The 10 Best/Worst Hill Climbs
Hill climbs. It’s a love-hate thing. We love them because they make us stronger. We hate them in the moment. Whether you’re a runner, a walker, or a cyclist, these 10 hills will whip you into shape and crush your soul, but in a good way.
Windy Gap Trail, Eton, Ga.
Mileage: 4.08 miles
Elevation gain: 2,300 feet
Best part: “Knowing that once you’re done you’ve earned lots of snacks and even a few beers.”
Worst part: “Waterbars. So many steep waterbars.” —Andrew Gates, Mulberry Gap Mountainbike Getaway
Waterrock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C.
Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 2,500 feet
Best part: Catching the sunset from the Waterrock Knob.
Worst part: Tourists.
Wayah Bald, Franklin, N.C.
Mileage: 15.5 miles
Elevation gain: 5,300 feet
Best part: Old school ridgeline trail with mountain views.
Worst part: “Miles 11-13. It’s nasty.” —David Forkner, Carmichael Training Systems
FS Road 477 to the top of Bennett Gap Trail, Canton, N.C.
Mileage: 3.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,475 feet
Best part: “The reward! You get to descend one of the fastest, rowdiest pieces of singletrack in western North Carolina.”
Worst part: “This climb is unrelenting. It really does not let up from the time you pass the horse stables until you reach the top of Bennett. Just a nasty ol’ gravel grind.” —Cashion Smith, The Bike Farm
John Smart Trail, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Mileage: 1.5 miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Best part: “It is a great training climb. Anyone preparing for a trail race could use it as a great run-able/speed hike-able segment to prepare your legs for some vertical climb.”
Worst part: “It is relentless. Just when you think you are to the top it turns and goes up more and then goes up more.” —David Pharr, Fleet Feet Sports Chattanooga
Spruce Knob, Circleville, W.Va.
Mileage: 11.4 miles
Elevation gain: 2,860 feet
Best part: “Once on the summit, cyclists should make sure they take the gravel path to the stone observation tower on the summit. On clear days, the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia can be seen in the distance.”
Worst part: “It just keeps going forever. The brutal weather you can run into up there, too. We’ve had -20 wind chill with 70 mph wind gusts. It was blowing people’s tires out from under them.” —Travis Olson, Mountain Rides LLC
Sugarlands Road, Tucker County, W.Va.
Mileage: 4.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1,805 feet
Best part: “The scenic views you can see about three-quarters of the way up the climb.”
Worst part: “When you near the top of the 13 percent section and pass by the church while they are having their annual church bazaar and a guy shouts out, ‘You want a hot dog?’”— Rob Stull, Blackwater Bikes
Apple Orchard, Blue Ridge Parkway, Va.
Mileage: 13 miles
Elevation gain: 3,300 feet
Best part: Climbing from the lowest (James River) to the highest (Apple Orchard) points along the parkway in Virginia.
Worst part: The steady eight percent gradient never lets up.
Reddish Knob, Va.
Mileage: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 4,400 feet
Best part: “Making the last right-hand bend to the peak to see the best view in the Valley.”
Worst part: “Multiple switchbacks seem to always create a false impression that you have completed the climb, no matter how many times you’ve done it.” —Stephen Proffitt, Shenandoah Bicycle Company
Canton Avenue, Pittsburgh, Penn.
Mileage: 630 feet
Elevation gain: 230 feet
Best part: It’s over quick.
Worst part: The average gradient is 33.3 percent.