Southern Arizona is a great place to ride all year long and we have some of the best beginner trails in the state. "Singletrack" ranked the Sweetwater Trail as one of the best beginner trails in the state.
#1—The Bike. To get started, make sure you have a good quality bike that is sized for you. A competent bike shop can get you outfitted, and we have many good bike shops in Tucson, Oro Valley, Vail and Sahuarita. Whether your decide to go for a hard tail (front suspension only), full suspension; aluminum-frame, carbon-frame; fat tire, chubby, regular; or 27.5 or 29’er tires; tubeless tires or tubes; flats or clip-in pedals--all are personal choices. Confused? At first this can all be TMI (too much information) but learning about all this will help ensure that you have a bike you can grow into. Spend some time talking about all these features at a local bike shop that specializes in mountain bikes. Buy a bike that is better than your current level of riding so your can progress into the bike. For more information on buying the "right" bike in a video, click here. Don’t buy a cheapo bike (like a Huffy or Mongoose) to save money, and if you rent a bike, rent only from trusted, reputable bike rental shops. This is a “buyer beware” market because not all bike rental companies are the same. The best ones should provide a good quality bike with tubeless tires, basic bike repair tools, water, a map of the areas you will be riding, a helmet and a bike lock, at the minimum.
#2--The Trails. Next, check the SDMB website for the best beginner trails as a place to get started. We have put up 4 of the best beginner trails. Master your competence on those and then progress to some intermediate trails. Check them out here.
#3—Personal Gear. Personal equipment is another essential. Everyone who bikes should wear a helmet, riding gloves are very helpful and help reduce numbness that can develop, water is absolutely essential, as is sunscreen. Depending on how long you plan to be out riding should determine how much water to take. Always over-estimate how much water you will need so you don’t run out. Using an electrolyte solution in your water or by itself will help prevent cramps and replenish body salts and other electrolytes you will lose by perspiring. If your bike uses tubes, be sure to carry a pump and patch kit. Know how to fix a tube with a hole in it before you head out on the trail or ride with someone else who knows how to do this. For Arizona conditions, we highly recommend riding with tubeless tires--you will have fewer flats. Click here for a video about tubes vs. tubeless tires. If you ride tubeless tires, be sure to carry at least one CO2 cartridge and air value. Sometimes a small plastic bottle of sealant is also a good idea for longer rides where the trailhead may be miles away. You might also consider carrying some tire plugs as these are a better solution than putting in a tube if you do experience a flat. Walking back to your car while pushing a bike with a flat tire is never fun. For more information via video, click here.
#4—Tips for Safe Riding. Your bike is an advanced piece of technology and engineering that can overcome many obstacles, but you have to trust the bike to do what it was designed to do. Remember, though, that you are always in control and can stop, steer around obstacles, or slow down as you wish. Here are a few common riding tips we usually provide to beginner riders:
Most importantly, have fun and be safe. Mountain biking is a great sport that is growing, and so are the number of trails. You’re only a beginner once, so learn how to ride the easy trails first so you can move on up to things more challenging. And check SDMB's Facebook and Instagram pages for announcements about bike clinics led by certified MTB instructors.
Outdoor recreation is an iconic part of Arizona - from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the canyons and bajadas of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona has a history of stewardship for our lands, waters, and wildlife. Yet, we are falling behind our neighboring states in capitalizing on our unique outdoor assets. Arizona needs an Office of Outdoor Recreation to help us leverage the potential of our natural and cultural resources. The time is long overdue. The time to act is now.
An Office of Outdoor Recreation would help to enhance the quality of life for Arizona’s residents, promote sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities for both residents and visitors, and expand and invigorate the outdoor recreation economy. This office would leverage jobs, prosperity, and wellness for all state residents in both rural as well as in large metropolitan areas. Bridging the missions of existing state agencies such as wildlife conservation, tourism, and management of state parks and trails would allow each to build upon the work of the other and scaffold the effect of their efforts.
