Driving east on US50 from Sacramento, the first indication that the foothills – and the Sierras – are approaching is the slow, sweeping climb that starts just after the Bidwell Street exit. This busy stretch of the highway is marked by new strip malls on the north side, and rolling hills dotted with oak trees to the south. If you keep heading east, you crest the hill and the road widens to accommodate the off-ramp at Latrobe Road for El Dorado Hills, and if you glance to your left, you’ll see Costco perched on the side of the hill.
Not surprisingly, local cyclists have dubbed the road which climbs past the Folsom Costco ‘Costco Hill’. Actually, it is the last eastern stretch of Iron Point Road, which rises 500′ before it disappears into the unfinished housing subdivisions of Empire Ranch. Riders who crave stiff climbs have been coming to Costco Hill for years, and it remains one of the best hill-climbs in the Sacramento area.
Approaching this stretch of Iron Point Road from the west, you will pass the expansive Broadstone commercial development and the new Palladio cinema. East Bidwell Street is a large, busy intersection, and although there is a dedicated cycle lane, it is not well protected. Riders will need to position themselves carefully between the ongoing and turn lanes in order to cross East Bidwell St.
Once you have passed East Bidwell, the road immediately begins to rise and turn to the right. After a few hundred feet, the cycle lane disappears, and a large right-turn lane appears, which can be intimidating. Continue straight on, and the road becomes less busy before you approach a minor stop-light. A short sprint and you’ll reach another stop-light at the turn-off for Costco.
This is where the climbing really begins. The road rises steadily with a generous shoulder for cyclists, but traffic is fairly light at this stretch and you should not feel threatened by the fast-moving vehicles. The climb is even, with a steady incline that is never brutal, but which goes on long enough to hurt even experienced riders. If you get a chance, look over your shoulder; the view down over the Sacramento Valley is phenomenal.
Towards the top of the climb, Iron Point Road eases out slightly, and the last few hundred feet are less challenging. At the summit – a little over 800′ – the road drops away to the left, towards Empire Ranch, which provides a fun loop if you’re energetic enough to want to try climbing Costco Hill again.