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White Mountain Peak MTB — Upper Half Silver Canyon

Last updated August 06, 2011 - Send Feedback

The upper half of Silver Canyon averages an intimidating 17% grade, climbing 3320 vertical feet in only 3.7 miles, with some short pitches approaching 30%. These sections are extremely difficult to ride, so it’s walk-a-bike unless the bike has very low gearing and purchase can be found on the loose surface and one has very strong legs.

There are extended sections in the 20% range. Gearing at least of 28 X 36 is strongly recommended, and lower (easier) is better.

Just past the gate, cache #1

The road immediately steepens just past the gate, which is at the sharp left hook in the road. Strong riders with appropriate gearing should be able to ride this section, but some riders will find walking it to be more efficient. I rode it, but my buddy did not want to overtax his legs, as there are ~3200 vertical feet to go to the top of Silver Canyon.

We placed a cache near the gate, but also placed 1-liter bottles of water at each 1000' gain in elevation, so as to minimize the amount of water we needed to carry.

Your author climbing Silver Canyon about 1/2 of the way up
Only very strong riders will be able to ride up the 20% grade for very long
About mile 7.5

The steepness of the land is perhaps more apparent in this photograph. The town of Bishop, CA lies behind the hill at center.

About 2/3 of the way up Silver Canyon — Bishop, CA is behind th hill at center
About 2/3 of the way up Silver Canyon — city of Bishop, CA is behind the hill at center, about mile 8 or 9

Pictures do not convey the steepness of the grade. This section was really tough, but I got back on the bike about 100 feet further on. All told I walked perhaps 1/4 mile of the upper Silver Canyon ascent.

Your author climbing Silver Canyon about 1/2 of the way up
Your author, pushing the bike up a 25% grade about mile 7.1
Photo by Geoffrey Faraghan
Your author climbing Silver Canyon about 1/2 of the way up
Only very strong riders will be able to ride up the 20% grade for very long
About mile 7.5

This was shot steeply down from just one switchback above the road!

Steep switchbacks mean one can take pictures looking down at anyone who lags! About mile 7.4 in upper Silver Canyon
Steep switchbacks mean one can take pictures looking down at anyone who lags!
About mile 7.4 in upper Silver Canyon

It is wise to start early enough to avoid the heat when climbing the upper section. When it’s 70° that’s one thing, but a late start could mean 90° or more, so start early.

Steep switchbacks mean one can take pictures looking down at anyone who lags! About mile 7.4 in upper Silver Canyon
Steep switchbacks mean one can take pictures looking down at anyone who lags!
About mile 7.4 in upper Silver Canyon

Riding uphill at a few miles per hour carries a low risk of head injury, so removing one’s helmet can help with cooling and keep excess sweat out of the eyes.

Your author climbing Silver Canyon about 1/2 of the way up
Your author ascending Silver Canyon about 1/2 of the way up, about mile 8.0 in upper Silver Canyon
Photo by Geoffrey Faraghan

Grades near the summit repeatedly exceed 20%, but stay focused and you’ll get there soon enough. Use caution when descending, and be sure to install new brake pads for the ride, because the 6300' descent will work them hard.

About 500 vertical feet short of the upper Silver Canyon summit. Grades here are ~18%
About 500 vertical feet short of the upper Silver Canyon summit. Grades here are ~18%, about mile 10.0 in upper Silver Canyon

The summit of Silver Canyon just shy of the flat pullout area. Vehicles without clearance and/or good brakes could be disabled on the way down, so descend Silver Canyon road only with appropriate driving skill and suitable vehicle.

Topping out on mountain bike at the parking lot, summit of Silver Canyon 4X4 road
Topping out on mountain bike at the parking lot, summit of Silver Canyon 4X4 road

That fresh gleam in my eye means that I haven’t climbed the remaining 11,000' yet!

Your author at the summit of Silver Canyon, still feeling reasonably fresh, mile 10.5
Your author at the summit of Silver Canyon, still feeling reasonably fresh, mile 10.5
Riding buddy Geoff just beyond the summite of Silver Canyon and boundary of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Riding buddy Geoff just beyond the summit of Silver Canyon and boundary of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

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