If you are in the Arcadia area of central Phoenix (south of Camelback Mtn) and are looking for hills to climb, you can’t go wrong with these two: Valle Vista and Dromedary/Red Rock Loop. Be forewarned: You better have had your Wheaties for breakfast before tackling the last climb. Your bike better be in good shape too.
This climb starts at 56th St and Camelback, heading north, and begins with mild 2-4% grades. It kicks up to 6-8% and then to 15% just as you are about to round the corner to the west at the top of the hill. Take an immediate right onto Valle Vista to continue the climb, which eases up in grade. The other side is a steep 10-16% drop, with one sharp switchback, and makes a good climb coming the other direction.
Dromedary/Red Rock Loop — Steepest climb in Phoenix
As far as I know, this is the steepest climb in the Phoenix area — at least on public roads. (Update: I’ve been told that riding all the way up Cholla on the east side of Camelbak may be steeper. But it requires riding on roads marked as private.) From Arcadia Dr (either coming down from the Valle Vista climb or coming up from Camelback Rd), turn west onto RockRidge Dr, and then north onto Dromedary. If you look up the hill, you’ll see a castle (privately owned). That’s where you are headed, on the road just below the property.
The grades on Dromedary start out innocently enough, in the 3-5% range. You’ll round a corner and come to a junction. Continue northeast. This is where the fun begins. The grade steepens considerably, averaging around 18-22%. But don’t be fooled. You are not done yet. Just before you round another corner to the west, where the road transitions to Red Rock Loop Dr, I’ve seen a 27% grade flash on my GPS. Yes, this is a quad buster. If you don’t have a compact or triple chainring, you are in for an “interesting” few moments. I usually do this climb in my triple granny gear (30×25), but I did it once using the middle chainring (40×25), just to see if I could. I won’t do it again. The insanely steep grade simply puts too much stress on my bike’s drivetrain (not to mention my legs!)
If you do decide to tackle this climb, be sure your chain and cassettes are not worn. I did this climb once, and as I stood out of the saddle and grunted my way around the corner of Red Rock Loop Dr, my chain skipped and I went tumbling to the ground. I wasn’t hurt, but it was a bit scary, as I was just two weeks away from doing the Triple Bypass Ride in Colorado, and the last thing I needed was me (or my bike) to be banged up.
The climb winds downwards, west/southwest, around Red Rock Loop and then turns south. You’ll come to a junction. South will take you onto Cliffside Dr. Or you can go east onto Grandview Ln. Either will work, although I prefer to go down Cliffside and then onto White Gates Dr, before hooking back up with Dromedary and then onto RockRidge Dr.
Some people do this climb the other direction, which is slightly easier. But that’s a relative term. You’ll still see grades exceeding 20% in spots.