Mountain Biking During The Pandemic
Unless you live under a really large rock, on the Moon, with no connection to media of any sort, you probably know that we’re experiencing a global pandemic. In a matter of months COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we live, shop, work, and of course recreate. We all want to do our part to contain the spread and flatten the curve, but we also want to get out and ride! SDMB has covered ways to stay safe and practice social distancing in an earlier blog post; GO HERE TO READ MORE.
The short and sweet version of how to practice social distancing and be responsible while riding is:
Now that we all know how to stay safe and distant, where do we ride? Especially on weekends, trail systems like Fantasy Island, Honeybee, and Starr Pass, and Sweetwater are seeing record numbers of users, with full parking lots and crowded trails. Fortunately, in Pima County alone we have more than 450 miles of non-Wilderness singletrack, and so much more if you factor in southern Pinal County and northern Cochise County.
We’ve started a list of suggested “less-traveled” trails and trail systems within an hour(ish) drive of Tucson. This is a great opportunity to go check out some new trails… who knows, you might find your new favorite! While these are mostly “front-country” rides that present minimal risk to experienced rides, please make sure to practice common sense by bringing everything you might need, avoiding excessive heat, and riding withing your comfort zone.
Do you have suggestions to add to the list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them!
Arizona National Scenic Trail
The 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail is truly a national treasure, and we’re privileged to have it right outside of Tucson. The AZT can be your go-to if you want to do long XC rides in a variety of climates and landscapes.
East of Tucson
Italian Trap: The “Italian Trap” section of the AZT runs about 2 miles south from Redingon Rd, and can be done as an out and back or turned into a loop using dirt roads. For bonus points, ride/hike-a-bike another 3 miles each way to the Wilderness boundary for a fast rip back down.
GO HERE FOR ITALIAN TRAP TRAIL INFO
Bellota Lake to top of Milagrosa: Head north on the AZT from Redington Rd. to Bellota Lake. From there you can continue over to the top of Milagrosa as an out and back or make a loop on dirt roads. Good loop options incorporate Bellota Ranch Rd. and the ATV trail.
GO HERE FOR BELLOTA TRAIL INFO
North of Tucson
Lots of option in the Oracle area! Cody Loop, Oracle State Park, and Tiger Mine are all good options. Additional loop options can be found in Oracle State Park
Good Access Points: American Flag TH, American Avenue TH, and the intersection of the AZT/SR-77 (limited parking). At this point (4/10/20), Oracle State Park is still open.
GO HERE FOR ORACLE TRAIL INFO
South/East of Tucson
Pick a trailhead and ride south as far as you want! A good access point is at SR-83 at Sahuarita Rd. Other options include Lakes Rd. (Twin Tanks) or Rosemont Junction.
Box Canyon area: Park at the Box Canyon TH, ride the AZT and explore the dirt roads in the Santa Rita Mtns.
Please note that the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead is popular with riders, hikers, and equestrian users. Probably best to avoid on peak days/times.
GO HERE FOR LAS CIENEGAS TRAIL INFO
Kentucky Camp/Gardner Canyon
The AZT runs through Kentucky Camp/Gardner Canyon area, and there are miles of dirt roads to make loops. You can even find running water! Check out the IMBA Epic route and the Arizona Endurance Series route.
GO HERE FOR KENTUCKY CAMP TRAIL INFO
McKenzie Ranch XC Race Venue
We’re a little partial to McKenzie Ranch because, well, we built it! The McKenzie area has 13 miles of fast flowy trail (including Hohokam Trail), that’s beginner-friendly and easy to follow. There are several loop options to shorten it up (or do multiple laps for more miles!) and as another directional system it will be easier to practice social distancing.
GO HERE FOR MCKENZIE RANCH TRAIL INFO
Green Valley Area
Elephant Head Mountain Bike Route
Elephant Head was one of the original MTB routes in Southern Arizona, and offers spectacular views of the Elephant Head formation on the western end of the Santa Ritas. It's old-school! For bonus points link up to Mt. Hopkins and Madeira Canyon via dirt and paved roads.