Enhance economic opportunities and job diversity, particularly in rural communities;
Increase access to and opportunities for transformative outdoor experiences for all segments of Arizona’s diverse population;
Facilitate the growth of new outdoor recreation businesses and industries;
Cultivate a stronger, more resilient outdoor recreation workforce;
Increase awareness of the value of outdoor recreation for improved public health, community well-being and economic vitality;
Provide a unified voice to promote the economic, social, health and other values of outdoor recreation, trails, wildlife protection, and access to public lands;
Enhanced outdoor recreation economic activity, particularly in rural areas;
Measurable growth in local and state tax revenues from outdoor recreation activities;
Coordinated planning, use, access, and promotion of outdoor spaces within Arizona;
Provides a central clearinghouse for outdoor business support, recruitment, expansion, retention and recruitment, especially for rural areas;
Improved vitality for rural communities through increased population growth, fueling jobs for teachers, doctors, construction workers and more;
Higher success rate for local community grant writing and fund development.
Arizona would benefit from a unified voice to promote the economic value of outdoor recreation, trails, and public lands. Our neighboring states’ offices for Outdoor Recreation have already demonstrated the value of having such an office. The time for Arizona to tap into the $459 billion dollar per year outdoor recreation industry is now.
Happy 2021 to everyone in the mountain biking and trails community! As we watch the past year fade into the rearview mirror, we can all agree that it was challenging and memorable for everyone. 2020 was defined by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, extended social and political unrest, one of the worst and most sudden economic downturns we will see in in our lifetimes, and the most contentious presidential election in history. Simply put, 2020 sucked…
2020 was also a hard year for SDMB. COVID hit us hard, as it did so many nonprofits across the country. Social distancing and pandemic safety requirements meant that we were unable to run the social events, fundraisers, and community outreach events that support our core mission. Many of the larger events that SDMB has relied on for ongoing funding were postponed or cancelled, including the McKenzie Frenzy and the Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder. We had to significantly scale back our volunteer trail building and maintenance events, including temporarily halting construction at 100-Acre Wood Bike Park. And in the face of funding cuts and the ongoing economic downturn the SDMB board elected to terminate the contract of our only paid staff person, Executive Director Evan Pilling. As of September 2020, SDMB returned to being a 100% volunteer-driven organization.
In spite of the challenges of the past year, SDMB saw some significant successes thanks to the hard work of our board and volunteers. Even a pandemic can’t stop our mission to Build, Ride, and Protect trails in Tucson and Southern Arizona! We want to give a huge thanks to all of the volunteers, donors, and business supporters who have made all of our 2020 successes possible. Read on to learn more about SDMB’s accomplishments in 2020…
SDMB 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW
National Civilian Community Corps Team
In late 2019 and early 2020, SDMB hosted our third team of AmeriCorps volunteers from the National Civilian Community Corp. For this team we did things a little differently and worked with some of our partners to help the team work on trail projects throughout the area. The NCCC team worked with Pima County NRPR on construction of Painted Hills Trails Park, maintained trails on Mt. Lemmon with TORCA and the Arizona Trail Association, and finished their stay by assisting with cleanup and trail building at 100-Acre Wood Bike Park.
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo
SDMB hosted another successful trail maintenance weekend to help get the course in shape for the big race. And a small army of volunteers manned the beer garden and served many cases of tasty Huss Brewing company beer to thirsty racers. Huge thanks Epic Rides for letting us be a part of the event, and we’ll see you in 2022!
Fantasy Island Trails Park
Fantasy Island is saved! SDMB, along with TORCA and SAMBA, worked with the City of Tucson over the last several years to negotiate permanent preservation of the northern part of the trail system as outlined in the 2006 Master Plan. That means that Lone Cactus, Burro Pit, Bo’s, and Christmas Tree loops will be part of the City-managed Fantasy Island Trails Park. In August 2020 SDMB and the City of Tucson finalized a development agreement that allows SDMB and our volunteers to oversee long-term maintenance and improvement of the trail system. In June and July, a crew of hardy volunteers braved the heat and spent several hundred hours pruning and brushing Burro Pit and Bo’s loops and started the process of laying out comprehensive signage for the entire system. To gather more data to support ongoing efforts at Fantasy Island, SDMB deployed a trail counter for a year and conducted a user survey. We recorded nearly 19,000 bikes over a 12-month period and had 583 riders respond to the survey. In addition to collecting valuable information about rider demographics and use patterns we learned that the majority of Fantasy Island users support construction of improvements like berms, jumps, and technical features. Signage and system improvements coming in 2021!
