Finn Hill is located Northeast of Kirkland, near the north end of Lake Washington. Most cyclists call this hill “Juanita”, because Juanita Drive is a common way to ride up it.
There are many ways up Finn Hill. Some are easy, some are hard, and a surprising number are stupid-hard.
From the South
By far the easiest way up the hill is from the South, riding up Juanita Drive (A). The first part of the street (up to the stoplight) is pretty flat, though it kicks up to 7-8% on the last pitch before the top. The first part is featured as “Hill #2 (Juanita)” in the 7 Hills of Kirkland. It has a great shoulder so it’s not too bad from a traffic perspective and it has some nice views of the lake as you climb up. Coming down is a bit more intense’ the shoulder isn’t as well configured and the traffic is more impactful. There are bike lanes at the bottom .
This is also the only real way up from the South, though there is a variant from the south and from the east. See also “the Western Climbs”.
From the North
There are four basic ways up from the north.
Climbing up Juanita drive (D) is a mostly constant climb, with a slightly steeper pitch at the top. There is unfortunately a curb right at the end of the traffic lane, which puts you in a thin section of pavement next to the curb. It may be a good place to ride, or it may have debris or other cyclists in it. This is a nice descent with a great run-out at the bottom that may be marred by traffic and some sketchy pavement near the bottom. It pays to pay attention on the descent.
If you head East a bit, you have two options. There is Simonds Rd NE (E), a 430’ climb with a hard constant 12-13% section in the middle, and there is a variant that starts on Simonds and then heads south on 81st (G), which is slightly steeper, but with the advantages of less traffic and a little break part-way through. They both end up basically at the same place.
Finally, there is 76th Ave NE (F). This climb starts serious (10%), levels off, gets steep (13-15%), and then it gets silly (17%+). Bring your low gearing. There is a variant that turns off at NE 163rd St partway up that I have not ridden but promises a similar amount of fun. Have fun with that.
If you have done any of these climbs, I suggest heading south on 78th; it’s a nice street without much traffic. Turn right when it ends to get to Juanita drive.
From the East
Climbing up from the east, you can climb up Simonds Road (H). There isn’t much of a shoulder, but there are two lanes so you can ride in the right lane. The gradient peaks at 10-11%. This is the easiest way up from the east.
A bit more to the south is NE 132nd St (M), which has easy and hard sections. Like Juanita from the north, it has a curbed-off section on the side. I’ve had decent luck with that section, but IIRC there are some drains you really need to watch out for. This hill has a lot of traffic, so keep that in mind.
Between these two climbs, we have three other choices. They all have the advantage of being short, they have good pavement, and they are through neighborhoods so there isn’t too much traffic. They are all, however, bastards. Climbing these, I don’t ask myself when it will end. I ask myself whether I can tack back and forth because I’m riding so slow that I think I might fall over, and I hope that my drivetrain keeps working cleanly because, if something happens, there’s no way I could clip out before I fell over.
NE 137th (L) is a pretty straight shot of pain, peaking at something more than 15%. It is probably the least bastardly of the three, but that is a somewhat dubious distinction.
Heading north, next up we have NE 139th (K). The description on the site says, “short, steep, and brutal”, and that’s a pretty good summation. Has an extended section well about 15%, and comes close to 20% in places. After that steep section, it levels out and gets easy. Ha Ha, I make joke. It does level out, but only to a 10+% section.
And finally, that brings us to NE 140th (J). This climb has two sections; a nice 13% warmup, a short respite, and then a brutal climb with two spikes nearing 20%.
I go back and forth on which of the two are the worst. I usually settle on 140th because the spikes are so painful to deal with, but I sometimes go the other way. I suggest riding both of them and making up your own mind, preferably one right after the other. Bring your own defibrillator.
The Western Climbs
To the west of Juanita Drive are two wonderful climbs. They are in a loop; you go down one of them, and up the other one.
If you are heading north, you turn left at the first light on the Juanita drive climb (76th Pl NE), and descend. At the bottom, you will find a nice little waterfront park, and, as you head north, you will reach the base of Seminary Hill (C). This is one of the classic climbs in the area, and it rose from obscurity amongst all of the great climbs in the area because it is climb #3 in the 7 Hills of Kirkland, and it is the first indication how hard that ride is going to be. For first time participants in the ride, Market is a challenge though not too steep, the first part of Juanita is pretty easy, and then Seminary rises up and slaps you in the face, and its 414’ gives you a lot of time to think about what you got yourself into.
The hill gets its name from the Seminary that used to be just north of the top of the hill, the present-day location of Bastyr University.
The climb is rolling and curvy, making it hard to judge your progress and presenting a couple of demoralizing steep stretches as you round corners. It’s definitely a climb where starting easy and settling in is a good approach, but it’s not particularly easy to do. It’s quite a pretty climb, under a tree canopy the whole way up, so if you have a few brain cycles free I recommend looking around. You will eventually top out at the top of the Juanita drive climbs.
Going the other way, Seminary is a fun and curvy descent. Note the stop signs at the bottom.
If you are heading south, you descend down Seminary, and then climb up Holmes point road (B). This is a great little climb that almost nobody rides; it’s under full canopy the way Seminary is but the total elevation is less and the gradient is much easier. And, when you get to the top, you can turn right and have a big chunk of the Juanita drive descent remaining.
Juanita Business Bypass
If you are heading north out of Kirkland, there’s a nice option that lets you bypass much of the business district of Juanita and adds in a little elevation.
On Juanita drive, you turn north on 93rd Ave NE and work your way to the base of 94th Ave NE (N). It’s a short but steep pitch that gets you up to 132nd, at which point you can either turn left and finish the 132nd climb, or you can turn right and descent, and either keep heading east on 132nd or head north on 100th.