Six badass U.S. climbs: part 3
From issue 74 • Words/images by John Summerson
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This is an isolated and scenic climb located deep in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, west of the city of Tucson. Sunbaked, it is on a twisty and mostly steady grade, with no particularly steep pitches. You begin with a straight section over shallow but gradually increasing grades. The route then moves to the right, following the island mountain’s ridgeline. A steady slope lets you get into a rhythm on this ride. The road eventually comes around to the opposite side of the hill with long views of the surrounding desert to the south. Toward the top you will see the observatory facilities at the summit. As you pass the Visitor Center on the left, turn right up a single-lane road for a short distance to crest at one of the many telescopes on the mountain. Take some time to explore the summit if you can. It goes without saying that this hill is a warm one during the summer (and during the winter it can see snow over its upper half).
Directions: From Tucson, head west on Route 86 for approximately 35 miles. The Kitt Peak Observatory Road (Route 386) will be on your left and the climb begins at the junction.
Kitt Peak, Arizona
Total elevation gain: 3,579 ft (1,090 m)
Length: 12.4 mi (20 km)
Gradient: 5.5% avg./8% max.