Steepest F-ing hill in the country?

Having contracted a horrible strain of cold virus, or rather 2 of them in the last month, and because the weather is less than ideal, I haven’t been riding much. I spent some of Jude’s nap today, however, browsing google maps and found something interesting.

Nothing seems to excite cyclists more than arguing about what hill is the steepest. And usually, the discussions are pretty meaningless because people are comparing different types of hills, and/or confusing average gradient with maximum gradient. The recent (or now only semi-recent) bicycling magazine article by Summerson listed the steepest hills by length in the country. So he tabulates the steepest 0.1-, 0.5-, 1-, 5, and 10-mile stretches of road.

Leading the pack, at 0.1 miles is Canton Ave. in Pittsburgh. I haven’t personally tried that hill, and google elevation data (and brentacol) does not support his claim that it is 35% average (w/ a maximum of 37%). If, as he claims, he measured it himself, I should probably believe him. But based on experience, 35% average and 37% max seems rather unlikely. Almost nothing is that consistent. If we’re to believe that the hill is 35% gradient from top-to-bottom, and that it only gets as steep as 37% at the steepest point, that also means it would never dip below about 30%, which I find a little hard to believe. But who knows, the videos of the thing make it look pretty darn consistent. But another consideration. This thing isn’t .10 miles, as Summerson claims. The climb itself, or at least the part considered steep (in the videos, this is just past the end of the cobbles where it clearly becomes easy and the riders are, in essence, “done”), is only 75 meters, or about .05 miles. Keep that in mind.

For arguments sake, Fargo, in Los Angeles is a FULL .10 miles, and clocks in at 30.4% average with a maximum gradient of 38%.

For the steepest 1/2 mile, Summerson names the first 1/2 mile of  Kinglsey Hill Road. I rode that one this summer and blogged about it here. Summerson claims 19.2% for that half mile. BRENTACOL says 16%, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. (If you measure from about 30 meters after the start to about 30 meters after the .5 mile mark, you might get close to 19% with google data.)

Steepest mile is the last mile of Lincoln Gap at 16% (BRENTACOL agrees). Elevation gain for that last mile is 876 feet.

Ok, now let me present to you Deer Run Ridge Road, in Georgia.

To answer a few of your questions: 1. yes, this is a paved road, you can clearly tell in satellite mode. There are also many houses along the road. 2. no, I can’t verify that the elevation data is accurate since I’ve never ridden it, but look at the map in terrain view, and you’ll see that the road sure as hell looks steep. Exporting to kml and viewing in google earth also corroborates the steepness. 3. No, I don’t know if this is a public road. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s within the huge Big Canoe gated community. I don’t know whether cyclists are allowed in there for recreational riding, or how difficult it would be to sneak in, etc. Some would say that this disqualifies it from consideration. Not me. I’d say if you can ride it one way or another (even if that means you have to rent a condo for a week), the hill is “do-able” . After all, Mount Washington isn’t a “public road” either (and a couple days rental off-season is probably not much more than the entry fee for Washington anyway). By complete coincidence, a cousin of mine lives in Big Canoe, so if I ever get to Georgia, I’ll have no trouble checking this out. And I’ve also sent her an email to see if she knows anything more about this hill.

Now, on to comparisons:

Deer Run Ridge v. Canton Ave (steepest >.1 mile):

Canton Ave is 75 meters long, or 246 feet, and an average gradient (if Summerson is to be believed) of 35%. Using Google Earth, I calculate a 245 foot section, starting just before the .7 mile point on Deer Run Ridge, to be 35.5%, with what appears to be a sustained section (about 85 feet) that averages 50%! Score one for Deer Run.

Deer Run v. Fargo (steepest .1 mile)

Fargo is much longer than Canton at 542 feet, but still averages a whopping 30.4%. Starting at the same point (just before .70 miles) and continuing on 543 feet, the average gradient on Deer Run is 32.2%. Another point for Deer Run.

Deer Run v. Kingsley Hill (Steepest .5 mile)

No real question here. Deer Run is 21.5% for its full .78 miles. And to make it even more obvious, Deer Run gains more elevation in those .78 miles than the whole of Kinglsey Hill does in 1.25 miles. Another point for Deer Run.

Deer Run v. Lincoln Gap (steepest mile)

Ok, well Deer Run doesn’t last a mile, so it can’t really win this one. But, after leveling off a bit at the top, there appears to be a left turn that keeps climbing a bit, right up to the 1-mile point. The total elevation gain to that point is 929. Divide that by 5280 and you get 17.6% and I’m ready to throw “Steepest Mile in the Country” to Deer Run Ridge Road.

The only hill in America that can compete with this one is the similarly obscure Waipio Valley Road. Using the same methods on Google Earth, I can find sections of .05 and .1 that are steeper on Waipio, but I’m also much less confident about the actual track. And given the chances of me getting to Hawaii are pretty slim, the chances of me getting to verify the information is less likely than it is with Deer Run.

So, if there are any Georgia residents who would like to chime in…let me know…I’d love to know if anyone has actually ridden this thing.

5 thoughts on “Steepest F-ing hill in the country?

  1. word from my cousin: “Yep, that’s right in our neighborhood. We live in ‘Big Canoe’ which is a gated community within the city of Jasper. There are a couple of pretty fierce roads around here. Not just steep but windy, too. We don’t get much ice, but if we do, those people are neither coming nor going. No, you can’t ride your bike up it – a lot of the roads are limited to motorized vehicles only. There are no shoulders, so to ride on them would be a death wish. I didn’t realize ours were as steep as some ‘famous’ places. Probably has to do with being in a gated community, so we own the roads. Maybe that means we can build unsafe ones if we want to…”

  2. I know this is pretty old, but I thought I’d share my experience. The roads in big canoe are all pristine pavement and most of the climbs are 15+% sustained and my garmin has shown 50ish% in several sections. You’ll be miserable on most of them without a 1:1 (or less) gear ratio. Even a compact with a 30 will have you doing 300+ watts just to stay upright in some switchbacks. Deer run is brutal, but falcon ridge (about a mile away) is almost as bad, with very tight switchbacks and about 700 feet of elevation in .8 miles. If you ride through the neighborhood the right way, and hit the main climbs all the way up to oglethorpe mountain park you can take a gravel road to connect over to the main Burnt mountain climb. You’ll end up with around 4000 ft of climbing in 15-18 miles if you do it right.

    Now for the bad part. This is a gated community and you need an ID to enter. I’m not giving any advice on that one.

  3. HI, thanks for the feedback. I actually went down to check it out last November, but I haven’t been very good about updating the blog, so I never wrote up my trip. I should probably still do that. I stayed with my cousin who has a place there. I know of Falcon Ridge as well (and it’s in my database) but according to the confusing rules for which roads allow riding, Falcon Ridge is not permitted. In fact, there was no way to get to Deer Run without riding over some no-bikes roads, so my cousin dropped me off somewhere and then picked me up later. I did a couple other big hills, but Deer Run was definitely the hardest. I made it up and rode about 95%. There was one spot where I had to put my foot down and was right in the middle of a stretch of 30% so I pushed to the first switchback and got going again. After that I stopped a couple more times but was able to time my stops with places where the gradient eased up. For gearing, I don’t think 1:1 would have even been sufficient for me at the time. I had my cross bike, which has a 39-26 in the front, and put on a 12-36 in the back. Now the question is whether that will be low enough to do the Scanuppia in May!

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