There are many opportunities for world class cycling and bike climbing in California in Northern California and Southern California. We have top bicycling climbs like Death Valley, Owens Valley, San Francisco North Bay , Onion Valley Rd, Horseshoe Meadows Rd, Whitney Portal, White Mountain, Mt. Baldy, Palomar Mountain South Grade, Gibraltar Road, Mt. Diablo - Northgate, Mt. Shasta and more.
#1 Ranked Bike Climb in California, #6 US, #57 World
Disclaimer: We’re from California and while we have cycled extensively throughout most parts of the world, we absolutely love and respect California as an exceptional cycling region. We’re not saying it’s The Best, just that it’s pretty darn good!
The only Elite World Ranked stage race in the United States is the Tour of California, which has been held each year since 2006 (Santa Rosa California’s Levi Leipheimer is the only multiple winner of the ToC, having won it three consecutive years from 2007-2009). Other notable winners of the Tour of California are former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (TdF 2012, ToC 2014) and Peter Sagan (2015; 6x winner TdF points classification - Green Jersey; World Champion 3x).
Peter Sagan (SVK; Tinkoff-Saxo) 2015 Tour of California Champion
Julian Alaphilippe (FRA; Etixx-QuickStep) #2
Sergio Henao (COL; Team Sky) #3
In 2017 California was ranked third by the League of American Bicyclists on it list of the Most Bicycle Friendly States behind Washington and Minnesota and has, at least in the only study we could locate on the topic, the highest number of competitive cyclists of any state: “32% are 35-44 years old and are from California (17%)” (USA Cycling, 2009).
California has so many bike climbing options to choose from if you’re willing to drive a bit to get to these world class and exceptionally scenic climbing areas. We toyed with trying to subjectively rank our favorite areas, but gave up and are just going with “try to do them all, you won’t regret it.”
So, without further ado, our favorite California cycling climb areas from south to north are:
While we are from Northern California, we love cycling Southern California. The link above will take you to our Southern California Climb Page, but here is our opinion on the Top 5 SoCal Bike Climbs:
Not one of our Top 5, but one we just lucked into on our March 2019 Southern California bike trip is Hilltop Drive, Lake Elsinore -- the location of 2019’s Poppy Apocalypse:
The beauty of Death Valley is that it gives us a place to cycle during the off season -- including winter (the average rainfall for December is 2/10ths of an inch). Our favorite climbs in Death Valley are:
Owens Valley, with a base elevation of 4,500' and surrounded by multiple 14,000' peaks, is one of the deepest valleys in the U.S. The Owens Valley is a mecca for road bike climbing and boasts the greatest concentration of Top 100 Climbs in any area of the country. Owens Valley is a graben “down dropped” block of land between two vertical faults, which creates the unparalleled extended steep grades along its eastern border with the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Our favorite climbs in Owens Valley (which we have done in one day twice) are:
Tayler Hocket on his way from Badwater (116℉ at start) to Mt Whitney Summit (top center of photo).
SEQUOIA/KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS AND FOREST
There are three extraordinary bike climbs in this area:
NORTHERN SIERRA MOUNTAINS
Our favorite bike climbs in the Northern Sierras are:
PJAMM Glacier Point to top of Half Dome bike-hike June 2018.
Pan Toll Road on the way to Mt. Tam West Peak.