Steepest 1-5 Milers
Long overdue, I'm afraid because it took a while to get out and personally check all the candidate sub-miler badass climbs around town. Anyhow, so far, here are the toughest just-less-than-a-mile-long paved road climbs I've encountered in San Diego County. This shouldn't be read as an exhaustive list, tho. There are loads of amazing climbs out there and I'm sure I haven't explored them all yet. The climbs with * on them take some finessing to get onto, I'm afraid, as they are gated access-controlled roads.
10. Alpine Trail [0.7 mile, avg 7%, max 43%]
|Just the top ramp on Alpine Trail.|
9. Via Capri Dr (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 10%, max ]:
8. Country Club-Romero-Brodicaea-Encelia Drs (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 11%]
But, really, the hardest climb on Mt Soledad is actually the lesser known and traveled Country Club route. At about the same length, this route is a full percent grade steeper than Via Capri Dr. It is lesser known, I think, because it dead ends for cars at the private gate to Upper Hillside Dr from Encelia Dr. This makes for much sparser traffic... and sort of makes climbing it feels a bit easier than Via Capri since you can actually paperboy (zigzag) up the ramps in next to no-traffic condition. The steepest bit of this climb actually comes in the middle of the first block of Country Club Dr at about 18%, then there is a short break after the left turn along the golf course before the gradient kicks up again to Romero Dr and doesn't drop again until the top of Encelia Dr, 1/2 mile later.
|View from La Jolla Reservoir off Encelia Dr.|
7. Coronado Hills Dr (San Marcos) [.6 mile, avg 12%, max grade 25%]:
|Looking north down Coronado Hills Dr.|
6. Black Gold Rd (La Jolla Farms) [.4 mile, avg 14%, max grade 23%]:
After the road starts to drop the view starts to open up and this climb can look very intimidating, with the switchbacks mid-section looking quite steeper than it actually is. Have no fear, the worst of the climb is actually at the very bottom where the narrow lane branches around a triangular island and the tarmac becomes well dusted with sand. From that spot down to the benches overlooking the beach the grade average is around 18% with maximum of 23% (yes, you'll have to mount the bike and start climbing on a 17% grade slope... Oh, the price we pay for a glimpse of the city's only nude beach!).
|From the bottom of Black Gold Rd.|
6. *Montana Serena Rd (Crest) [0.9 mile, avg 12%, max grade 43%]:
The mellow tarmac bottom of Montana Serena through the relatively new housing development turns into a bumpy white concrete monster as soon as the road turns right around the row of palm trees. From then on it is put-your-head-down-and-don't-look-far-ahead do or die sort of climbing until the concrete surface turns into tarmac again about .7 mile later.
|Gnarly climb for spectacular view = good trade off?|
5. *Buds Ln - Double R Rd (off Old Coach Rd in Poway [0.7 mile, avg 14%, max 27%].
I'm afraid I can't tell you much about this one since I haven't managed to get on it yet. :) It hides behind a heavy duty gate off from Deer Valley Estates just below Ramona Reservoir.
|Buds Ln - Double R Rd as espied from Old Coach Tr|
4. Lake San Marcos Towers Trail N [0.5 mile, avg 15%, max 30%]:
I'm afraid the trail head at the bottom is unmarked and looks just like a private drive way. It's basically the narrow lane next to #1520 La Plaza Rd, and it leads you through some nice fenced in avocado orchards before being nearly completely blocked with a giant car gate with about a million padlocks on it where you will have to toss the bike over and somehow squeeze through the narrow opening on the left side... and find yourself restarting on about a 14% grade slope. I know, I know, San Diego steepies are such pills sometimes!
|Final ramp to the Lake San Marcos radio tower.|
3. Camino del Aguilar (Starvation Mountain near Escondido) [.7 mile, avg grade 15%, max grade 24.2%]:
While most sensible cyclists ride up to Ramona from Escondido via
the splendid curvy climb of Highland Valley Road (HVR), the steepie-addicted ones are partial to the (not very) short cut over Starvation Mountain that branches off from it just east of Bandy Canyon Rd instead. Camino del Aguila is a paved private road that technically ends at the dirt connection to Eagle Crest Rd just a wedge shot from the top of the mountain, though on bicycle there are a few ways you could take downhill from the top.
Anyhow, the first part of the Aguila involves going over a steep ridge by the winery and avocado farms. Road surface is quite pothole infested and there are a few sharp speed bumps to be mindful off as you descend to the ravine. From the bottom of the ravine, though, the road kicks straight up and becomes distinctly hostile to normal legs and lungs functions. I'm afraid the next turn on the road won't bring you any relief no matter how much you wish it would, not until you get to the lone level-off with a low stone wall by a ranch house nearly a mile later!
Of course, the only traffic on this road are local residents, and there aren't many of them, so you probably won't run into any car at all (though if you do, tread carefully because the driver is probably having as much trouble staying on the road as you do... the thing wasn't quite engineered right and doesn't bank quite the right way at its many steep switchbacks).
At the top, you could either take the dirt road onto Eagle Crest Rd that'd drop you off on HVR just west of Sky Valley Dr (this involves going around a couple of gates and quite a bit of trespassing), or you could hike-the-bike up the steep dirt ramp leading off to the left to pick up the top bit of Starvation Mountain Rd. I'm afraid we can't get to the very top of the mountain since the big house on the top had gated it, but turning left will take you down Starvation Mountain Rd back to HVR about a mile further up than when you turned off it to climb the Aguila.
2. The Crow's Nest Lane (Harbison Canyon) [.4 mile, avg grade 18%, max grade 33.3%]:
As there are only 2 occupied houses on The Crow's Nest, the likelihood of sharing the gnarly climb/descent with a car is quite slim. The road is pretty well paved, though it does have liberal amount of sandy debris on the surface (probably doesn't get swept often... or at all!), and there are a couple of really ill-placed sharp speed bumps right on the steepest bit of the climb that gave me quite a fright when I spontaneously wheelied upon hitting them (the 2nd one even came with a rear wheel skid due to a loose layer of sand). So... please make sure your brakes are in excellent order before attempting this thing because you will have to come down it. And, as much as I enjoy going downhill, descending the Crow's Nest Lane was like a pleasure cruise that caught the flu virus 500 miles off-shore with no other ship in sight. I was happy to be alive when I got to the bottom... after having snailed my way down at less than 8 mph!
1. **Rocky Lane (Muth Valley) [.7 mile, avg 17%, max grade 44.8%]:
Honorable mentions: Rainbow Glen from the west (Fallbrook), Rice Rd (Rattlesnake Mtn in Santee), Gomez Creek Rd (Rainbow - Pala).