Ken Roberts - - Bicycling

calculations of steepness for hill climbs

what's here: 

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and more . . .

I calculated steepness and size for some hill climbs on New Jersey roads -- mostly hills which people suggested to me, others which I found myself.


I made these calculations with two goals:

(1) So event organizers and route planners could avoid using roads which are unsuitable for their riders.

shortcut for those who don't want to figure out the numbers: If a section of road with a hill-climb is in the table below, then it's not suitable for most riders.

(2) So that very experienced + athletic bicycle climbers who understand steepness numbers could use those as one part of their criteria for selecting climbs which are suitable for their current level of challenge or training.

Riding down hills is not one of the purposes of these calculations.

warning: Riding down a hill on a bicycle is usually much more dangerous than riding up it. Riding down hills as steep as the ones on this page has special risks and dangers beyond most bicycling on the roads, with consequences of serious injury or death, requires special judgment and skills to handle those risks. Most of the key aspects of the risks of riding down a hill are not represented or addressed by the numbers and descriptions on this page.

Do not climb up a steep hill unless you have a plan for how to get back down again safely. I recommend that most riders avoid the extra risks of riding steep down by: (a) finding other roads which are less steep to go down; or (b) put the riders and their bikes into a motor vehicle to take them down; or (c) walk down the steeper sections.

Before getting into the details, here's some . . .

key findings

the Kings:

1) - (tie) Fiddlers Elbow [ map ] in southwest Warren county. A climb with character and variety. Which the majority of riders do not reach the top still pedaling.

I think the steepest section of Fiddlers Elbow is a little steeper than the steepest of Breakneck. But the longer section leading up to and including the steepest on Breakneck is steeper and more sustained than the longer section on Fiddlers Elbow.

1) - Breakneck [ map | report ] up north near Vernon Valley.  Also there's the tough Hidden Valley climb next to it.

Lots more vehicle traffic than Fiddlers -- Not the place for weaving from side-to-side; Not the place to find out that you didn't have the strength to make it and then fall over.

3+4) - Iron Bridge Rd + Ludlow Station Rd [ map ] in northern Hunterdon county. They're right next to each other. Iron Bridge is a bit more interesting, and perhaps a bit tougher too.

5) - Shire Rd [ map ] in northwest Hunterdon county (with Adamic Hill next to it)

the Biggest:

  • High Point:  Rt 23 west from Sussex [ map ] -- about 1100 vertical feet -- but that's over a distance more than 8 miles, at an average grade of only 2.5% - (even the upper 675 vertical ft section is only 5% grade).

  • Hidden Valley: sequence of roads in Vernon valley [ map ] -- about 1050 vertical feet in 2.7 miles, for an average steepness grade over 7% - (but that's broken up by some intersections and crossings with substantial vehicle traffic).

  • High Point:  Rt 23 east from Port Jervis NY [ map ] -- about 1030 vertical feet at around 5% average steepness grade.

  • Breakneck [ map ]: sequence of roads in Vernon valley -- about 1000 vertical ft at almost 8% average steepness grade - (but that's broken up by some intersections and crossings with substantial vehicle traffic).

  • Barry Drive / Barrett Rd [ map ] has 780 vertical feet (not broken up by intersections), at a significantly steep 9% grade.

longest steep sections:

  • 7% - longest at 7% average grade: "Hidden Valley" -- sequence of roads in Vernon valley [ map ] starting from Vernon Cross Rd / rt 646. (about 1050 vertical ft) - (but that's broken up by some intersections and crossings with substantial vehicle traffic).

  • 8% - Breakneck [ map ] (extended to other roads below and above) has about 1000 vertical ft at almost 8% average grade - (but that's broken up by some intersections and crossings with substantial vehicle traffic).
    Fiddlers Elbow with Roxburg Hill has about 920 feet at around 8% average grade.  (Barry Dr / Barrett Rd has about 780 vertical ft at around 9% grade).

  • 10% - longest at around 10% average grade: Breakneck (extended to other roads below and above), from Main St / rt 515 intersection to top of Abricada Rd (about 820 vertical feet) - (but that's broken up by a tricky traffic crossing).
    Fiddlers Elbow with Roxburg Hill [ map ] has 780 vertical feet over 10% average grade.

  • 12% - longest section at around 12% average grade: (tie) Breakneck and 602 south from Millbrook village (about 590 vertical feet in 0.9 mile) - (Fiddlers Elbow with Roxburg Hill Rd has 680 ft averaging over 11%).

  • 14% - longest section at around 14% average grade: Fiddlers Elbow (about 450 vertical feet at almost 14%).  (Shire Rd has about 400 ft).

  • 15% - Breakneck [ map ] has about 340 vertical feet at around 15% average grade.

  • 20% - Fiddlers [ map ] has about 130 vertical feet at 20+%. (Breakneck has almost that steep for almost that long.)

tough "gangs" of climbs:

event:  Hillier Than Thou

Closer hills:

A problem in NJ is that 80% of the 25 steepest climbs are nowhere near where most New Jersey road cyclists live. So here's some that might be nearer:

  • southeast Somerset county by Rt 22 in near Dunellen + Watchung: Warrenville Rd + Valley Dr + Johnston Dr + Hill Hollow).

  • Mountain Av of Maplewood (in Essex county)

  • Ackerman Rd of Mountainside (by Rt 22 in Union county), with some other hill roads nearby.

  • Alpine Approach [ map ] at the north end of the "river drive" alongside the Hudson River thru Palisades Park about 7 miles from Fort Lee and the bridge to Manhattan.

  • Speer Av in Englewood, even closer to the George Washington Bridge.

