START (click and drag map)
Onion Valley is rated as the most difficult climb in California and #6 in the United States with a Fiets Index score of 14.5. This magnificent climb is located in the the heart of theOwens Valley which, with a base elevation of 4,500' and surrounded by 14,000' peaks is one of the deepest valleys in the U.S. The Owens Valley is a mecca for road bike climbing and we believe boasts the greatest concentration of Top 100 U.S. than any other area in the country. Owens Valley is a graben (downdropped block of land between 2 vertical faults) which creates the unparalleled extended steep grades along its eastern border with the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
While there is at least one climb in the area that rivals Onion Valley (Top U.S. 100 #7 Horseshoe Meadows), Onion Valley Road is almost uniformly considered the most difficult road bike climb in California, and rightly so. There are no provisions along this route and the temperatures during the summer will often exceed 100 degrees for the first half of the climb (see weather map, below). Cross winds are also a factor on the descent.
Roadway Surface and Traffic: The roadway surface in July, 2014 was good and traffic has been very light the 4 times we have climbed OVR between 2011 and 2014.
Background photo - U.S. #5 Pikes Peak CO.
Photos are in order from bottom to top of climb. Thanks to author/cyclist Ron Hawks for his photo contributions to this page.
Note: Click on “View full route" (top left) which opens the Onion Valley Road RideWithGPS page. Hover over the distance line at the spot you would like to begin a sub- segment for this climb. Click your mouse on the start point and drag the vertical graphing line the distance you wish to obtain sub-detail from, then release the mouse at the end point. This will give you the following sub-detail for the selected segment in the “Metrics” window top right of the page: (a) distance, (b) elevation gained and lost, (c) max grade, (d) average grade (e) that segment's climb category – e.g. Cat 1, HC, etc., and (f) FIETS score for the segment.
Hover cursor over segment slices, below, for exact grade of a particular segment. Map route (bottom) colors correlate with elevation legend colors.