The Sonoran Desert landscape of Phoenix, Arizona and surrounding areas provides a classic southwestern backdrop—and miles of great trails—for mountain bikers of all levels.
From riding a swooping pump track in a bike park, to turning the pedals on part of the 800-mile long Arizona Trail, to charging the rocky, challenging singletrack at South Mountain, the riding around Phoenix is as varied and fun as can be…and it’s easier to access than you might think.
Wherever you are in the Phoenix area, and whatever kind of riding you’re in the mood for, there’s a trail awaiting you and your bike.
-- South Mountain Park/Preserve
Sixteen thousand acres and 51 miles of trails makes this one of the largest city parks in the U.S. Trails at this Phoenix/Tempe-area locals’ favorite spot are mostly technical, and the park has an active downhill and freeride scene. Access the north end of the park from the main entrance off of South Central Avenue, or from the eastern edge at the Pima Canyon entrance off of South 48th Street.
-- Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Piestewa Peak (or, “Squaw Peak,” as locals call it), rises out of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve at 2,608 feet. Trails here are rocky and technical, but less rugged overall than in South Mountain Park. The main access to this park is off of Squaw Peak Drive out of the Winter Haven neighborhood.
-- Arizona Trail
The Arizona Trail spans the state’s borders from Utah to Mexico, covering over 800 miles. To access Sonoran desert backcountry, riding swooping singletrack that dips in and out of canyons, hit the section near Picket Post Mountain and head South. From Phoenix, drive roughly 45 minutes east on Route 60 and access the trail just before th town of Superior.
-- Black Canyon Trail
Hopping on the southern section of the 62-mile-long Black Canyon Trail serves up semi-flat terrain. The more you head north on the trail, the hillier and more technical. To access the trail, head north out of Phoenix on the Carefree Highway.
-- Browns Ranch/McDowell Sonoran Preserve
In nearby Scottsdale, Browns Ranch/McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers miles of classic desert riding, from sandy washes, to crushed granite, to challenging rocky sections and more. Large saguaro cacti dot the landscape for a scenic desert ride. This is a great place for beginner to intermediate riders. Five major trailheads provide access to 146 miles of trails.
-- Desert Trails Bike Park
This 35-acre park in Mesa, just east of Phoenix, is a playground for riders of all levels. A network of trails wind throughout the park, as do pump tracks, dirt jumps and other manmade obstacles. The bike park has something for everyone. Access the park from North Recker Road in Mesa, roughly 20 miles east of Phoenix.
Need to Know
Since this is desert country, trails can be both rocky and sandy, often lined with cactus and other spikey flora. And while you might spot a chuckwalla lizard or desert tortoise, you also might spot—or, hear—a rattlesnake. To stay safe from all of the above, keep your eyes on the trail ahead of you and on the line you want to take (not the one you don’t). And if you see or hear a rattler, give it plenty of space.
With local weather rising into the 80s and 90s even in February and March, and into the 100s through October, bring plenty of water on even short rides. For more mountain biking advice and a schedule of classes offered by REI, visit http://www.rei.com/h/cycling.
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