Some of our nation’s most stunning countryside can be found in the Peak District, but it’s also home to many tough climbs that are sure to challenge even the most professional cyclist. 

Straddling Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire counties, this National Park covers an enormous area of around 1500 square kilometres meaning that there’s something for every road cyclist to enjoy, and plenty of cycling opportunities to have, whatever your preferences and ability level.

Riders also love this area for its closeness to several cities in the north of England, including Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Huddersfield and Sheffield. This proximity gives cyclists a fantastic way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life along with some challenging terrain to suit the needs of professionals located near British Cycling’s home. 

There are rides in this District to suit the needs of cyclists at all levels, from quiet routes to trails off-road. But what if you’re keen to try a seriously tough challenge? The Peak District has no lack of tough climbs, but we’ve brought you our top ten climbs within this challenging region that are sure to test you!

Gun Hill Cycling Climb

The Gun Hill climb skirts around the Peak District’s edge to its south-west Staffordshire side. It has earned a strong reputation amongst professional riders and it once even made Mark Cavendish cry during one of his training rides! He came back extra strong though, riding his yellow Tour of Britain jersey while riding across it during 2011.

Why did this climb have such a major effect on Cavendish? You may wonder when you begin since the beginning of the Meerbrook ascent is fairly gentle for the initial kilometre with peaks of just over 5%. Don’t be taken in, though. The gradient soon makes itself clear, pitching to 20% and maintaining that tough gradient over the kilometre to come. It only eases off for the last 200 metres before you need to put in one more spurt of effort as you crest its summit.

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average)– 7%
  • Distance – 2.2km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 20%

Peaslows Cycling Climb

Cutting a line directly upwards from Chapel-en-le-Frith’s eastern edge, Peaslows heads towards Sparrowpit. It can be accessed just off the Sheffield Road, cutting out the seriously busy junction of the A6.

Although Peaslows appears to be quite unremarkable when you view it from above on a map, take a closer look at its profile. You’ll soon see how challenging it is. For the initial kilometre, the profile is under 10%, and peaks of as high as 14% appear on the straight route.

As a result, this route is very tough. There’s absolutely no distractions from the challenge at hand, and the last 500 metres merely acts as a form of tease since it eases only a little, causing you to need to switch your afterburners on to get to the top of this deceptively difficult climb.

Route vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 11%
  • Distance – 1.5km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 14%

Monsal Head Cycling Climb

This sharp, short stinger runs up Monsal Dale ridge. This climb is especially testing due to the ongoing gradient which starts out as a kick in your teeth before continuing to unceremoniously do so during your grind upwards to reach the top. However, the view you can enjoy from the summit over the viaduct at Headstone and Monsal Dale makes this climb truly worthwhile. 

The good thing about this grind is that it’s completely predictable, reaching no more than seventeen percent along its entire route, and this makes it ideal for an “out of saddle” attack throughout as you struggle to keep the momentum you began with.

The Monsal Hill Climb each year is held at Monsal Head – an event dating back to the 1930s. It has become established as a top country climb, and in 2016 it was won in just 1 hour 16 ½ minutes.

When you reach the top, you discover a pub – the Monsal Head Hotel – as well as gorgeous views over the viaduct traversing the cutaway which was created by the Wye River. 

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 14% 
  • Distance – 0.4km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 17%

Burbage Moor Cycling Climb

One of our longest climbs at 4.5 kilometres, Burbage Moor is an especially winding route which rises and falls along with its terrain.

During the climb, you gain 269 metres of elevation, averaging at 5% across the Strava’s segment. Yet, while it sounds quite simple, don’t be taken in! The final stretch is a descent down to the finishing line which shrouds the climb’s true nature which is quite severe. It features a 16% peak gradient during its first third. That means, unless you feel especially sprightly, you’ll need a wide cassette so you can spin up while fighting for more grip from the rear wheel.

Beginning at Hathersage, this road rolls upwards, over the initial incline, and then flattens off when you come round the hill and begin the ascent up the next ridge. Although there’s a flat gradient when you turn, it isn’t sufficiently long for you to have sufficient time to recover. Attack the route here and build up maximum momentum to take you into your second stage.

Climb vital statistics

  • Gradient (average) – 5% 
  • Distance – 4.5km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 16%

Larkstone Lane Cycling Climb

The Peak District’s southern section is home to Larkstone Lane, a route that climbs from the gorge that Manifold River created to proceed straight upwards to the crossroad at the summit.

The main thing that adds character to this road is how it switches backwards twice on itself in its first 400 metres. First you go left, then you go right, all while scaling the hill which peaks at 18%. There’s a brief respite as the road eases briefly off before it steepens again for its long 800m continuous stretch.

When you approach the crossroad at the summit of your climb you’ll find it hard going on your legs. Despite the flattening off of the road and its slightly negative grade it will rise gently towards the junction once more, so if you’re keen to get a speedy time on this segment you’ll have to push on right to its end. 

