Each color segment = 1/4 mile

Start(click and drag map; double click to move forward)

Climbing and Cycling the Sierras

South Lake, CA

Ride Description

South Lake is one of the 9 Top 100 most difficult climbs in the U.S. that begin in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the central/eastern portion of California.  Other Top 100's in the area:  #6 Onion Valley, #7 Horseshoe Meadow, #9 White Mountain, #13 Whitney Portal, #28 Rock Creek, #29 Lake Sabrina, and # 65 Pine Creek.  The first 11.7 miles of the climb are along Highway 168 which is a bit disconcerting at times, with cars whizzing by at highway speeds.  The 11.7 miles to the turn off to South Lake is at 5.6% with an elevation gain of 3,500'.  The final 7.2 miles along South Lake Road up to South Lake itself are quiet, wooded and scenic, with minimal traffic.  The climb along the 7.2 miles of South Lake Road are at 5.5% average grade gaining 2,000', although there are some healthy pitches along the way, including the last .7 miles at 8.7%.   This climb shares the first 11.7 miles with the Lake Sabrina climb which continues past the South Lake turn off another 3 miles on Hwy 168 to its summit.

Traffic and Roadway report:  The roadway surface is excellent and there is a good bike lane most of the way along Hwy 168. Traffic, as can be seen in the YouTube video, travels by very fast along the 11.7 miles of highway and this is not a stretch of road for the faint of heart.  The last 7.2 miles are much calmer and very scenic.

Background photo - U.S. #5 Pikes Peak CO.

Photos are in order from climb bottom to top.  Thanks to Ron Hawks for his photo contributions to this page.

Hover cursor over segment slices (above) for exact  grade of a particular segment.

 Note:  Click on “View full route" (top left) which opens the South Lake RideWithGPS page.  Hover over the distance line at the spot you would like to begin a sub-  segment for this climb.  Click your mouse on the start point and drag the vertical graphing line the distance you wish to obtain sub-detail from, then release the  mouse at the end point.  This will give you the following sub-detail for the selected segment in the “Metrics” window top right of the page:  (a) distance, (b) elevation  gained and lost, (c) max grade, (d) average grade (e) that segment's climb category – e.g. Cat 1, HC, etc., and (f) FIETS score for the segment.

Turn off to South Lake 



  • Distance:                                          18.6 miles

  • Beginning elevation:                       4,389''

  • Ending elevation:                             9,824'

  • Elevation gained:                             5,488'

  • Average Grade:                                5.6%

  • Fiets Index:                                       10.88
  • Location:  Climb begins at the intersection of Hwy 168 (W. Line Street) and Red Hill Rd, Bishop, CA 37.36083, -118.45427 latitude/longitude), 270 miles northeast of LAX and 359 miles southeast of San Francisco International Airport.