Sitting in the outlying area of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Sugarloaf Mountain, a short but challenging climb that offers spectacular views at the top. Sugarloaf is located in Frederick County, Maryland, the closest city being Barnesville, and it's just 37 miles from Washington, D.C. The mountain contains several trails for hiking, but this review will focus on the 1.3-mile ribbon of asphalt that is tailor-made for cyclists looking for a quick challenge mid-ride.
What Makes It Great
The ascent of Sugarloaf Mountain is a mere 1.3 miles and contains four switchbacks. The climb averages around 6 percent and is rated a Category 4.
The climb can be broken up into three sections: The first half mile, which takes you to the first switchback, the second half mile, which traverses the other three hairpins, and the final third of a mile. Cars share the narrow, one-way road with cyclists, but they might not pass you because it's tight.
The first section is probably the easiest, so if you're shooting for a PR this is where you can make up some time. The gradient hovers at 10 percent and below, with most of it around 5-7 percent. Enter the first switchback out of the saddle as you try to mimic some of the sport's greatest climbers.
The second part stays around the same gradient range, but the three remaining switchbacks make it feel a bit tougher. The road gets steeper around these hairpins.
The final third of a mile starts with a 14 percent grade and features a few ramps of more than 10 percent. When you reach the top, stay to the right and stop at the scenic overlook to enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley below.
You descend on another road, one that starts opposite the finishing straight to the climb. The narrow, one-way road can be tricky to navigate because it has five hairpins and a handful of other turns that will have you grabbing for the brakes. It's a great place to work on descending skills.
Who is Going to Love It
Road cyclists looking for a short climb to test their legs and get in some climbing work mid-ride. The view from the top allows you to see for miles looking east, so be sure to bring a camera.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Sugarloaf is easily accessible from anywhere in the D.C. metro area. If you want to drive there and start your ride at the base, there's a parking lot off Sugarloaf Mountain Road with plenty of spots.
If you're riding there from Virginia, take White's Ferry ($2 each way for bikes) over the Potomac River, from Leesburg, and ride through Poolesville and Beallsville until you get to Barnesville. The mountain is visible from several miles away, so let that be your guide. From all other points, a quick Internet search or one of the several bike shops in the area can tell you exactly which roads to take.