Photos clockwise from top left:
Mt. Lemmon; Mt. Graham; Mingus Mountain; Kitt Peak
Arizona is home to the most popular bike climb in the world - Mt. Lemmon. It is also one of the few locations in the US where you can climb by bike year round - although cycling Arizona after 10 a.m. in the summer is not recommended (average highs in Tucson in June and July 100 degrees).
In PJAMM Cycling’s five cycling trips to Arizona, we have climbed all of the top Arizona climbs at least twice (Mt. Lemmon five times, Mt. Graham four times, and Kitt Peak twice). Arizona’s hardest 5 bike climbs, in reverse order, are:
ARIZONA’S 5TH MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB
HUALAPAI MOUNTAIN ROAD, KINGMAN
Ride 11.1 miles gaining 3,028’ at 5.1% average grade.
This is the least glamorous of Arizona’s top 5. We did this climb on our cycling trip that started in Owens Valley and included Death Valley, Kyle/Lee Canyons (Las Vegas) and ended at Spring Training in Scottsdale. This is a little known and little ridden climb in Northwestern Arizona within about 50 miles from the Nevada border.
#4 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN ARIZONA
HWY 89A TO MINGUS MOUNTAIN, CLARKDALE
Ride 12.2 miles gaining 3,465’ at 5.1% average grade.
This is a beautiful climb on the way to Preston. At about the half-way point we ride through the restored copper mining town of Jerome. The views of the Arizona plains behind us as we climb and the plateaus beyond (Sedona) are spectacular. This is a little known but amazing bike climb that should be considered by anyone visiting central Arizona and the Sedona area.
Be sure to cycle Sedona if you are in the area.
Baby Bell Rock (left center) and Courthouse Butte (right center).
ARIZONA #3 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB
KITT PEAK, 40 MILES SOUTHWEST OF TUCSON
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.
ARIZONA’S SECOND HARDEST BIKE CLIMB
MT. LEMMON, TUCSON
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.
ARIZONA #1/US #21 MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB
MT. GRAHAM, SAFFORD
Ride 20.1 miles gaining 6,092’ at 5.5% average grade.
Arizona’s #1 hardest bike climb - by a good stretch!
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 . . .