  • West Palisades Blvd in Palisades Park (Bergen county, south from GWB).

  • Gillette Rd [ map ] near Berkeley Heights and SouthWest from Chatham (Morris county).

nasty neighbors nearby:

  • Pennsylvania -- Uhlerstown Hill Rd in Bucks county just across the Delaware River from Frenchtown, NJ [ see map ]

  • New York -- Kain Rd: parallel to Rt 17A from Warwick to Greenwood Lake in Rockland county, north from West Milford, NJ [ see map ]

see also map of NJ hill areas | details on selected NJ climbs | Hudson Valley NY climbs | Hillier Than Hillier sequence

calculations for the hills

I calculated steepness and size for some hills on New Jersey roads. There's some trickiness and inaccuracy in doing these calculations, and I'm confident there's some significant inaccuracies in this list . . . anyway below are my results so far as of October 2008 for the 20-30 steepest hills in NJ:

for lots more steep climbs, see lists by county, or by mountain area, or all in one list.

road + location




steep section
vertical feet

steep section

total climb
vertical feet

Fiddlers Elbow, inclu Roxburg Hill, SE fr 519, S fr Belvidere - map Mon Wa  

+ 275  .
+ 130  .


925 or 780
or 610

5 2009 b
Breakneck, SE fr 515, S fr 94 Vernon - map Waw Su H V

(inclu 120  .


1005 or 820

5 2008-9 b
Iron Bridge Rd, S fr Asbury + 643 Asbury - West Portal Rd - map MuC Hu  




3 2009
Ludlow Station Rd, S fr Asbury + 643 Asbury - West Portal Rd - map MuC Hu  




3 2009
Shire Rd, S fr Bellis Rd, E fr 627 NE fr Riegelsville - map MuW Hu  

80 + 235



2 2009
Adamic Hill + Alfalfa Hill, SE fr Mt Joy Rd, E fr Riegelsville - map MuW Hu  

+ 100  .



4 2009
Hidden Valley: Breakneck + Curtis + HV Dr, S fr 94 Vernon - map Waw Su  

4 x 50-80


1040 or 645

4 2009 b
Millbrook Rd 602 S fr Millbrook village toward Blairstown - map Kit Wa  




1 2008
Halfway House Rd, north fr 57 west fr Washington - map Mon Wa  




2 2009
"Bloomsbury": rt 579 South fr Bloomsbury - map MuW Hu V




3 2009
Barry Dr / Barrett Rd, S fr 94 by NY state border, NE fr Vernon - map Waw Su  

115 + 140



5 2008-9 b
Coleman Hill + Bickel Rd, W fr 648, W fr Washington - map Mon Wa  




4 2009
Four Bridges Rd, N fr Bartley SW fr 206 + Flanders - map LV Mo  

(inclu 150



3 2009 b
"Musconetcong Mt": Fox Farm Rd, W fr Strotz, N fr 173 + I-78 - map MuC Hu  




2 2009
Elm Av, E fr Shaler Blvd in Ridgefield - map Ps Be  




1 2008 b
Forge Hill Rd onto Mt Airy, SE fr 645 + SE fr Washington - map MuE Hu  




3 2009
Pinchers Point Rd, E fr Delaware River N fr Riegelsville - map MuW Wa  

+ 250  .



4 2009
Glenwood Mt West, SE fr 667 to 565 near Vernon Valley - map Po Su  




3 2008-9 b
Mt Lebanon Rd, S fr Old Turnpike + 57 NE fr Washington - map MuE Mo  




4 2009
Wester + Decker, SE from 647, NE from Phillipsburg - map Mon Wa  

+ 180  .



4 2009
Mountain Top Rd, S from 645 (SE fr Washington) - map MuE Hu  




4 2009
Quenby Mountain Rd, west off 46 west fr Hackettstown - map JJ Wa  




3 2008
Warrenville Rd, north fr 22 near Dunellen - map WS So H




2 2009 b
Mountain Av, west from Maplewood - map WN  Es  




1 2009 b

Warning: Some of these climbs often have high motor vehicle traffic through a bad visibility section, others have damaged surface or other dangerous conditions. The table above is only an estimate of size and steepness of each hill, not a recommendation to attempt climbing or descending it.

info columns

cty = county

grade = vertical climb divided by horizontal distance, as a percentage

ntrst = "interesting riding" on a scale of 1 - 5: curves, variations in steepness, views.


? = traffic, visibility, and surface characteristics unknown to me.

H = higher traffic volume than many other climbs.

V = questionable visibility or limited sight distance.

last checked

b = steepness grade with multiple runs with GPS with barometric altimeter.

see also map of NJ hill areas | details on selected NJ climbs | Hudson Valley NY climbs | Hillier Than Hillier sequence

more . . .

accuracy of steepness calculations

Measuring or calculating the steepness grade of a steep curvy road is actually rather tricky. Most methods which people use a lot are not very accurate (e.g. topo software, GPS) for steep curvy roads with variations in steepness. Or sometimes they're accurate and sometimes they're not, and it's hard to tell when. Here's a much too detailed discussion of the trickiness.

Some other hill-climb websites show steepness grade numbers to a tenth of a percent. Really it takes lots of time and careful procedure to achieve anything like that level of accuracy. Bicyclists and car and truck drivers have no real need for that accuracy and it's no way worth the work to achieve it. The more I've tried to achieve greater accuracy, the more I find out how hard it is and what a waste of time. Therefore . . .

The tables here give steepness as a range of numbers, or as an integer number of grade percent. I will not support the illusion of steepness accurate to a tenth of a percent. If you want to know who steep some hill really is, get out and ride it.

see also