Cycle Tower to Summit

Cycle Adelaide, Road Ride, Tower To Summit

This is a hard ride – but not a long one. At only 7.5km, what it lacks in length it makes up for in effort, so the Level 3 rating relates more to its brevity than the amount of energy expended. Except for the first 300m, it’s uphill all the way to Norton Summit – a lot of it very steeply. It’s unusual in that it’s steeper at the start and backs off as it progresses, but it’s a climb all the way to the top.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, which is why this is one of the Adelaide cycling fraternity’s favourite training rides. It’s also one of the most popular timed hill climbs on Olympic cyclist Brett Aitken’s cycle2max interactive website, and a chance to match the times posted by top Australian cyclists.

It’s easy to navigate (just one turn) and has spectacular scenery along the route. Views open out at various stages, from the stunning rock faces of Morialta Gorge to the panorama over the city and the coast. And where the views end, it’s still a peaceful ride along the shady, gum-lined road.

The road we take is known as the new Norton Summit Road, as opposed to Old Norton Summit Road, which is shorter but heavily trafficked. Traditionally – although an unwritten rule - most cars use the ‘old’ road and bikes the ‘new’ road, which makes for a safer, more enjoyable ride up this challenging climb.

Access

From the city, take North Terrace and Magill Road to the Tower Hotel on the corner of St Bernard’s Road.

Food and Drink

Tower Hotel, shops and cafes at the start; Scenic Hotel and drinking fountain at the finish.

Side trip

Continue the adrenalin rush and go rock-climbing or abseiling at Morialta Gorge. A number of local operators offer half or full day sessions, including tuition and equipment. Search ‘rock climbing south australia’ on the web for contact details.

More Details

Morialta Conservation Park

Visible along the ride, Morialta Conservation Park is a stunning place to visit. Deep gorges with sheer rock faces house spectacular waterfalls – after rain at least – all set in pristine native eucalypt bushland. While it sounds rugged, there’s easy access for all ages and fitness levels to some of the most picturesque parts of the park, thanks to a series of looped walking trails. Graded and marked (although not always that well), the trails range from the 1.6km First Falls Walk, suitable for prams, to the challenging 7.3km Three Falls Grand Hike. With climbs as challenging as the Tower to Summit ride, it’s a hikers’ dream, traversing gorges and cliffs and encompassing all three of the park’s waterfalls. Add picnic areas and a highly visible koala population, and you’ve just got to go there.

But first, to the top. Reaching Norton Summit the reward is twofold: the satisfaction of conquering the climb, and the Scenic Hotel. Cyclist friendly – in fact welcoming - they’re open all day for a cold drink or espresso. They have bar snacks and great, reasonably priced meals, will happily refill water bottles, and open at 9am on weekends for breakfast. Now there’s an incentive to get up and on the bike: do the Tower to Summit ride, have breakfast at the Scenic, then head off on the Adelaide Hills and Ranges ride (Ride 20) before the coast back down to the city.

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Leaving the carpark of the Tower Hotel, turn left and head towards the hills.
  • 0.3 Turn left onto Norton Summit Rd, signposted to Lobethal and Norton Summit. Cross Third Creek and start climbing straight away. The ‘cycle2themax’ timed hill climb starts here.
  • 2.4 Turn hard left. Ignore Valley Dr off to the right, and head back up the hill.
  • 3.0 Views across the gully to Morialta Conservation Park.
  • 4.2 Views down over the city to the coast.
  • 4.7 ‘Pretty Corner’, overlooking Morialta Gorge. This stretch continues along the top of Morialta Gorge and is a popular rock climbing area.
  • 6.5 The end of the timed hill climb course.
  • 7.0 Views down along the valley to the city and coast.
  • 7.5 At the Scenic Hotel and Norton Summit, the ride ends.
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    7.793 km / 4.843 mi

    Total Distance

    386 m / 1,266 ft

    Total Ascent

    63 m / 206 ft

    Total Descent

    455 m / 1,493 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: High
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Limited
    Estimated Distance: 7.8
    Elevation Gain: 449
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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