Where to mountain bike in Arizona

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 6-12, 1997
Making the most of a few days in Oz
Where to mountain bike in Arizona
Living off the land along the AT
Paddling Glacier Bay's East Arm
Bike-touring on Prince Edward Island

Where to mountain bike in Arizona
Question: Where do you recommend mountain biking in Arizona in March? I will be in Phoenix with my 14-year-old son then, and we are interested in rides of 10-25 miles. Thanks.

Tim Tully
Concord, MA
[email protected]

Hit the Desert Classic near Phoenix
and explore 22 miles of challenge

Adventure Adviser: Try the 15.5-mile Pemberton Trail, a moderately challenging ride via hard-packed singletrack about 15 miles northeast of Scottsdale. The loop begins from the parking lot at the Horse Staging Area in McDowell Mountains Regional Park. To find the trailhead, head north on Arizona 87 through Fountain Hills, following signs to the park entrance.

Head west from the parking area on the "B" trail and make the gradual climb from 1,850 feet to 2,500 feet in the northwest corner of the park. About halfway through the ride you'll intersect the Stoneman Trail, a historic wagon route. This trail will take you southeast back to your car, cutting your ride considerably, but it's not terribly well-marked and can be hard to follow. You're probably better off just following the Pemberton loop back to the parking lot. For details on this ride, call the Maricopa County Parks and Rec Department at 602-272-8871.

There's also plenty of great riding in South Mountain Park, inside the Phoenix city limits. The Desert Classic Trail is a 22-mile spin through Sonoran country rife with saguaros and creosote. The only difficulty is that there are so many trails and the Desert Classic isn't marked, which makes it easy to get temporarily sidetracked. Plan, then, on just getting out and exploring the miles of rideable terrain--and don't stress about losing the main trail: It's difficult to get really lost here. The Desert Classic starts from the Pima Canyon parking area, off Guadelupe Road and heads west/southwest, crossing endless side trails.

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