6 Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Hills and Slopes

Having a beautiful lawn will make your home stand out in the neighborhood until it is time to mow it. Mowing flat lawns is not such a big challenge, and you can use almost any type of riding lawnmower.

However, if you have a hilly yard, you must consider some specific features to help you navigate uphill and downhill as well as how you drive across slopes in your ride-on mower.

I have detailed the main criteria to look out for when searching out the best riding lawn mower for hills…

Best Riding Lawn Mowers For Hills

Husqvarna Riding Mower 46-Inch

Best Riding Mower for Hills

Husqvarna Riding Mower 46-Inch

22hp Briggs & Stratton 724cc engine. Ideal riding mower for uneven ground up to 2 acres. Good traction with 20” tires.

Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn

Best Zero Turn For Uneven Terrain

Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn

Capable of handling hills and uneven terrain. Powerful Kawasaki 23hp engine. Big 20-inch rear tires. Clean 52” cutting path.

Why Choose a Riding Lawn Mower for Hills?

Riding lawn mowers are fun to use. They make mowing seem less of a chore and more of an activity you can’t wait to do when you’re free. However, this is not the only reason that makes riding lawn mowers perfect for hilly terrain.

Compared to walk-behind lawnmowers, obviously, you won’t have to walk, plus they are more powerful, have wider cutting widths (trim at a faster pace), and are easier to use on uneven terrain.

That said, there are three types of riding lawn mowers, and not all perform well on hilly lawns. Let me explain the differences and benefits of each.

Riding Lawn Mower Options

When looking for the best mower for hills and steep banks, there are three main types of riding mower to consider: Zero-turn mower, garden or lawn tractor, and rear engine riding mower.

Zero-Turn Mower

A zero-turn mower uses a set of two-lap bars to control movement and steering. It does not have a steering wheel.

Each lap bar controls one of the rear wheels independently. Pushing it ahead engages the transmission to spin the wheel forward, and the vice-versa is true for reverse movement. To stop the mower, pull both bars back to your lap to the neutral position.

If you want to turn, you push one of the bars forward to spin one of the wheels, which circles the mower. The design gives it the advantage of zero turning, which makes it possible to cut lawns faster.

However, the tool has one problem. The front wheels are casters.  They are difficult to control, so it can be challenging to direct where the mower will go, especially when mowing uphill or downhill.

Garden or Lawn Tractor

Lawn tractors have the traditional mower design, where you have the engine at the front and a steering wheel to turn the front wheels. They are easy to control direction-wise because you can turn the front wheels, even when mowing hilly terrain. However, you can’t do a zero-turn using a garden tractor, which limits maneuverability.

Rear Engine Riding Mower

As the name suggests, this mower has its engine at the rear end, leaving the front section clearer for better visibility. It has a steering wheel as well, so you can navigate uphill or downhill easily.

They are ideal for the job, but most are usually small riding mowers (with less than a 40-inch deck) and have small engines. As such, they might not be practical for manicuring large lawns, which leaves tractors as the best option.

Choosing the Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills

Apart from checking the mower’s specific features, consider the following factors relating to your yard before making a purchase.

Gradient of Hilly Terrain or Slopes

While I don’t recommend zero-turn mowers as the best for hilly terrain, I cannot fail to ignore the importance of zero turns and maneuverability when mowing.

Therefore, if the lawn gradient is not too steep, I suggest getting a zero-turn mower because the front caster wheels will not give you many problems. However, if your yard is steep, stick to the tractor or rear-engine mower.

Size of Lawn (Acres)

Another crucial factor to consider is the size of your lawn. As a general rule of thumb, the best deck size for a 0.75-acre to 1-acre yard should range from 30 to 42 inches in width.

For 1-2 acres, get a unit with a 42-inch to 52-inch deck. Yards with 2-3 acres need a 50-inch to 54-inch deck, while for large 3-acre to 5-acre yards, I recommend a 54-inch to 62-inch deck. For any lawn larger than 5 acres, get a mower with at least a 60-inch cutting width.

However, for yards less than 0.75 acres, it is better to work with a walk-behind mower. Riding lawn mowers are expensive, and it would not make sense to spend all that money to manicure such a small piece of land. But if you don’t mind the cost, get one.

Layout and Obstacles

Apart from size, consider the obstacles in your yard. How many trees, lights, chairs, statues, or other potential obstacles do you have? You can remove the non-fixed ones, like seats, but you must maneuver around the others.

