I parked just off Frontage Road in a gravel parking area on Elephant Head Road. I got on the gravel bike and was soon on Mount Hopkins Road which has great views of Elephant Head on the left and of course, Mount Hopkins on the right where a tiny white dot is the observatory.
The first 8 miles is on good pavement, all the way to the Whipple Observatory visitor center. The average grade of this portion of the ride is only 3%. Then things become decidedly more difficult for the remaining 8 miles.
The road becomes dirt for a short section, then rough pavement for about a mile, then back to dirt. This 8 mile section will have an average grade of 7%. Compare that to Lemmon at 5% and Kitt Peak at 5.5%.
The higher I ascend, the better are the views. Note how well conditioned is the road. Being a newbie gravel rider, it doesn't take much to spook me but the conditions were great.
The observatory is of course now, not so distant. Unfortunately, three miles from the peak is a gate. On previous hikes, I emerged on Mount Hopkins Road above the gate and walked to the peak, unaware that there is a sign forbidding entrance. I got on the observatory web site and it states there too that cyclists and hikers are not to go beyond the gate.
More great views.
I reach the gate. I'm on an AZ gravel Facebook page and a lively discussion was started about this. People have gone around the gate and summitted, others have been escorted out. Apparently, a road repair excuse keeps the road off limits but that has been for a very long time. It's public land so I think a stink is being made to change. Well, you know how I sometimes post....
….my Strava results when I set a record time on some hiking climb. To be fair, the above was the less than stellar result of today's climb. This being my first big climb on a bike in almost a year and having to rest my legs about 5 times, I'm confident I'll knock off 30 minutes on my next effort and zoom up the rankings.
Hey! There is Mount Wrightson on the left. Look closely and to the left of the peak is the moon. What a view.
In the distance are the snow capped Catalinas and Mount Lemmon. On this day with a high in the low 70's, there would be dozens of cyclists going up that but on this road, I saw one cyclist and 3 vehicles.