Starr Pass Trails
110-degree plus temps? No problem! In August and September SDMB volunteers built the new .3-mile Mockingbird Trail at Starr Pass in Tucson Mountain Park. Mockingbird connects Rock Wren and the old Starr Pass trail, bypassing the Wall and keeping the trails on County-owned land. Mockingbird also includes 135 feet of armored tread, which required thousands of pounds of rock to be moved by hand. And in November/December 2020 SDMB volunteers helped Pima County lay out a new connector from the Starr Pass Marriott to the 5-way intersection and a reroute of the Yetman trail that bypasses the wash near the Stone House. 4 more miles of new trail to come in 2021!
100-Acre Wood Bike Park
We started off 2020 strong at the bike park, with the Americorps NCCC crew and dozens of volunteers helping with continued site cleanup and building/finishing the Green XC Trail and the Green Flow Trail. More berms and tabletops! COVID meant that SDMB couldn’t run large volunteer events so bike park construction had to take a pause for the rest of the year. In December, after more than a year of negotiations, the City of Tucson finally approved the Sponsorship and Advertising policy so we can start accepting sponsors! SDMB is actively looking for folks to step into leadership roles for the bike park. Go here to fill out the interest form: https://bit.ly/bikeparkleadership
Mt. Graham/Coronado National Forest Safford District
Mt. Graham is in the Pinaleno Mountains outside of Safford, a Sky Islands range that rises to more than 10,000 feet from the desert floor. It’s home to more than 75 miles of trails, incredible views, and huge riding potential. In November SDMB finalized a volunteer agreement with the Safford District of Coronado National Forest to help re-open the trails on the mountain after fires in 2004 and 2017 left them neglected and fading into obscurity. We’re starting with the Arcadia National Recreation Trail, a hidden gem that descends 2,500 feet over 5 miles. In November and December, SDMB volunteers spent two weekends brushing out Arcadia to re-open the corridor and the trail should be rideable by the end of February 2021. By the end of 2021 we hope to have re-opened another 10 miles of trail on the mountain, with many more to follow.
Be Cool Trail Etiquette Campaign
Be Cool is a campaign to educate riders, and all trail users, about etiquette on multi-use trail to help folks get along on crowded trails. In April 2020 SDMB was awarded a $7,500 Safety and Environmental Education (SEE) grant from Arizona Parks and Trails to expand our Be Cool efforts. In November SDMB volunteers ran five Be Cool outreach events in the Tucson Mountains, engaging and educating trail users of all types. Look for Be Cool ambassadors at trailheads near you in 2021!
Statewide Advocacy Efforts
Did you know that SDMB supports trail advocacy efforts across the state? SDMB board member Evan Pilling sits on the Arizona State Committee on Trails (ASCOT) and is a founding steering committee member of the Network for Arizona’s Trails. And board member Kirk Astroth sits on the Network steering committee and is leading the charge for statewide legislation to support and fund trails and outdoor recreation and eventually establish a state Office of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. On the local level, we continue to work towards permanent preservation of the Honeybee Canyon Trails, and were thrilled to take the Oro Valley mayor and several town council members on a ride to check out the trails.
So many exciting plans for 2021! With all of the recent changes, the board is in the process of designing SDMB 2.0. We have lots of exiting projects in the works and are actively recruiting new leadership to help move things forward. The COVID pandemic is still in full swing and we need to ensure the safety of volunteers and event participants and do our part to stop the spread, so unfortunately large volunteer events and social events will be on hold for the foreseeable future. The board is confident that we can keep folks safe while still continuing to build trails and expand riding opportunities.
In 2021, SDMB is focusing on:
HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are so many ways to support SDMB in our mission to Build, Ride, and Protect the trails we all ride and love. Please consider supporting us in any way you can.
1. How long have you been involved with SDMB?
2. What about SDMB’s mission and work really motivates you?
3. What is one personal/professional asset you bring to SDMB?
4. What do you want to accomplish with SDMB moving forward?
5. What is your favorite trail to ride (local preferred, but anywhere works)?
There are too many great trails around Tucson to pick just one!
Here are a few my favorite trails that are not in Tucson:
401 in Crested Butte, CO; McKenzie River near Bend, OR; South Boundary Trail in Taos, NM; Hurricane, Gould, Jem Loop in St. George, UT; Bear Gulch, Sun Valley, ID; Surveyors Ridge, Mt. Hood, OR
Thanks Mike! Be on the lookout for more bios coming soon!