Zero-turn mowers offer the best maneuverability and would be perfect for lawns with multiple obstacles if the gradient is gentle. However, if too steep, pick either of the other two types.

You can choose a slightly lower deck size than the recommended one as per the size of your lawn to improve maneuverability while also keeping the mowing time to a minimum.

Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills Reviews

With the above lawn considerations in mind, let’s explore the top machines available. Below are the best lawn mowers for hilly terrain.

My criteria for selection were first and foremost: can the riding mower operate safely and effectively on hills or slopes. Then I have accounted for cutting efficiency, build quality, and value for money.

Best Riding Lawn Mowers for Hills
  • Type: Riding Mower
  • Engine: Briggs & Stratton 724cc
  • Power: 22hp
  • Cutting Path: 46-Inch
  • Max Cut Height: 4-Inch
  • Transmission: Hydrostatic
  • Top Speed: 5.2
  • Price Range: $2,500

Pros

  • A fantastic riding mower for 1-2 acres
  • Built around the exceptional Briggs & Stratton 724 V-Twin engine
  • 20” wheel with good tread for firm traction and stability

Cons

  • Not the fastest mower on the block

The Husqvarna 100 Series riding mowers are designed for residential lawns and offer a range of features and function-based around cutting performance and comfort.

Starting with the Briggs & Stratton 724cc V-Twin engine renowned for its reliability. This engine puts out 22 horsepower, which is ideal for this size machine allowing for a steady 5.2mph pace across undulating lawns. There’s also a cruise control function to maintain a consistent speed across larger flat areas.

Forward and reverse gears are foot controlled allowing me to keep both hands on the soft-touch steering wheel at all times.

The 46-inch cutting deck is stamped but features a reinforced frame for extra strength, and as you would expect from Husqvarna the mower is built to a high quality throughout. From the controls to the comfortable seat all of it feels premium.

If you prefer a ride-on mower over a zero-turn then This Husky 100 Series is a great choice. Full of premium touches and ideal for areas up to 2 acres.

Check the latest price of this Husqvarna TS146X here

2. Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Gas Zero Turn Mower

Best Zero Turn Mower for Hills

Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn
  • Type: Zero-Turn
  • Engine: Kawasaki 726cc
  • Power: 23hp
  • Cutting Path: 52-Inch
  • Max Cut Height: 4.5-Inch
  • Transmission: Hydrostatic
  • Top Speed: 7mph
  • Price Range: $3,500

Pros

  • 11-inch front tires and 20-inch rear tires handle hills and uneven ground
  • Solid 52 inch fabricated cutting deck, 11-gauge tubular steel chassis
  • Uses the superb Kawasaki 726cc engine, 23 horsepower

Cons

  • Nothing at this price

Ariens Ikon’s 52-inch Zero Turn mower is loaded with features offering residential users excellent value for money. Built around the Kawasaki 726cc engine this mower is designed to offer sufficient power to run all over slopes, but moreover, it is built for reliability.

The 11-gauge tubular steel chassis includes a high-quality 52-inch fabricated cutting deck with casters that adjust across 13 different settings, cutting between 1.2”-4.5”. This model ships with 11-inch front and 20-inch rear tires to provide excellent traction over uneven terrain.

The high back seat and armrests were very comfortable as I worked throughout the morning without any discomfort. This mower really is a great mower to ride in. It’s not the fastest at 7mph, but it is very comfortable and extremely well built for hills and rough terrain.

I really like the versatility of the Ariens Ikon making it my top choice for the best zero turn mower for hills and uneven terrain. Check the latest price of the Ariens Ikon at Ace Hardware.

Troy Bilt Bronco 42 Inch Riding Lawn Mower
  • Type: Lawn Tractor
  • Engine: Briggs & Stratton 540cc
  • Power: 19hp
  • Cutting Path: 42-Inch
  • Max Cut Height: 3.75-Inch
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Top Speed: 5.5mph
  • Price Range: $2,000

Pros

  • Intuitive AutoDrive automatic transmission
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Anti-scalp deck wheels
  • Durable pressure-lubricated engine
  • Automatic headlights

Cons

  • Small fuel tank

Troy-Bilt Bronco drives like a regular car due to its automatic AutoDrive transmission with a foot pedal. It makes the driving process more intuitive for first-time users while also giving smooth speed & direction adjustment.

Additionally, the tractor has a step-through frame that expands the legroom, making it easy to get on & off. Rubber footpads minimize vibrations from the cutting happening below the deck, keeping your legs comfortable.

