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Favorite Hillclimb Loops


Here I have begun compiling a library of great climbing rides.  Several of the rides offer over 10,000 feet of climbing in 100 miles.  Low traffic back roads and great scenery are the norm.  Expect to suffer at least a little.  A few of the rides entail seasonal gravel sections (closed in winter) and may not be suitable for everybody.  These sections will be described in detail in each report.  The capstone of all climbing rides in the north-eastern part of the country is the Six Gaps of Vermont loop.  Per TopoUSA, it punishes those strong enough to complete it with 14,500 feet of climbing in 132 miles.  6-Gaps also contains the steepest paved mile known in the northeast, the east side of Lincoln Gap which averages 20-24% grade for the last mile.


Berkshires of Western Massachusetts

The Berkshires: The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts offer endless route possibilities in mountainous terrain. Presented here are three routes I've enjoyed. They all include summiting the high point of the state, Mt Greylock. The shortest route crosses over the Taconic Crest into New York and again coming back into Massachusetts. The majority of these routes utilize very low traffic roads, but they all pass through busy North Adams to access Mt Greylock.

Berkshires Loops


Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2): This ride is organized by New Horizons Sports and the Franklin Land Trust.  The course changes somewhat from year to year, but this ride is actually more difficult than the 6-Gaps of Vermont ride due to most of the roads being unpaved.  Expect to ride over 110 miles with around 15,000ft of climbing.  The climbs are steep, the gravel can be loose and dry or soft and muddy depending on weather.  Some of the roads are essentially two-tracks or jeep roads.  Cyclocross and mountain bikes are common on this ride.  In 2007, I used road bike with 28mm road tires.  I would not recommend skinnier.  The organized start is very early, as most riders will need all available daylight to finish it.  In 2007, awesome food was served after the ride.  Follow the links below to my personal reports of the last couple years.

D2R2, August 2007

D2R2, August 2006


Green Mountains of Vermont


6-Gaps of VT:  Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont is a cluster of mountain pass roads.  The area lies just north of Rutland and Killington, and all but a few miles of this ride is paved.  Six-gaps is perhaps one of the hardest one-day rides a fit cyclist can tackle New England.  It entails 132 miles over six major mountain pass climbs totaling upwards of 14,500 feet of climbing.  Mountain weather and gravel  conditions are wild cards to deal with.  This ride has become very popular in recent years with many small groups making annual pilgrimages to the Green Mountains.  A complete webpage is dedicated to the 6-gaps of Vermont:

6-Gaps of Vermont


Ascutney/Okemo Loop: A nice loop with two monster climbs can be put together in central Vermont.  The ride starts in Ascutney and passes through Ludlow, climbing both Ascutney and Okemo (aka Mt Ludlow) mountains along the way.  Oh, there’s a 1200 foot pass climb on Tyson Road too.  Altogether, the basic ride runs about 61 miles and 8,800 feet of climbing, most of it very steep.  We’ve been doing variants of this ride lately, adding an additional dirt road climb or wrapping around Okemo before coming into Ludlow.  You can increase the ride to 87 miles with 11,700ft of climbing, or even 94 miles with 13,000ft of climbing, with these options.  These are covered in the report linked below.

Ascutney/Okemo with Options


Jay Peak/Smugglers Notch Loop:  This takes place in the very northern reaches of Vermont, nearly touching the Canadian border.  It entails about 12,800 feet of climbing in 115 miles.  Most of the roads are very low traffic and provide classic Vermont countryside scenery.  One of the climbs/descents is gravel, so keep this in mind when planning this ride.  Rain or extended dry spells can make skinny tires on gravel unpleasant.  Best time to ride gravel roads is day or two after it rains or during parts of the year when rain is more frequent.  Because there are many smaller climbs that you can power over in this ride, you will be pretty worn out by the time you reach Smugglers Notch, the final biggest climb.  The descent back to Stowe is heavenly.



White Mountains of New Hampshire


The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer multiple opportunities for long routes. Much of the White Mountains are designated wilderness area. Thus the roads are sparce, and the landscape is less touched than most other mountainous regions of the northeast.

Two century-plus routes are presented here.  I call these White Mountains West and White Mountains East. The rides share Bear Notch in the center of the White Mountains.  The west loop runs 112 miles with 10,500ft of climbing.  It starts in Lincoln, NH, loops over Gonzo Pass, North and South Rd (dirt mountain pass), Agassiz Mtn, Crawford Notch, Bear Notch, and back to Lincoln over the famed Kancamagus Pass.  Variants of this loop can include Sugar Hill near Franconia or Franconia Notch via Rt 18.    The White Mountains East loop runs about 115 miles with 10,000ft of climbing.  It starts in Conway, NH, goes over Hurricane Mtn Rd, Evans Notch in Maine, Jefferson Notch (dirt to 3000ft elevation), Crawford Notch, and Bear Notch back to Conway.  Note that both North and South Rd and Jefferson Notch Rd are seasonal and may not open until late spring.

White Mtns West

White Mtns East

A somewhat shorter loop that that has become extremely popular is called 4NaaP – Four Notches and a Pass.  4NaaP includes Kinsman, Franconia, Crawford, Bear notches, then finishes with Kancamagus Pass. It runs about 94 miles with 8000ft of climbing. Like the Whites West loop, it starts in Lincoln right of I-93, so it is easily accessed by those coming up from eastern Massachusetts.

4NaaP (Four Notches and a Pass)


Catskills of New York


A group of us from southern NH and eastern Mass hit the Catskills for the first time in 2007.  Riding there was such a treat, we plan to go back for more.  The ride reported here is just one possible route, and we’ll likely do something different and more localized the next time we go back.  Expect most of the roads to be low traffic.  Expect extremely steep climbs (such as Platte Cove, also known as Devil’s Kitchen, or the even steeper Glade Hill) that rival the steepness found in northern Vermont.  Scenery is good too.  Not all roads are low traffic though, and some of the back roads have eroding chip-and-seal surfaces that are unpleasant to ride on with high pressure skinny road tires.  Find out about these and more details in the report.

Catskills Tour 2007


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