Welcome back to a SDMB's Meet the Board, where we introduce our current board members and give them an opportunity to talk about what motivates them to volunteer their time with SDMB. Third up, board member and current events committee chair, Dave Slagle!
My first event was Brats and Beers up at Catalina State Park in November of '13. I was late and missed most of the ride but still had a great time. I was determined not to be late to the next one. My next event was a trail build day working on the Yetman Wash reroute in early 2014. I still think of that day every time I ride that trail.
In 2015, I was working on my first Our MTB Rides jersey, when I was asking Zach McDonald (then SDMB president) about putting the SDMB logo on our jersey when he suggested that I join the board. Sounded fun, but I was way too busy with family, work and running my own bike group. A few months go by and I get a call from Evan (current SDMB president) who again asked if I was interested in joining the board. After attending a single board meeting, next thing I know Pedro and I are on the board.
I really enjoy being part of the projects we are working on. I find building new and maintaining existing trails very rewarding. I like to think that I'm a small part of the reason Tucson is an awesome place to ride.
I run the Our MTB Rides Facebook group and use that platform to advocate for SDMB. I really enjoy running some of SDMB’s events and further building community.
I would love to be part of the reason our projects (100 Acre Wood bike park, Starr Pass and Fantasy Island trails projects) encourage people to start cycling and to promote Tucson as a riding destination!
Thanks Dave! Be on the lookout for more bios coming soon!
Welcome back to a SDMB's Meet the Board, where we introduce our current board members and give them an opportunity to talk about what motivates them to volunteer their time with SDMB. Second up, acting board vice-president, Kirk Astroth!
Two things really motivate me about SDMB’s mission: trail building and protection. I love the fact that we are working to actively expand trail networks in southern Arizona and that we have an advocacy mission.
I got involved in the board because I am passionate about protecting trails like Honeybee that are constantly under the threat of development and elimination. I enjoy working in the political realm. I also bring my passion for data collection to SDMB. I have been placing a bike counter on various trails for the past 4 years and conducting rider surveys in order to ensure that we have hard data to bring to public discussions about the importance of protecting trails.
Thanks Kirk! Be on the lookout for more bios coming soon!
Welcome to a SDMB's Meet the Board, where we introduce our board members and give them an opportunity to talk about what motivates them to volunteer their time with SDMB. First up, acting board president, Evan Pilling!
I attended my first SDMB volunteer event in 2008 when the Arizona Trail was being built south of Sahuarita Road. I joined the board around 2012.
I love bikes, I love public lands, and I love what happens when we combine them. It’s an incredible opportunity to work with government partners like Pima County and the City of Tucson to build and maintain trails, empower and educate trail users and volunteers, and get more people recreating outside.
My background in mediation and collaborative decision-making helps me work with land managers, other user groups, and all stakeholders to find common cause and take care of the lands we all love. Additionally, having spent the better part of a decade designing, building, and maintaining trails I’m able to make even multi-use trails fun to ride while also being sustainable and providing a good user experience.
I want to figure out how to get more of the riding community to step into leadership roles and take ownership of their trails. We have so many opportunities to make Tucson an even better place to live and ride, but we don’t have the capacity to realize all of them. Projects like 100-Acre Wood Bike Park and Fantasy Island take a huge amount of work, and as usual it’s done by a very small group of dedicated volunteers. Just think of what we could do if more riders became leaders in the advocacy world!
Man, picking my favorite local trail is like being asked to pick my favorite dog (I have three), so I’m just going to say I love them all. Favorite trails elsewhere? 401 and Teocali in Crested Butte, Hazzard County in Moab, and Gooseberry Mesa in Hurricane.
Thanks Evan! Be on the lookout for more bios coming soon!
Biking Book Recommendations During the Pandemic
Compiled by SDMB board member Kirk Astroth
So, you’re holed up, it's hotter than Hades, sheltering in place and trying to stay away from the respiratory cloud of other outdoor enthusiasts. But you’re still missing biking, right? So why not curl up on the couch or patio with a good book about biking? SDMB has got you covered with some great recommendations that will take your mind off these crazy times and keep you from being bored.
