Auburn, California lies in the foothills of the Sierras just off Interstate 80 near Sacramento, CA. It’s easy to miss as it is a small town and unassuming drivers fly by at 70mph but Auburn is a great starting point for many rides in this area. There are several routes to choose from but this particular ride included one of the harder climbs in the area – Iowa Hill.
Iowa Hill isn’t the longest climb to say the least, most amateurs can finish the climb in around 20 minutes or so but the gradients are not seen very often in the US. At 2.9km and an average of 12.3% and reaching as much as 20% it is a very tough climb.
If you start your ride in Auburn you have a 24km gradual climb up to Colfax, CA so plenty of time to get the legs ready for the ride up Iowa Hill. Once into Colfax you dip down an amazing and technical descent down to the American River, you can stop here to take in scenery but we recommend keeping your momentum going as the climb up Iowa Hill starts just after crossing the bridge over the river. Once onto the climb you could be excused for thinking you were in the Pyrenees because the road is not your typical US tarmac. A narrow one lane road with several tight switchbacks leads you up the unrelenting gradients, amidst the suffering if you can manage, look off to the right you will see the a great view American River quickly disappearing from sight as you grind your way up. The higher you go the switchbacks increase as you snake your way up through rock outcroppings and thick trees. You’ll know you’re at the top when you see a line spray painted across the road to indicate the finish for the time trial course. This is a good spot to take in the view out across the valley looking towards the Tahoe National Forest.
It may seem strange as we’re talking about a climb that is only 2.9km in length but what it resembles is just an introduction to the great riding in this area. If you continue past Iowa Hill there are several routes including a great 160km loop shown below that finishes back in Auburn. This route will take in a lot more climbing and more great roads. If you’re doing this ride, beware: in early spring you may be making your way up into some snow and, in contrast, the summers can be very warm so be sure to bring plenty of food and water as there are only a couple of places to fill your bottles along the way.