A 42-inch deck handles the trimming, and you can adjust it to five different height positions using a lever mounted on the fender. Twin blades discharge grass clippings to the side, but you can buy a rear bagger attachment separately to collect them for neat disposal elsewhere.

The deck has anti-scalp deck wheels that ensure the blades remain at the correct cutting height when navigating through uneven terrain, resulting in a clean, even cut.

Powering the deck and wheels is a 544 cc 19 HP single-cylinder Briggs and Stratton gas engine, which has a pressure lubrication mechanism to keep the mechanical parts well oiled at all times.

If it gets dark, the headlights turn on automatically to improve visibility. The only issues are a small 1.3-gallon fuel tank and a mid-back seat that is not as supportive as the high-back type.

Check Troy-Bilt Bronco’s latest price at Home Depot

Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro 50 Inch Riding Lawn Tractor
  • Type: Lawn Tractor
  • Engine: Kohler 725cc
  • Power: 24hp
  • Cutting Path: 50-Inch
  • Max Cut Height: 4-Inch
  • Transmission: Hydrostatic
  • Top Speed: 5.5mph
  • Price Range: $2,600

Pros

  • Broad 50-inch heavy-duty deck
  • Highly responsive handling
  • Rubberized, soft-touch steering wheel
  • Fuel tank sight gauge
  • SmartJet deck wash system

Cons

  • The seat is not fully adjustable

The XT1 would come in handy when manicuring hilly, expansive lawns two acres or more because it features a broad 50-inch deck. And it is not just wide. The component is a heavy-duty triple-blade fabricated deck with an AeroForce cutting system and reinforced edges.

Paired with a powerful 24 HP Kohler twin-cylinder engine, the muscular cutting system delivers superior trimming and bagging performance. You can adjust the deck to 12 different positions height-wise, while a lever engaged PTO smoothens deck operations for perfect cutting.

The mower has a tractor design, and even though it cannot achieve zero turns, Cub Cadet gave it super responsive handling, which narrowed its turning radius to only 16 inches. I find this feature very useful when manicuring laws with multiple obstacles because it enhances maneuverability.

Whether the terrain is smooth or rough, you will have an easy time on the wheel due to its rubberized, soft-touch grip that dampens vibrations and gives a more solid feel when steering.

The tractor runs on gas and has an easy-fill 3-gallon fuel tank, which should last for a few hours before needing a refill. There is no fuel gauge on the command center, but the tank has a sight gauge that shows the level inside from the side and operator position.

Durable LED headlights don the front section of the tractor, and these enable you to continue manicuring your lawn in low light conditions.

After the day’s work, you need to wash the caked-on mud, grass, and other debris. The XT1 simplifies the cleaning process using its SmartJet deck wash system, which delivers pressurized water under the deck to remove all the dirt.

Check Cub Cadet Enduro Latest price at Home Depot

John Deere S120 42-Inch Lawn Tractor
  • Type: Lawn Tractor
  • Engine: John Deere 724cc
  • Power: 22hp
  • Cutting Path: 42-Inch
  • Max Cut Height: 4-Inch
  • Transmission: Hydrostatic
  • Top Speed: 5.5mph
  • Price Range: $2,300

Pros

  • Smooth V-twin engine perfect for riding up 1 acre
  • Comfortable adjustable seat with a high back

Cons

  • Relatively small fuel tank

Like other vehicles, riding lawn mowers need regular maintenance. It can be a challenge in some units, but the S120 features a 30-second oil change system, which comprises an all-in-one oil and filter canister that you can remove and reinstall tool-free.

The tractor’s 22 HP engine has a smooth-running V-twin design that performs even better after giving it an oil change. Powering the motor is also very smooth because the unit has a powerful 300 CCA battery, which stores charge for a long time.

Even though it has a relatively small 2.4-gallon tank, you get an easy-read fuel gauge on the dash to monitor the remaining fuel and plan a refill on time.

The deck has a deep design that lifts the grass for even, superior cutting, while the underside has a smooth surface to keep grass and mud from sticking. A built-in lift lever lets you raise or lower the deck on a 1-inch to 4-inch range with 13 positions for customized leveling.

The seat is also adjustable to 10 different positions for better comfort, and you can make these adjustments while seated. It has a 15-inch high-back to give better support as well.

John Deere machines are known for having durable designs, and the S120 lives up to this expectation. It has a fully welded steel frame for a backbone and a sturdy cast-iron front axle. The front bumper is optional if you want to add an extra layer of protection.