Want to grab one of these books? We'd appreciate it if you kept your money local by supporting a Tucson business like Antigone Books or Bookman's. Local businesses are essential to a thriving and diverse community, and they need our support now more than ever. If you can't find the book you want locally and want to purchase online, please consider Amazon Smile and choose SDMB as your charity so that a portion of the purchase price comes back to help us build and maintain trails!
· Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, by Grant Petersen (2012). The author worked in retail with bikes for years and was a racer. He wrote this book primarily to counter racing’s bad influence on biking and to encourage people to jettison the influences of racing that make your bike riding less fun. Among his messages: Don’t wear ridiculous outfits just to ride your bike; Don’t suffer in the name of speed; Don’t ride bikes that don’t make sense for you. He covers everything from helmets, pedals, riding techniques and upkeep. Spoiler alert: He wears plaid longsleeve shirts when riding.
· Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents, by Jim Malusa (2008). Malusa is a Tucson-based writer who was oddly influenced by Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air. Malusa decides to do the opposite—venture to the world’s lowest places and the thickest air. Armed with plenty of sunscreen, water and a sleeping bag, this book chronicles his 6 year anti-summit adventures to the Dead Sea, he rode his bike from Tucson to Death Valley, and the lowest points on four other continents (Antartica was left out for obvious reasons). Well-written, humorous and entertaining, you can’t wait to read about his next venture.
· The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of Seven Thousand Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire, by Kimball Taylor (2016). Taylor has mainly written about surfing, but when he stumbled upon large piles of used bicycles near the border in San Diego, he was determined to find out why they were there. He ends up unveiling a complicated web of intrigue and scheming involving more than 7,000 bikes that are used by migrants to cross the border, but then the bikes end up in US prisons, in the US military, Hollywood and the black market. All run by one man—El Negro and his shadowy accomplice Indio from Oaxaca.
· Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide, by Pau Howard (2011). This book recounts the author’s experience riding in the Continental Divide race in 2010 from Canada to Mexico, the longest mountain bike ride in the world—over 2,700 miles and 500 miles longer than the Tour de France and with the equivalent elevation gain of 7 Mt. Everests. And the guy has never ridden a mountain bike before although to be fair he did ride in the Tour. Well-written and humorous with hand-drawn maps of his route. You won’t be able to put this book down.
· The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance, by David Herlihy (2010). The author chronicles the story of Frank Lenz from Pittsburgh who in 1892 set out to cycle around the world on a new-fangled kind of bicycle with inflatable tires. Two years later and after surviving countless disasters and travails, he disappeared in Turkey on his approach to the end in Europe. His disappearance sparked a world outrage and reporters were sent out to find out what happened to Lenz.
· Full Tilt: From Ireland to India with a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy (1987). In 1963, this young woman set off, alone, on a bike to ride to the base of the Himalayas. She took minimal support gear and hardly any food, counting on the goodness of people along the way. She had an incredible experience, particularly in Afghanistan where she had to disguise herself as a man so she could pass through rural villages. (Aside: If you like this book, you should read some of her numerous other books of adventure. She is the definition of “intrepid.”)
· It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn (2011). Lance Armstrong might has suggested that it was NOT about the bike, but Penn disagrees. He has pedaled nearly every day of his adult life and traveled over 25,000 miles on a bike. Finally, he decided he need to build the “perfect bike” that he would ride for the rest of his life. This book is about his epiphany about biking wherein he explores the culture, science, and history of the bicycle. It explains why we bike. A very entertaining and informing book about all the components of why great bikes are great.
· Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey, by Goran Kropp (1997). Kropp was a 35-year old Swede who always wanted to climb Mt. Everest, so he set out in 1995 from Sweden on his bike, riding all the way to Nepal and the base of Mount Everest. He summited without oxygen, almost died on the summit, and then biked home to write about it all. Sadly, Kropp died in a rock-climbing accident in eastern Washington state in 2002.
· No Shit! There I was....A Collection of Wild Stories From Wild People, by Michael Hodgson (1994). Hodgson has collected a variety of short humorous essays and stories about adventure and misadventure. All pieces were submitted as part of a writing contest and includes the best stories.
Photo credit: Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder
Mountain Biking During the Pandemic Part 2: Gravel Grinding
Ok, so you want to be a responsible citizen and practice effective social distancing but want to keep riding? Awesome. Here in Southern Arizona we’re really fortunate to have 450+ miles of non-Wilderness singletrack, so there are plenty of ways to spread out and avoid the crowds. In our last blog post we discussed some of the “lesser-traveled” trails around Tucson that are fun to explore and unlikely to be crowded. For this blog post we’re going to share a couple of gravel routes; higher-mileage rides that use dirt roads instead of trails. Gravel grinding is an awesome way to cover a lot of ground, explore new areas, and build fitness. It’s also a great option for beginner riders, less-confident riders, and those coming from a road riding background, as by and large dirt roads are less technical (but not always!). Southern Arizona has literally thousands of miles of dirt roads in both the low desert and the mountains, so you can move up or down in elevation depending on the weather.
To get the dirt on gravel routes, we reached out to a few of our local gravel grinder race/event promoters: the Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder (MLGG) and the Spirit World 100. The MLGG takes place in October of each year and takes riders from the 3C Ranch in Oracle up Mt. Lemmon and through the San Pedro River Valley on 40, 50, and 60-mile routes. SDMB is a nonprofit beneficiary of the MLGG, so a portion of all sponsorships and race fees benefit local trail projects! The Spirit World 100 is Southern Arizona’s newest gravel race, and it takes riders on a 50 and 100-mile route based out of Patagonia. The event is coordinated by The Cyclists’s Menu, which offers fully-catered cycling camps with amazing food courtesy of chef Zander Ault.
Exploration is one of the best parts of any ride, whether it's on singletrack or a back dirt road. You don't need to follow an established route to have a blast. Two great starting points are Charleau Gap Rd. in Catalina and Redington Rd. to the east of Tucson. Both roads are also popular with OHV users, especially on weekends, so avoid peak days/hours.
Given the distances that most gravel routes cover, it’s pretty likely that you will be driving there and stopping in small towns like Oracle and Patagonia. At this point we are all hopefully practicing social distancing, washing our hands, wearing masks, etc to help flatten the curve and end the COVID-19 outbreak. When traveling from one area to another, or from a city to a small town, please make sure to do the following:
Gravel Grinder Routes
Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder
The MLGG course has 40, 50, and 60-mile options. All routes technically start and finish at the 3C Ranch, but a good alternate start/finish is just past the ranch at the turn-off for Peppersauce Campground. While the MLGG is technically a gravel route, the Mt. Lemmon Control Road is steep, bumpy, and often has loose rock so while you can ride it on a gravel or CX bike, a hardtail 29er is the weapon of choice for most riders. The MLGG course has a low elevation of 3,000 ft. and a high elevation of 8,000 ft. (for the 60 Grind) so be prepared for a wide variety of temperatures. No matter which route you choose, the views of the Catalina and Galiuro Mountains are spectacular and the diversity of plants (Saguaros all the way up to Ponderosa Pines) on the course is second to none.
GO HERE FOR MLGG ROUTE INFORMATION
Spirit World 100
Based out of Patagonia, AZ the Sprit World 100 has 50 and 100-mile routes. These are more “traditional” gravel routes that can be ridden on a gravel/CX bike or a mountain bike. Both the 50 and 100-mile routes are between 4,000 and 6,000 feet in elevation, and cross high desert grasslands and the Patagonia, Huachuca, and Mule Mountains and the Canelo Hills. It’s proximity to the US/Mexico border makes the Spirit World 100 an interesting ride.
GO HERE FOR SPIRIT WORLD 100 ROUTE INFORMATION
Other Gravel Grinding Resources and Suggestions
The Dirty Freehub
The Dirt Freehub is a national website that features curated and vetted gravel routes in each state. They have detailed map and elevation information for all routes.
GO HERE TO SEE ARIZONA GRAVEL ROUTES ON THE DIRTY FREEHUB
From SDMB Board Member Kirk Astroth
SDMB’s own Kirk Astroth is an avid explorer of random dirt roads and backcountry routes, many of which feature interesting historical and archeological features. Read on for a list of some of his favorite gravel rides. You’ll have to do your own map and wayfinding research for these, which just makes it more of an adventure!
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
© 2018 - Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists -
SDMB is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Tax ID#27-4499320)
PO Box 65075, Tucson AZ 85718