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Toughest Hoosier Hills?

[Updated Sept 5]

I’ve been using Google Earth for the last year to line out new rides, and by measuring the distance and elevations of the various hills, I’ve come up with Mitch’s Hill Toughness Quotient (MHTQ). The formula is simple, I divide the rise in elevation feet by the distance in miles, this is essentially a steepness quotient. The climbs I have here are all over .2 miles, and the rises from 138-318 ft. I’ve included both paved and gravel roads. Gravel is harder to climb, but I am not sure by what factor. For me, some are impossible, my back wheel starts to spin out, even with a bunch of weight in my pannier.

These numbers are a steepness quotient, and other factors must be considered in saying how hard a hill is to climb. Consider Brummett’s Creek Rd., which has a high number at 608 over 1/4 of mile, while everyone would agree that Bear Wallow Hill Rd. (424 MHTQ), which rises 324 feet in 3/4 mile really is a bear. More climbing, more distance, more work. So in some cases rising steeply for a short distance may be easier that a long climb.

I have been updating this list, and as of now Brummett’s Creek and Mt. Gilead (east) hills have risen to the top of the paved list (discounting Miller and Boltinghouse, which are still far and away the toughest paved hills).

THE TOP FIVE TOUGHEST HOOSIER HILLS

#1 McGOWEN ROAD

No way around it, this gravel hill leading to Gilmore Ridge is the toughest Hoosier Hill I’ve been on. Just southeast of Pine Grove on Lake Monroe, McGowen (aka Rogers) Road rises a whopping 250 feet over just .27 miles, giving it the top score of 926 MHTQ. I’ve since figured out that it is much easier to go up TC Steele Road and down McGowen Road rather than up!

605 to 855 feet
250 ft rise
.27 mile
250/.27=926 MHTQ

From Crooked Creek_McGowen Ride

Second and third place (by the numbers) go to Miller and Boltinghouse Roads. Boltinghouse has had the reputation as the toughest paved hill, but I have checked my numbers thrice, and Miller is the winner by a nose.

#2 Miller Road
616-820 feet
204 ft. rise
.27 mile
204/.27=775 MHTQ

#3 Boltinghouse Road
629 to 820 feet
191 foot rise
.25 mile
191/.25=764 MHTQ

Number four is Earl Young Rd, and being gravel, it may harder than either Miller or Boltinghouse. I haven’t put a number on gravel vs. paved, but my guess would be about 100 points. If you have experience on these roads what do you think? Is Earl Young tougher than Miller or Boltinghouse?

#4 Earl Young Rd
694 to 874, 180 ft rise
.27 mile
180/.27= 666 MHTQ

Number five is in Brown county, Indian Hill Road off of SR 45. This may also be tougher than Miller/Boltinghouse, as it is gravel, longer, and higher than the other top 5, and so although it is a few points lower than Brummett’s Creek, it rates #5.

#5 Indian Hill Rd.
640 to 876, 236 feet rise
.39 mi.
236/.39= 605 MHTQ

Below is a listing of some well know hills, I’ve climbed them all on my recumbent at one time or another, and wanted to know where they were in the scale. I placed them in order, with Brummett’s Creek at the top, and to my surprise, Firehouse Hill at the bottom. (It seems tougher than it is as it is so often the last big hill of the day.) If you have any hills that should be on this list, let me know.

