge Parkway US Forestry Service sign, sign for Highway 128, NC Scenic Byway, misty road with pine trees, cyclist riding next to Scenic Byway End sign

Cycling Mt. Mitchell -- a bike climb in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Ride 24 miles to elevation 6,684’, gaining 6,409’ at 4% average grade.

Mt. Mitchell is both extremely scenic (it is a Top 10 US Scenic Bike Climb) and very difficult.  While the average grade is 4%, this is misleading due to two brief and one significant (2.1 miles at 5%) descents along the 24 mile climb.  The overall average for the climb, excluding descents, is 5.7%.  While 5.7% is a good climb for 20+ miles, this climb is much harder than the 5.7% average implies -- there are several one-half to one mile segments that average over 8% -- the steepest quarter-mile is 11.2%, and steepest mile is 8.1%.

Cycling Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina - informational sign at Stepp's Gap, sign for Park Office and Information

Park office at mile 22.8.

Climbing Mt. Mitchell by bike - View Mt. Mitchell Sign

Mile 14.3 / 4,825’.

Cycling Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina - highest point of Mount Mitchell, Observation Tower

Observation platform and the Mount Mitchell highest point, a 300’ hike up from bike climb finish.

#2 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC

ROAN MOUNTAIN SOUTH

Cycling Roan Mountain South, North Carolina - toll booth at entrance

Roan Mountain South

Ride 8.3 miles gaining 3,000’ at 6.9% average grade.

#3 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY TO WATERROCK KNOB

Cycling Waterrock Knob, North Carolina - trail sign for Waterrock Knob Trail

Cycling Waterrock Knob via Route 19

Ride 12.4 miles gaining 3,607’ at 5.5% average grade.

The last five miles of this climb are on the amazing Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic roadways in the United States.  By BRP standards, this is a moderately difficult climb with an average of 5.5% and several segments briefly reaching double digits.  The steepest quarter-mile is 8.7%, and the steepest half-mile is 8.2%.

Cycling Waterrock Knob, North Carolina - photo collage, hillsides covered in dense fall foliage, hiking signs for Waterrock Knob trails and visitor center, panoramic views looking down mountainside.

John Summerson writes of this climb:

“Route 19 is a narrow road that carries some traffic.  At mile 7.6 turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and continue along one of the most scenic sections of climbing on earth.  At the top of the ridge make a left turn for the short finishing climb to Waterrock Knob.  There is a visitors center with parking on top with restrooms.”  (This quote provided with approval of John Summerson from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in the Southeast, pg. 98.)

Cycling Waterrock Knob, North Carolina - Waterrock Knob Visitor's Center

Highest visitor center of 15 on the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway.

#4 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC

FIE TOP ROAD

Cycling Fie Top Road, North Carolina - two-lane road surrounded by yellow and green foliage, road sign reads 15% grade

Cycling Fie Top Road, North Carolina

Ride 2.9 miles gaining 1,730’ at 11.6% average grade.

Cycling Fie Top Road, North Carolina - views along the climb

This climb is a monster -- no doubt about it.  The best way to get onto a state Top 10 list (here #4) when you’re under four miles is to be very STEEEEEEP!

Cycling Fie Top Road, North Carolina - old military truck on roadside

#5 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY - CHEROKEE HILL

Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee Hill, North Carolina - bike parked under bright fall foliage on roadside

Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway - Cherokee Hill, North Carolina.

Ride 10.3 miles gaining 3,133’ at 5.5% average grade.

This climb starts at the beginning of the incomparable Blue Ridge Parkway.  The BRP is America’s longest linear park and runs 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia.  A trademark of the BRP is its 200+ beautiful overlooks, more than any other roadway in the US.

Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee Hill, North Carolina - photo collage, Blue Ridge Parkway

This climb is also the southern start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

CHEROHALA PARKWAY FROM NORTH CAROLINA

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina - panoramic views of sharp mountain ranges

Cycling Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway from the North Carolina side.

Ride 17.9 miles gaining 3,411’ at 2% average grade (many rollers and descents).

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina - bright yellow road signs warning of high elevation and sharp, steep turns, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Warnings on the way to and at the start of the climb.

Although not one of the most difficult North Carolina bike climbs, this is one ot the best and most scenic.  This is a magnificent ride, particularly from the North Carolina side.  On this ride, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, we have many great viewpoints offering excellent sights of the surrounding Unicoi Mountains which are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina - view along the two-lane highway roadway, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner