Photos clockwise from top left:
Mt. Lemmon; Mt. Graham; South Mountain; Kitt Peak
In our experience, the greatest winter locations to climb mountains by bike in the United States are Arizona and Death Valley, California. Conversely, it is wise to avoid those areas in the summer -- we speak from experience (uhhh . . . stupidity?)
In PJAMM Cycling’s five cycling trips to Arizona, we have climbed all of the top climbs there at least twice (Mt. Lemmon five times, Mt. Graham four times, and Kitt Peak twice). Our top Arizona bike climbs in order of subjective preference are:
MT. LEMMON, TUCSON
MOST POPULAR US BIKE CLIMB
Arizona #2/US #37
Ride 28.8 miles gaining 7,159’ at 4.2% average grade.
In our experience, the most popular bike climb in the US is Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona. Popular because of the fantastic winter (not summer, although it is always cooler 7,000’ up the mountain than at the bottom of the climb) saguaro cactus at the start and amazing hoodoos at the midway point.
This mountain, this climb, is truly an out-of-this-world, unique experience . . .
. . . and is well-worth travelling from afar to experience.
Cycling back down the mountain, just past Windy Point.
Windy Point at mile 14.8 -- Hoodoo Central.
MT. GRAHAM, SAFFORD
ARIZONA #1/US #21 MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB
Ride 20.1 miles gaining 6,092’ at 5.5% average grade.
The Mt. Graham bike climb is a very remote, unsupported climb up into the Pinaleno Mountains in the southeastern corner of Arizona. We have climbed Mt. Graham four times (2010, 2014, 2015, and 2019) and have a special fondness for it.
Great roadway surface for the first four miles.
Well paved but a little rough for miles 4-20.
Two sets of hairpins along the climb, at miles 10 and 14.
Altitude markers every 1,000’ from 4,000 to 9,000’.
Run out of road at the end . . .
KITT PEAK, 40 MILES SOUTHWEST OF TUCSON
ISOLATED CLIMB WITH CLASSIC ARIZONA HIGH DESERT VIEWS
Ride 12 miles gaining 3,624’ at 5.7% average grade.
This is an isolated climb in southern Arizona, about 40 miles southwest of Tucson, not far from the Mexican Border (Sasabe), rising out of the Sonoran Desert. Kitt Peak National Observatory is an astronomical observatory southwest of Tucson in the Quinlan Mountains. There are over 10 observatories on Kitt Peak. The Mayall 4m telescope (largest of all the observatories) is visible from many locations leading up to and on the ride.
First eight miles of the climb on the northwest side of Kitt Peak.
Last four miles after turning the corner at mile 8.5 and riding on the southeast side to the top.
You don’t have to guess at your elevation.
HIGHWAY 89A, SEDONA
GORGEOUS CLIMB THROUGH SEDONA’S
FAMOUS PAINTED DESERT LANDSCAPES
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.
WOW -- what an exceptionally scenic ride! If you are in the Sedona area with a bicycle, this is a must do, at least from the start at the Red Rock Scenic Byway to Sedona where there is a nice bike lane along the way. The 14 miles north of Sedona to Oak Creek Viewpoint is along Highway 89A which has no shoulder and has moderate to heavy traffic. We recommend doing this ride Sunday morning at dawn.
Aerial view south midway between Village of Oak Creek and Sedona.
We travel through a canyon following Oak Creek for many miles and have many extremely scenic Arizona-style red rock formations along the way.
Hairpins just before finish -- Flagstaff 20 miles north.