Brummett’s Creek Rd.
770-630=140 ft rise
.23 miles
140/.23=608

Mt. Gilead Road (West)
836- 630=206 ft rise
.39 mi
206/.39=528.2

Schwartz Ridge Road
715-577=138
.25 mi.
138/.25=522

Bean Blossom Road (the first main climb)
630-820 190 feet
.39 mi.
190/.37=487

Mt. Gilead-(East)
803-660=143 ft rise
.29 miles
143/.29=493

Bear Creek Hill (Gravel)
738-907 169 rise
.35 mi
169/.35=483

TC Steele Road
560-860=200 feet
.42 mi.
200/.42= 472

Crooked Creek (Gravel)
595-860, 265 ft rise
.6 mi
265/.6=441

Bear Wallow Hill
692-1010, 318 ft rise
.75 mi
318/.75=424

Old Meyers Road
610-790, 180 ft
.46 mi
180/.46=391

SR 446 North of causeway
560 to 728, 168 rise
.44 mi.
168/.44=382

Lampkins Ridge
565 to 705, 150 foot rise
.4 mi.
150/.4=375

Paynetown Road
540 to 728, 188 ft rise
.52 mi
188/.52=361

SR 446 south of the causeway
560-750, 190 ft rise
.56 mi.
190/.56=340

Firehouse Hill
601 to 791, 190 ft rise
.65 miles
190/.65=262

Bean Blossom Hill (the full climb)
630 to 923=293 ft rise
1.29 miles
293/1.29=227 MHTQ

18 replies on “Toughest Hoosier Hills?”

I’m not sure but I think you could use trigonometry to find the average grade instead of the quotient. This way it would be relatable to average grades in major races like the Tour de France. Just a thought.

Let me weigh in on Miller Road hill, as I went up it yesterday. Although its difficulty might have been enhanced because I had not ridden in eight days, I thought it physically more challenging than Boltinghouse or Earl Young hills. Two or three times, one especially, I thought about walking, but the hill is not as long as Boltinghouse, so I was able to see the end and keep going.

Unlike Boltinghouse, you get no respite a fourth of the way into the incline: it’s steep all the way.

My calves were cramping considerable when I was riding afterward on Robinson Road, although that may have been due to not having hydrated properly before the ride and not having ridden for the seven previous days.

I’ve now been up Mt. Gilead west and down Miller Road hills, as well as up Brummett’s Creek hill. I’d rate Brummett’s Creek hill as harder than Mt. Gilead west followed by Mt. Gilead east. MGW is hard at the beginning. After that, only the length makes it hard. My wife made it up BC hill in her hybrid, so it’s a manageable hill.

The same day I went down Miller Road hill, I previously went down Boltinghouse Road hill. I hit a max of 48 mph on Boltinghouse, which is fairly straight. I wanted to compare that with my maximum speed going down Miller Road in order to get difficulty comparison, but Miller is curving, so I never got above 38 mph. I’d say Miller is tougher, but I’ve yet to go up it.

If you’re looking for longer, upward trending, rolling roads, try Shilo from Anderson to Tunnel Road and Robinson from Old 37 to Tunnel Road. Shilo is particularly hard. It lots of fun, however, to take it the opposite direction, rolling hills, but mostly downhill.

Thanks for the information on steep Hoosier hills.

I went up Earl Young Road hill for the first time on Sunday. I didn’t know it was there, although I suspected it would be, I didn’t know it was gravel, but was not surprised to find it was. What surprised me was that it was one lane, which was not an issue, except that a car drove down as I was going up. I had to dismount to get out of the way. Getting back on and staying on was a challenge, because the road has only two 18-inch wide tire lanes between the gravel that are suitable for riding. So any weaving results in hitting gravel and losing one’s balance. I fell off two or three times until I got a good rhythm going.

Having ridden up Boltinghouse Hill three times on a road bike, and Earl Young Hill once on a hybrid, Boltinghouse challenges one’s strength more, but Earl Young requires better overall biking ability. If you have difficulty keeping your balance at low speeds on steep grades, Earl Young will be more challenging. Both are very difficult.

I should also add that both are so steep that you can easily pull your front wheel off the road while pulling up on the handle bars, so leaning forward is essential to maintaining balance.

I haven’t ridden up Mt. Gilead west, although I’ve taken Mt. Gilead east twice, both with hybrid and road bikes. The east hill is tough, but only because its about 0.4 of a mile. Success merely requires persistence. My wife made it up the east hill on her hybrid.

I also found Shufflecreek Road difficult at the bottom. I got a real burn in my legs during that climb. But that part is short, and the top part of the hill isn’t too bad.

