Bike Ride: Mount Hamilton and Lick Observatory
Jul 27 - South Bay

Distance: 36 miles

Elevation Climbed: 4,966 ft

Difficulty: 9 out of 10, experienced riders

Terrain: Paved road with steep climbs

Type: Road bike, electric bike

Strava Route:

We are in for a real treat to climb the highest peak in the entire Bay Area!  The Mount Hamilton bike ride is an exhilarating experience that takes you through the beautiful hills of San Jose. The ride starts at the intersection of Alum Rock and takes you up to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. The climb is challenging but rewarding with picturesque views of the city and its surrounding areas.

Professionals agree.  Mt. Hamilton is the most featured mountain climb in the history of the Tour of California (the California version of “Tour de France”), having been featured six times between 2006-2019.  On any given day, particularly weekdays, you are bound to see many cyclists on this very fun road bike climb. This is a Bay Area Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Ride.

For human-powered bikes, we recommended this ride for experienced cyclists who are able to ascend a 5,000 foot climb. For electric bikes, this is quite doable even for recreational riders — provided you have sufficient battery range for the entire mileage when fully charged.

As we begin our climb (and for the first 4 miles), we have many excellent views of Northern California’s San Jose and Silicon Valley to the west and southwest.

Within a couple of miles we feel as though we have left civilization behind (as much as one can really do that 10 miles from the Silicon Valley) and are soon passing through farmland and rolling oak-studded hills.

The last six miles are up the mountain and through a series of switchbacks with a grade that increases to 5.7% on average for those final miles. Since the road was constructed between 1876 and 1887 with materials transported by horse and mule-drawn wagons, the grade could not be too steep, hence the many switchbacks and turns up the six mile ascent.  It is reported that there are approximately 365 turns on the roadway -- see Wikipedia-Lick Observatory for an excellent history of the Lick Observatory and Mt. Hamilton West.

The summit for the Mt. Hamilton West climb is the Lick Observatory, owned and operated by the University of California, this is the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory (the sign on the first building we come to8 at the top says “Residents Dining Hall”).

Mt. Hamilton is in the Diablo Mountain Range.  It is reported that on clear days one can see the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Bay, and Yosemite National Park.

Due to the length of this ride and the potential heat in late July, please bring plenty of water (at least two bottles).  Food and drinks are available for purchase at the gift shop at the summit.



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Date and Time

Saturday, July 27, 2024
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM PT

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280 Mt Hamilton Rd
San Jose, CA, 95140

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Primary Contact

Daniel Young




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