Sonoran Desert Tour
The place to go for early and late season singletrack is the Sonoran Desert just south of Tucson, Arizona.
The trails wind through huge Saguaro cacti and the views reach almost to Mexico. The riding is fun and swooping with short technical sections. In the spring, cacti of every description are blooming all over the place. Our route travels on the Arizona Trail through trees and grasslands with great views of Mount Wrightson. We then work our way south to the Santa Rita Mountains.
This trip requires singletrack skills and experience. Low altitudes and short climbs make it perfect for early season riding. It is also a great alternative to Moab for the last hurrah of your mountain biking season in October. Call us at 800-845-2453. We can answer all your questions about this spectacular desert adventure.
This morning we’ll spend an enjoyable 2-3 hours riding in Tucson Mountain Park, a 20,000 acre Sonoran Desert natural preserve that includes one of the most magnificent saguaro cactus forests in the world. The Tucson valley is a high desert, once the floor of an ancient inland sea, and is surrounded by four mountain ranges, the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas and Tucsons. On this trip we ride the best singletrack of the region. In addition to the characteristic saguaros, there are also chollas, barrel cactus, prickly pear and ocotillo. The Tucson area is well known for its bird watching potential, and at certain times of the year over 200 species of birds have been identified in the vicinity. After lunch, our smooth singletrack loop swoops in and out of arroyos finally returning us to the shade of our lunch tree. It’s the perfect singletrack to warm us up for the more technical riding in the mountains. We’ll load into the van and shuttle to the Santa Rita Mountains to our camp for the next three nights. TOTAL MILEAGE: 16 - 20 miles
Out here in the shadow of Mount Wrightson, we will do several loops from camp. The morning ride will take us through limestone cave country, and traverse in and out of old growth oak trees. We’ll have a mid-morning stop at the historic gold mining establishment of Kentucky Camp and learn about the trials and tribulations of the early gold miners. We’ll return heading south on the Arizona Trail back to our camp for lunch. The afternoon ride takes us up to the Flume Trail, a section of trail that follows an old water flume built by the ambitious gold miners in the early 1900s. Their hope was that through advanced water technology they would be able to recover trace amounts of gold that were previously not extractable. Needless to say, no one made much money, but they did leave us a great flowing trail that leads us right back to camp. TOTAL MILEAGE: 12 - 25 miles
The Arizona Trail is a singletrack that runs the entire length of the state and it is 800 miles long! From our camp, we’ll head up the dirt road for a couple of miles before intersecting a great section of the trail. Here, we’ll ride north through historic mining claims to Kentucky Camp and early gold mining outposts. The trail rollercoasters through beautiful woods and grasslands offering occasional views of Mount Wrightson, which rises abruptly 5,000 feet from the desert floor. From Kentucky Camp we’ll stay on the trail and climb up to Granite Mountain before rolling along to Forest Road 62 near Greaterville. We’ll circle around and return to our camp in Gardner Canyon with plenty of time for a splash in the granite walled creek. TOTAL MILEAGE: 20 miles
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll load into the van for a short shuttle to one of the highlight rides of the trip, Fantasy Island. In one square mile of land, the local mountain bikers have installed over 20 miles of singletrack. The trails twist between cholla cactus and roll through deep arroyos steep enough to coast up the other side. The trail tread is fairly smooth, firm packed soil. The technical nature of the riding comes from maneuvering your bike through the tight turns and navigating between the pricklies. In the ride afterglow, we’ll load up and head to our camp at Catalina State Park. TOTAL MILEAGE: 15 miles
Today’s ride is an awesome overview of the week’s riding. Pedaling the singletrack of the 50 Year Trail, we’ll overlook Oro Valley with the backdrop of the western slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Romero Canyon Wilderness Area. The winding singletrack culminates in the local’s favorite section called the “chutes.” We’ll be riding out and back today, winding in and out of the saguaros, prickly pear and cholla cactus. After lunch we load up for our return to the bike shop in Tucson. TOTAL MILEAGE: 16 miles
This tour contains some difficult riding on narrow desert trails. We will be without vehicle support during all singletrack sections of the trip. Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety, and other factors which may affect the logistics of the adventures.
Riding Surface: Variable loose rocky single and doubletrack trails.
Overall Rating: Intermediate/Advanced
Technical Difficulty: Moderate to very difficult. Some obstacles and one hike-a-bike section.
Physical Difficulty: Strong intermediate with some difficult sections.
Altitude: 2,000 - 6,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.