And the two shorts hills on the western end of South Lake Shore Drive at Lake Lemon leading to Tunnel Road, especially the last hill, are tough challenges, harder than Mt. Gilead east, but not as hard as Boltinghouse. My wife can take the Lake Drive hills, but she’s not even tried Boltinghouse. In fact, we rode on Earl Young to avoid Boltinghouse. She walked up Earl Young Hill. She’s the sensible one.

I’m 57 years old and have been riding for only three years, so if I can tackle these hills, you can also.

Ok, I’ve been taking a break from this blog, it’s about time I begin measuring some more hills, I’ll post here when I add these two. Birdie Galyan is really steep just before it hits Fleener, no doubt about it. But it is relatively short, so that may be why I left it out. I plan plotting some of the shorter but steeper climbs, right now I have 1/5 mile as my lower end. If I go down to 1/10, I might find something steeper, but not tougher.

Great idea to collect and rank these. What about Shuffle Creek Rd? And the Hilly Hundred favorite Mt. Tabor Rd? I live on Lower Birdie Galyan Rd, which has a pretty steep hill, and coming off of that is Fleener Rd. Being a runner as well as a biker, I’ve done many hill repeats on McGowan Rd, so I’m really familiar with that one.

Hi Mitch! You have an interesting blog. I’ve ridden the HMBA Century three times now, since I got back into cycling. Living in Indianapolis and north central Indiana most of my life makes riding down south of Indy alot of fun and tiring! I think what makes Boltinghouse so tough is the intimidation factor. One can see the hill rise dramatically to a small landing, then rise again and curve left to reveal more rising pavement! It is a great feeling to get to the top.

Dave

Thanks! I now have some new comments, and from someone I know! I need to update this page with some new hills, subscribe and you’ll know when I do. ogreworks, huh? I’ll check it out tomorrow. Most of my energy has been going to mitchrice.us/nature lately, Jojo and I saw 3 eagles when we went swimming at Lake Monroe last evening!

How about some of the roads in Brown County State Park? How do these compare. I am thinking about “The Wall” south of the Horseman’s camp as well as Strahl Lake. Also, is Owl Creek, outside of Nashville, close to making this list?

Hi,
I live in Evansville, Indiana and the hills you showed were around Bloomington—I think. Not sure. Do you have locations (cities) or even a map that would show where these are located? I’m a road racer, so only paved ones please.

Right, this is a steepness scale, within certain parameters, it works pretty well. The rises I’ve charted go from 138 ft. (Schwartz Ridge) to 308 (Bear Wallow Hill Rd.) Bear Wallow is the king for both length (.75 mi.) and rise, yet I know I climbed it a couple of years ago during the hilly.

But McGowan (904) or Early Young (666), no way, they are so steep that I spin out. I made it up Crooked Creek, which is gravel but a low quotient at 441, but I can’t do either Miller (775) or Boltinghouse (764) Roads. So for me at least, this analysis gives me some clues about the relative difficulty of various hills.

It would be cool to work out some way of assigning formulae to account for gravel, distance and rise, but I think this would just shuffle some of the middle hills, but leave the basic rankings in place. Thanks for your comments!

Cool analysis. You’re basically measuring the average grade, but without converting units.

Out of curiosity, I tried your method on one of the hills here in NE PA (I moved here from Bloomington last fall) and it’s a big one: the hill (or rather, the part I looked at) rises 566 feet in 1.33 miles. MHTQ only gives 425.56, but this is a much harder climb than anything I found in Bloomington. It’s not steep the whole way, but it’s constant climbing and it does get steep in parts. And obviously, it rises far — you mention that this should be factored in. I guess the length is making MHTQ low, but in reality climbing for that long is hard!

It’d be kind of neat if there were a way to factor in maximum grade, hardest sustained grade, and stuff like that, but that would be a little more difficult to pull off. I use TopoFusion in conjunction with my GPS; TopoFusion does “climbing analysis” and also has a “difficulty index,” although I haven’t examined what that means exactly.

On the other hand, your results for the Bloomington hills seem about right to me, in general. I’d say the 446 climbs are harder than the MHTQ indicates, though.

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