Friday, October 19, 2018 / by Traci Jones
50-Year Trail/Golder Ranch, Tucson
The Tucson area also has some excellent mountain biking opportunities, especially if you head over to the 50-Year Trail/Golder Ranch area. This is probably the best trail that this region has to offer because it has something for everyone. Beginners, intermediate riders, and advanced riders can all find something to enjoy and challenge themselves on this route. If you are just visiting the area, you can also stop by a local bike shop for a rental bike and get dropped off and picked up at the trail. Keep an eye out for sandy spots, snakes on night rides, and unexpected ruts. The trail is sometimes compared to the Honeybee Canyon Trail, but a more technical version of it.
Honeybee Canyon Loop, Oro Valley
Honeybee Canyon Loop is also in the Tucson area and is a 16.8-mile single-track trail that’s easy but requires some endurance. The best place to park to access this trail is along Oracle Road, where there’s a gravel and dirt parking lot. You’ll enjoy the smooth terrain of hard-packed dirt on this trail and minimal uphill sections. Then at the end of the loop, the downhill section back to the starting point is fast and smooth.
Sonoran Desert Loop, Cave Creek
As part of the Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve, this 13.1 mountain biking trail is very balanced but not super technical. Start your ride at the Apache Wash Trailhead in the north section of the preserve, and be aware that this is a multi-use trail that’s also popular with hikers and horseback riders. Bikers of any skill level will enjoy this ride, but your legs will likely be burning from the climbing sections.
Cathedral Rock Big Loop, Oak Creek
This is an awesome ride for intermediate and advanced riders who want to experience beautiful scenery. You’ll start your ride at the Bell Rock Vista trailhead. Beginners may need to walk their bikes for a few sections, but intermediate riders will love the twisting red dirt and rocky areas. The loop travels along the Slim Shady Trail and the Templeton Trail, and the descent from Cathedral Rock is the hardest part. Towards the end, you’ll ride along Oak Creek, hit the Baldwin Loop, and end up back on Templeton. Be mindful of the fact that the Cathedral Rock Trail is open to hikers and that this mountain biking loop crosses it. Keep an eye out for inexperienced hikers, in particular, and slow down a bit at the crossing point.
Pemberton Loop, Scottsdale
While many of the trails here are only suitable for intermediate and advanced riders, here’s a great one for beginners. The Pemberton Loop single-track look extends 15 miles, and there are many different places you can start it. For a shorter ride, you can even cut the loop off by several miles by taking the Bluff Trail or Tonto Tank Trail. The desert trail is wide and fast, and there are spur trails you can take to make it longer. There are no huge climbs or descents on this minimally technical ride that’s very fun. This is also a good beginner trail because it’s well-marked with signs. Riders should know there is a wild horse population nearby, so you may encounter horses on the trail.
Hawes Trail Network, Mesa
The Hawes Trail Network is part of the Sonoran Desert Trail System and extends about 11.2 miles that is mostly single-track. This is a very scenic ride that isn’t too rocky; however, there are a lot of cacti to watch out for. There are also lots of fun twists and turns here. Something else interesting about this ride is that part of this network at the Saguaro Trail passes by some abandoned mines. The trail is well-marked with signs, and lots of bikers park behind the Walgreens store at Power and Recker to access it.
Black Canyon Trail, Phoenix
One great mountain biking route near Phoenix is the Black Canyon Trail, and one recommended route starts at the Table Mesa Trailhead. This route goes on the Black Canyon Trail to the Little Pan Loop, and is part of a 62-mile trail system. The single-track trail is recommended for advanced riders, and it’s a smart idea to carry a GPS or map to navigate the many branch trails that lead off of the main route. There are some long downhill sections on desert terrain, but be aware of the cacti that are pretty impossible to avoid. You can also start your journey at the Black Canyon City Trailhead near the Rock Springs Exit I-17 and go north or south from this point.
Schultz Creek Trail, Flagstaff
This trail near Flagstaff extends for about 4.2 miles and is a popular ride to get to Schultz Pass. You’ll start the ride at the bottom of Schultz Pass Road and head up the valley on a steady climb. Here you’ll pass by Schultz Creek that’s lined with pine and fir trees. Not only is this a popular mountain biking route, but hikers and dog walkers love it too. Keep an eye out for others during peak weekend times.