America's Best Descents

#7: Lake Sabrina, California

RATING: FS
TOTAL ELEVATION LOSS: 4,734 feet
LENGTH: 15.6 miles
AVERAGE GRADE: 5.8%
MAXIMUM: 10%

Take a moment to soak in the view from the top—the road peaks just above Lake Sabrina and the spectacular alpine landscape of the High Sierra—because in short order you're going to leave it far behind. The narrow one-lane road blunts speed at the top, but once you're out of the trees, hang on. Soon you'll plunge along the route's steepest section, so chances are you'll be flying when you hit the big S-curve about two-thirds of the way down. That feature slows things down a bit—not necessarily a bad thing on this hill—but once you're beyond that you can pin it again all the way down to the valley floor, more than 15 miles all told.

DIRECTIONS: From Route 395 in Bishop, take Route 168 (Line Road) west for 3.2 miles to its intersection with Red Hill Road (on the right), where the climb begins. Inyo National Forest: 760/876-6222

#8: Whiteface Mountain, Adirondack Park, New York

RATING: FS
TOTAL ELEVATION LOSS: 3,566 feet
LENGTH: 7.9 miles
AVERAGE GRADE: 8.5%
MAXIMUM: 12%

This Adirondacks peak, which is closed to bikes until 5 p.m., sports almost exactly the same length and grade as Alpe d'Huez, the classic Tour de France peak. You'll have a chance to ride as fast as a pro, too, heading down. After a moderate start from the parking area at the top, the grade increases quickly—a single 180-degree turn is the only obstacle to high speeds (be alert for wildlife crossing the road). The grade hits 10 percent as you scream through a few gentle turns, the dense woods around you a green blur. Look out for a toll gate about 5 miles down, but once you're past that you can roll unencumbered the last 3 miles to Route 86.

DIRECTIONS: Head up Route 431 near Wilmington. Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway: 518/946-2223

#9: High Knob, Jefferson National Forest, Virginia

RATING: HT
TOTAL ELEVATION LOSS: 1,577 feet
LENGTH: 3.0 miles
AVERAGE GRADE: 10.0%
MAXIMUM: 14%

Dropping off the top of the aptly named High Knob is like descending through a narrow green tunnel—if any tunnel could sustain this many hairpin turns. The ride through the thick woods of far western Virginia begins modestly enough, straighter and less steep than just about anything you'll encounter below. But soon things start to bend and twist, hitting tight turns over a double-digit grade. The road narrows, too, which only adds to the degree of difficulty—though fortunately there's very little traffic—and the double switchback about halfway down is particularly tight. The road opens toward the end, letting you unclench your hands as you roll to the finish.

DIRECTIONS: From Route 23 in Wise, exit to Route 619. Head south; the top is not marked but obvious.

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM