The South Bay used to produce lots of riders who could absolutely smoke it on the uphills. This was due in part to the excellent climbing available on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, but also because it used to be affordable for young people to live here. Now, not at all, and while there are a handful of good climbers who both ride PV and live here, for the most part they live elsewhere. However, LA riders who want hard, hilly riding in a gorgeous setting still come here. Below is my ranking of the ten best climbs. Route descriptions are referenced according to Strava.
1. Forrestal-Ganado-Domes: 3.4 miles, average grade 6.3%. The toughest climb on the peninsula. It begins on Forrestal when you turn off of PV Drive South, connects with Ganado, then takes Crest all the way to the radar domes. If you do “Segment Search” in Strava for “The Big One, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA,” you’ll find it. It’s a solid 20-minute climb. The first part of Forrestal is deceptively steep, and the rest of the climb to Crest is not deceptive at all. It goes up, and up, and up. There is one place where you have to dismount and squeeze through a narrow gate to connect to the rest of the climb. The wall before Ganado is horrific, and Ganado itself is beyond horrific. This is as close to a pro climb as we have in the South Bay. Long, leg breaking, steep, lung busting, relentless, and ridden rarely because it hurts so much.
2. Anchovy-Friendship Park-Domes: 4.0 miles, 7% (est). This would be harder than Forrestal except that after you complete the climb above Friendship Park there is a substantial respite before you hit Crest and climb to the radar domes. Otherwise, it’s an absolute killer. It starts off as an 8.2% wall, climbs for half a mile, then finishes at 11.6% for another five hundred yards before briefly leveling out. You enter the park’s parking lot, pedal to the back, lift your bike over the barricade, and continue up the paved road for another .5 mile, averaging a solid 15% along the steepest part. Then you get another breather from Calle Aventura to PV East until you turn right on Crest and grind the final 1.6 miles at 5.3% to the radar domes.
3. The Switchbacks: The Strava segment is called “RPV Switchbacks.” This is the gold standard climb in the South Bay. 1.9 miles, 5.1%, and a mere 508 feet of climbing, it’s hardly a tough or challenging climb. You can big ring it or spin it…as you wish. However, if you want to crack the top hundred times, get ready to leave something on the road. This is the most popular climb in the South Bay; everyone’s done it, it’s drilled every single week on the Donut Ride, and although there are many harder climbs, there’s none that’s tougher if you’re out hunting a legit Strava KOM. Which I know you’re not. But just in case, Phil Gaimon has it.
4. Calle de Suenos-Crest-Whitley Collins: 3.3 miles, 4.5% (est.) this is a harder, more interesting, and less common route than Hawthorne-Crest, which I’ve left off the list because it’s so ugly, boring, and such a wretched slog compared to Calle de Suenos. Hawthorne is slightly longer and slightly steeper, but this is my list. Sorry. The section on Crest after crossing Hawthorne is not steep but kind of a grind. The kicker is the back side of Whitley-Collins, which rips up at 7.8% and is gnarliest at the end…as it should be.
5. Paseo de la Playa-Via del Monte-Granvira Altamira-Whitley Collins: This is an amalgamation of several climbs, beginning at Paseo de la Playa in Rat Beach, connecting with Palos Verdes Drive Boulevard, doglegging through Malaga Cove to the Strava segment called Via del Monte Full, straight across Hawthorne to Ridgegate, right on Highridge, and then finishing with the front side of Whitley-Collins and its .2 miles at 9.9%. The entire climb is like a billion miles long, has one traffic signal and four hundred stop signs. You’ll have to decide for yourself what to do about them. This is a killer climb to do early in the morning, shortly after or just before the PV cops park their dummy patrol car with the blacked-out windows somewhere on Via del Monte. This climb has everything. Steep sections, 180-degree turn, flat spots, false flats, slight and brief downhill, long grinds…and it finishes with a leg-breaker. As it should.
6. Eastvale-Sunnyridge: This is a little-ridden, extremely noxious climb that will completely crush you. It’s only about a mile long, but averages a solid 9%. The key is to bear right when Eastvale meets Sunnyridge. From there it kicks up and up and up. Take care descending Sunnyridge. It’s a residential street. This is certainly one of the nastiest climbs on the hill, and gets bypassed for that very reason. You pick it up on PV Drive North just past Crenshaw, and of course it ends in a dead-fuggin-end. As it should. This Sunnyridge is the home of the best South Bay climber ever, Stathis the Wily Greek, so some reference it as Stathisridge. If you can’t stomach the dead end, there’s a dirt path behind the little park that drops you off onto Crest. It’s not hard or technical but you can fall off pretty easily if it’s damp or muddy.
7. Crenshaw-Crest-Whitley Collins: In the spirit of miserable, dangerous, grinding, unpleasant rides with nothing to recommend them except length and dreadfulness, I give you Crenshaw. If you begin it at PCH, it’s about 4 miles at 7%. The traffic is dense and fast and dangerous on the lower slope. The traffic is not as dense, but faster after you cross PV Drive North. However, the width of the lane makes it relatively safe. Relatively. After the light at Silver Spur, the road jacks up considerably and really sucks. You get a brief respite on Crest, and then get pounded in the face with a brick when you hit the final .3 miles on Whitley-Collins. This climb is so miserable and awful that you’ll never, ever do it more than once.
8. Reservoir-Homes & Domes: This is the climb up Palos Verdes Drive East to Miraleste, down Miraleste, and up through the neighborhood back to PV Drive East, then up to the radar domes. It’s a terrible climb up from the reservoir due to the traffic, narrow lanes, angry drivers on their way to curse you at church, and bad pavement. The climb is neither challenging nor particularly scenic. The Better Homes Section up Via Colinita is about .7 miles, fairly steep, pretty, but not otherwise notable. So why do this climb? Because it’s a standard.
9. Zumaya-Coronel: This is actually the name of the Strava segment; it’s 2.9 miles at 4.4%. It has a couple of steep sections and only two brief sections where you can catch your breath before it kicks up again. It includes the sweeping uphill grind on Coronel and finishes at a nice little grassy knoll, from where the shots were fired. It’s the finishing climb on the Donut Ride for those who haven’t left everything on the Glass Church sprint and The Rollers.
10. You tell me.