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.


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