GO HERE FOR ELEPHANT HEAD TRAIL INFO
West Desert Trails
With more than 30 miles of low-desert XC riding, the West Desert Trails have a variety of loop options for riders of all ability levels. Please note that the trails are on land owned by Freeport McMoRan mining company and a permit is required. GO HERE TO GET YOUR PERMIT
GO HERE FOR WEST DESERT TRAILS INFO
Tucson Mountain Park West
There are great trails on the west side of Tucson Mountain Park too! Trails like Golden Gate, Prospector, Ironwood, and Caliche Flats offer a variety of riding experiences and are generally less crowded. Brown Mountain is a great option for more experienced riders, but may have increased hiker traffic. Best parking options are any of the numbered pull-offs along Gates Pass Rd. and Kinney Rd.. Based on reports, probably best to steer clear of Ironwood Picnic Area, Gilbert Ray, and King’s Canyon trailhead.
GO HERE FOR TMP WEST TRAIL INFO
Casa Grande Mtn Park
Casa Grande is only an hour away, and there’s a great trail system up there! There are plenty of options with beginner, intermediate, and advanced options, and easy access from the I-10. Please note that Casa Grande Mountain is extremely exposed so go earlier as it gets hotter.
GO HERE FOR CASA GRANDE TRAIL INFO
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo Course
Everybody’s favorite place to ride laps in the desert with 2,000 of their closest friends! The 24HOP Course offers a mellow 16-mile XC loop. It’s a directional loop too, so even better for social distancing. To add some flavor, ride Bones and Painter Boy, two trails that make an awesome loop that connects to the course.
Please note that the 24HOP Course is on AZSLD land, so a permit is required. GO HERE TO GET YOUR AZSLD PERMIT
GO HERE FOR 24HOP TRAIL INFO
Cobre Ridge, Arivaca
Cobre Ridge probably wins the “Way Out” award, and you’re unlikely to see another soul on this 16-mile loop south of Tucson near the Mexican border. It’s a little higher in elevation at 4,500 feet, so will be a bit cooler than areas closer to Tucson.
GO HERE FOR COBRE RIDGE TRAIL INFO
Sierra Vista Trails
If you’ve never explored the Huachuca Mountains outside of Sierra Vista, you’re in for a treat. The Sky Islands range has a great mix of grasslands, chaparral, and Ponderosa Pine forests. And it’s cooler than Tucson! Brown Canyon and Carr Canyon both provide mixes of singletrack and doubletrack, and make for a great day of riding.
GO HERE FOR SIERRA VISTA TRAIL INFO
Located in the Rincon Mountains and accessed via Redington Rd., Chiva Falls is a rare waterfall in the desert. With all of the snow and rain this winter Chiva is flowing nicely, and should be running for a while. This ride consists mainly of jeep roads so you’ll probably see some OHV’s (wave and say "Hi!"), but the roads are fun and the falls are well-worth the trip. You can also check out Frog Hollow, a good summertime swimming hole, and link up the Upper Chiva route or head up to the Italian Trap section of the AZT.
GO HERE FOR CHIVA FALLS TRAIL INFO
Golden Gate Road, Saguaro National Park
This newly-closed section of dirt road in Saguaro National Park West runs from Picture Rocks Rd. to the Sendero Esperanza trailhead, about 3 miles each way. The length and beginner-friendly nature of this ride makes it a great one to take the kids on. To extend your outing, hike up to check out the petroglyphs on Signal Hill. Please note that bikes are not permitted on singletrack in Saguaro National Park. Please respect all directions and signage.
GO HERE FOR GOLDEN GATE ROAD INFO
Mt. Graham, Pinaleno Mountains
Mt. Graham is a bit farther away than an hour, but at 10,719 feet it will be nice and cool when the desert floor heats up. The Pinalenos are another Sky Islands range. There are a number of rideable trails on Mt. Graham, but they will require some exploring. The area is still being rehabilitated after the Frye Fire in 2017 and some trails and roads may not be re-opened yet. Please note that Coronado National Forest has closed most developed recreation sites, so campgrounds, picnic areas, etc. will likely be closed.
GO HERE FOR MT GRAHAM TRAIL INFO
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