Check John Deere Lawn Tractor’s latest price online

Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 50 Inch Zero Turn Mower
  • Type: Zero-Turn
  • Engine: Kawasaki 726cc
  • Power: 23hp
  • Cutting Path: 50-Inch
  • Max Cut Height:
  • Transmission: Hydrostatic
  • Top Speed: 7.5mph
  • Price Range: $3,500

Pros

  • Powerful 23 HP engine
  • High-performance AeroForce cutting system
  • Open and easily accessible design for hassle-free maintenance
  • Ergonomic, comfortable, and fully adjustable seat

Cons

  • Higher price

Zero-turn riding lawn mowers are not the best options for hilly yards, but the ZT1 performs well. With a 725 cc, 23 HP Kohler twin-cylinder engine, you can power the front caster wheels across slight rolling hills and multiple obstacles to mow up to two acres.

These wheels have smooth treads that do not damage the turf even when pivoting 180º, but the rear ones are larger and have deep treads for excellent traction when driving and steering.

A 3.5-gallon fuel tank lets you carry enough fuel to cover the two acres without losing precious time to refuel.

As for the engine, it does not power the wheels directly. Instead, it works with a dual hydrostatic transmission system to deliver smooth performance and quick speeds of up to 7.5 MPH forward and 3.5 MPH in reverse to the rear wheels.

The engine also powers a high-performance AeroForce cutting system under the deck, which is adjustable via a dial control knob and foot-operated deck lift to 15 quarter-inch heights from 1-4.5 inches.

A sturdy 2 x 2-inch steel tubular frame holds all these parts together, and it features a triple-guard corrosion defense system plus a full e-coat on the lower section to prevent rust and wear & tear.

However, the structure still maintains an open design and a hinged, easily removable floor plan for quick access to the deck and engine during maintenance.

Ergonomic 3-way adjustable lap bars make it easy to drive, brake, reverse, and turn the mower. You also get an electronic fingertip blade engagement PTO (Power Take Off) to smoothen deck and attachment operations.

An ergonomic and fully adjustable automotive-inspired seat is part of the command center, and it features an 18-inch-high back plus a polymer suspension system for support and comfort, respectively.

Check Cub Cadet ZT1’s latest price at Home Depot.

Riding Mower Features and Design

Below are some of the most essential features to consider when buying a riding lawn mower, especially if you have a hilly yard.

Engine Power: Gas or Battery

If you consider the engine power, there are two types of riding lawnmowers. The first runs on a gas engine, which has several benefits.

You get a constant supply of power from the engine so long as there is fuel in the tank, and refueling takes only a few minutes, so mowing goes on almost uninterrupted. However, gas engines produce CO2 emissions and are noisy.

With batteries and motors, the ride is quieter, and there are no harmful gas emissions. However, as the battery runs out, some mowers might exhibit reduced cutting performance. Charging takes a lot of time, so you will have to pause mowing and continue later or the following day.

Run Time: Fuel or Battery Cell Capacity

The fuel tank size and engine capacity (cc) determine how much time you have to manicure your yard uninterrupted when using a gas-powered mower. However, the size of the fuel tank has more weight in the equation, and the bigger it is, the better.

For mowers with a 42-inch deck or higher, I recommend at least a 3-gallon tank to minimize interruptions, especially if your lawn is expansive.

When working with an electric zero turn mower, or riding mower the battery is the fuel, so you need to check its capacity in ampere-hours (Ah).

Amp Hours (Ah)

An ampere-hour is a unit of electric charge that results from multiplying electric current by time. Battery manufacturers use this unit to rate their batteries, which shows how much power they can supply for an hour.

For instance, a 75Ah battery can supply 75 amps for an hour or 37.5 amps for two hours. The higher the Ah rating, the more charge it can hold, which is better because it increases the run time.

Rollover Protection (ROPS)

When mowing on hilly terrain, there is a higher chance of toppling compared to when riding on flat ground. If this happens, rolling over can cause serious injury, so you should look for rollover protection. It is usually in the form of a bar that extends upwards from the sides of the seat, and this component helps keep the mower on its side instead of rolling several times downhill.

Transmission Type

Not all mowers have the same transmission type. You can choose between hydrostatic, gear-driven, or automatic machines. 

Hydrostatic

A hydrostatic transmission is an automatic system that uses hydraulic fluid to transmit power to the wheels. Zero-turn mowers usually have a dual hydrostatic transmission to run each of the rear wheels independently.