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 7%
  • Distance – 1.8km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 16% 

Rowsley Bar Cycling Climb

When you want a seriously tough climb that bites all the way from the bottom to the top, Rowsley Bar might be just what you’re looking for. Beginning just out of the Peak District’s extremity, it heads out from Rowsley village, presenting you with a gradient that steadily increases right from the start.

From its starting point, at the Chatsworth Road turnoff, you’ll find the road heading upwards steadily until the switchbacks are reached. You’ll find the steepest 25% gradient at those bends before it straights up once more as you head into the finale. 

This climb is well-travelled by cyclists from all over the country so you’ll almost certainly want to add it to your own wish list.

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 13% 
  • Distance – 1km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 25%

Curbar Edge Cycling Climb

It’s fair to say that any climb that has regularly been a venue for hill climb competitions is bound to test your legs. Curbar Edge certainly fits the bill. Recently, before it moved to Scotland in 2016, the BUCS (British Universities & College Sport)’s national hill climbing competition was held at Curbar Edge. 

It’s easy to see why Curbar Edge presents such a tough test. You can access the climb from the A623. It is named after the village which is passed by cyclists during their first 500 metres. After that point, the gradient throughout the 1.7 kilometre ascent stays fairly constant – around 10% – the entire way up to its summit. 

The summit is near when you see the road taking its typical twist to the left then the right when you head towards the cliff face’s natural gap close to the top. You won’t find any respite though – just like all challenging hill courses you’ll need full gas the whole way if you’re keen to get near the top of the Strava leaderboard.

Climb vlital statistics:

  • Gradient (average)- 10%
  • Distance – 1.7km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 11%

Winnats Pass Cycling Climb

Winnats Pass Cycling Climb

This is perhaps the Peak District’s most atmospheric, characterful and beautiful climbs, especially as it passes through what once was believed to be a limestone cavern that had collapsed. If you’re seeking a challenge, this route is a must-ride. It’s also been on 2015’s Tour of Britain’s 6th stage, so professional race organisers are also well-aware of its challenges.

Measuring 1.4 kilometres in length while averaging out at 12%, this is a tough ride all the way to the top. The challenge is even harder due to the grade which becomes increasingly tough when you scale upwards. When you begin your climb at the A6187 junction and proceed up the Arthurs Way, the gradient is 7% and it only gets higher. 

You enter into the famous limestone cleft which makes Winnats Pass so popular with cyclists, and you’ll start seeing double figures. As you sweep though that canyon, the beautiful road will pitch even higher and eventually you’ll hit 20% steadily over the final 200 metres, putting a major sting at the end of this beautiful climb.

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 12% 
  • Distance – 1.4km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 20%

Ewden Bank (otherwise known as ‘Deliverance’)

We had to add “Deliverance” to our list of top Peak District climbs. This suggestive title probably refers to the climb’s severity since it allows no momentum to be carried onto the main drag.

Beginning at the river Ewden Back, the road goes up to the right and then the left, so your speed is already sapped before you’re deposited on the ridge. As your speed has gone, you have to shift your cassette up and just settle in for the ride. This 900 metre climb’s KOM is currently held by Graham Briggs of JLT-Condor in three minutes 26 seconds. This shows how even professionals are unable to take their speed onto this climb.

You’ll follow the Mortimer Road up its ridge almost directly and the gradient will reach 15% before dipping down to 10 and then rising up to 16 again as you get closer to a right hander close to the top. It’s necessary to round the corner at top gas though as the segment will stop when you reach the next left bend that just 150 metres later will round Thorpe’s Brow.

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 13%
  • Distance – 0.9km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 16% 

Mam Tor Cycling Climb

It’s fair to say that no list of the Peak District’s best climbs could ever be complete if we didn’t mention Mam Tor. Beginning at Barber Booth, this is yet another fairly consistent climb that tops out close to Mam Tor’s actual peak – over 500 metres in elevation.

This time, though, the 10% average gradient is spread across a distance of 2.1 km so you can try to find the right pace and rhythm as you head upwards. But don’t let yourself be fooled – currently, the QOM and KOM times are 9:20 and 6:53 respectively. That means you can expect to spend some serious time working up this one.

You’ll first make a head-on approach to the hill, and you’ll already feel the 10% peaks. When you reach the 1km mark, you’ll veer left and scale the hillside which is incredibly steep. You’ll then twist, turn and wind across the topography and hit the peak 15% pitch until at least, you get to the last switchback twist when you get to the top. Maintain your effort throughout as this route will test you right to the end.

Climb vital statistics:

  • Gradient (average) – 10%
  • Distance – 2.1km
  • Steepest point of gradient – 15%

So, there you have it – our top 10 climbs to enjoy in the Peak District. We’re sure you’ll find something on this list to suit your preferences and to give you a challenge when you’re riding in this beautiful part of the UK. 

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