The 10 Hardest Bike Climbs in Arizona

#1
Mt Graham
USA, AZ
#2
Mt. Lemmon
USA, AZ
#3
Kitt Peak
USA, AZ
#4
Mingus (Hwy 89A)
USA, AZ
#5
Desert to Tall Pines Hwy
USA, AZ
#6
Hualapai Mt. Road
USA, AZ
#7
Snowbowl Road
USA, AZ
#8
Buffalo Pass North
USA, AZ
#9
Hwy 260
USA, AZ
#10
Coronado Trail South
USA, AZ

Climb List: Arizona's most difficult climbs
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Arizona's most difficult climbs

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.

Hwy 89A

Cycling Sedona and Hwy 89A - aerial drone photo of Baby Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte 

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.

Arizona top bike climbs - Biking Kitt Peak - roadway and many observatories

First eight miles of the climb on the northwest side of Kitt Peak.

Cycling Arizona top bike climbs - aerial drone photo of kitt peak, observatories and road

Last four miles after turning the corner at mile 8.5 and riding on the southeast side to the top.

Climb by bike Kitt Peak - 5000' elevation sign with bike leaning against it

You don’t have to guess at your elevation.

ARIZONA’S SECOND HARDEST BIKE CLIMB

MT. LEMMON, TUCSON

Bicycle climb - Top US Bike Climbs - Mt Lemmon - Hoodoos and cyclist, road, mountains, plains

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.

Cyckling Arizona top bike climbs - Mt. Lemmon roadway - one of the hardest climbs by bike in AZ 

This mountain, this climb, is truly an out-of-this-world, unique experience . . .

    Windy Point on Mt Lemmon - Hoodoo formations

                                    . . . and is well-worth travelling from afar to experience. 

Arizona top bike climbs - Bicycle climb Mt. Lemmon - photo of cyclists near Windy Point.

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

Cycling Arizona top bike climbs - Mt. Graham start - straight road - mountains in background

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.

Arizona top bike climbs - Mt. Graham - bike in roadway - long straight road   

Great roadway surface for the first four miles.

Well paved but a little rough for miles 4-20.

Arizona top bike climbs - aerial photo of road and hairpins - Mt. Grahama 

Two sets of hairpins along the climb, at miles 10 and 14.

    Bike climb Arizona top bike climbs - bike with pjamm jacket at 5000' elevation sign

Altitude markers every 1,000’ from 4,000 to 9,000’.

Arizona top bike climbs - End of Mt. Graham bicycle ride - cyclist, bicycle and road Pavement Ends sign.

Run out of road at the end . . .