The benefits include a smooth and durable machine that requires little maintenance.

Gear-Driven

Gear-driven or manual transmissions have a few speeds that you can set by shifting the stick on a set of detents. The system gives you more control over speed and torque, but if you have lots of turns and corners, the constant shifting will be tiring and uncomfortable.

Automatic

Automatic transmissions in lawnmowers work in a similar way to those in cars. You put the gear lever in front or reverse, then control the speed by stepping on the throttle. It is easy to use because the system does the gear changing for you.

Steering and Controls

Depending on the type of riding lawn mower, you can either have a steering wheel or lap bars for directional control.

Steering wheels are easy to use as most people are familiar with them in cars. However, you might need some time to learn the controls using lap bars. You need to know how to apply pressure on them for forward/reverse driving or to apply the brakes.

Other controls, such as cutting height adjustment and cruise control, are pretty standard.

Turning Radius

Mowers with steering wheels cannot make zero turns. The only way to turn 180º is to go around a circle known as the turning radius. A narrow turning radius enables you to make tighter turns, which goes a long way in helping to reduce the mowing time. I recommend a 16 to 18-inch radius maximum.

Deck Size & Cutting Height

The deck is the platform between the wheels that holds the blades. A broad deck trims a wide patch of grass on each pass, meaning you will complete mowing your yard faster. As explained earlier, you need to pick a deck size based on the acreage of your lawn.

As for the cutting height, most mowers have a 1-inch to 3-inch or 4-inch range, which is okay. What you need to pay attention to most is the number of cutting positions. The more, the better because they give you more options to use when leveling the grass.

Braking and Tires

When stopping a tractor or rear engine lawn mower, you step on a pedal, but lap bars handle the braking in a zero-turn unit. That is the only difference.

On tires, the large, pneumatic type is better for navigating through uneven terrain without getting stuck.

As for grip, caster wheels don’t need treaded tires because they neither drive nor steer the vehicle. However, the rear wheels in zero-turn mowers, as well as all four wheels in the other two types, must have deep treads to boost your off-roading capabilities, especially when mowing uphill.

Seating and Comfort

Most people buy riding lawn mowers to trim expansive yards, and covering such an area takes time. Thus, the command center should have an adjustable, ergonomic high-back seat to maximize comfort as you work.

Also, look for rubber footpads and a soft-touch steering wheel to dampen vibrations. For a zero-turn mower, look for adjustable lap bars with ergonomic handgrips.

Warranty and Maintenance

Manufacturers usually give a warranty cover either in years or operation hours, whichever comes first. Some even have warranties for specific parts, such as the chassis.

You need to go through the fine print to avoid violating those conditions because you might need a refund or replacement.

To keep the mower functioning optimally, you must clean and maintain it. Some units have wash ports for easy cleaning, while others have tool-free oil change mechanisms. The easier it is to take care of your machine, the better.

Safety: Riding A Lawn Mower on Hills

Stay safe when mowing by using these tips:

  • Read the user manual before use
  • Wear protective gear (goggles, gloves, hearing protection)
  • Avoid mowing when dark
  • Always leave the safety settings engaged
  • Never leave the machine unattended
  • Keep the blades sharp
  • Remove potential missiles from the lawn (rocks, toys, debris)
  • Keep children and pets away from the mowing area
  • Mow up and down the slope, not sideways
  • Don’t do repairs/maintenance or place your fingers near the blades when it is running

Verdict: Best Riding Lawn Mower for Hills

All the above units qualify as the best riding lawn mowers for hills, but the Husqvarna Riding Mower 46-Inch stands out due to its broad 46-inch deck, powerful Briggs & Stratton Engine. Moreover, the conventional steering system and premium build made for a very comfortable ride.

Husqvarna Riding Mower 46-Inch

Best Riding Mower for Hills

Husqvarna Riding Mower 46-Inch

22hp Briggs & Stratton 724cc engine. Ideal riding mower for uneven ground up to 2 acres. Good traction with 20” tires.

However, if your yard has slopes and uneven ground and you prefer the dexterity of a zero-turn mower, then the Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn is exceptionally well designed with a Kawasaki engine and huge 20-inch rear tires.

Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn

Best Zero Turn For Uneven Terrain

Ariens Ikon XD 52 in. Zero Turn

Capable of handling hills and uneven terrain. Powerful Kawasaki 23hp engine. Big 20-inch rear tires. Clean 52” cutting path.