Fat-tire fun near Phoenix

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 14-20, 1996
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Fat-tire fun near Phoenix

Fat-tire fun near Phoenix
Question: I will be spending time in Phoenix in December. I am looking for some places where I could go mountain biking while I am there. Do you know any good places near Phoenix? My preference is for more technical trails. Thanks.

Mark Innocenti
Millville, UT
[email protected]

Trail 100 will definitely get your
heart pumping and quads burning

Adventure Adviser: Arm yourself with plenty of water--or heck, go ahead and splurge with a CamelBak full of Gatorade--and a couple of spare tubes in case an unwanted cactus thorn finds its way into your tire, and head to the rugged hills of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, an easy drive from downtown along Seventh Avenue to the parking area at Mountain View Park. The ride in question: Trail 100, a 21-mile out-and-back along occasionally loose sections of rocky and steep singletrack, through stands of saguaro cacti, with an elevation gain of a mere 600 feet. Still, this fairly technical ride will definitely get your heart pumping and quads burning. Riding to the trailhead is always a good warm-up, especially when said trail starts off with a short but grueling ascent and keeps them coming with tortuous regularity. Trail 100 proper is a there-and-back, but you'll likely want to explore the extensive network of fat-tire-friendly loop options that extend outward from this main artery. Call Phoenix Parks and Recreation at 602-262-673 for maps of the preserve before setting out. Bear in mind that the trail's convenient location makes it a popular post-work playground for the city's working folk, who take to the trails on foot and on horse in great numbers, so keep your speed in check.

Another good bet in the immediate vicinity is the 7-mile Pass Mountain Trail, a challenging single-track loop that skirts the edge of the Superstition Mountains east of the city. You'll be pedaling through run-of-the-mill Sonoran desert terrain, but the views of high-altitude ponderosa pines and nearby granite hills are spectacular. Find the trailhead by driving east from downtown on Apache Boulevard, then north on Ellsworth Road to Usery Pass Road. Follow this until it dead-ends at the Horse Staging Area and then start riding counterclockwise along the trail as it climbs along the eastern flank of Usery Mountain. Steel yourself for dizzying switchbacks and long, steep climbs. If I were riding this route, I'd plan on doing the short, 3.8-mile Blevins Trail, also accessible from the Horse Staging Area, as a warm-up loop just to get the blood flowing. There's nothing I dread more than a tough climb right out of the car. For more info, call the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department at 602-506-2930.

Two other rides I'd recommend looking into: the 4.8-mile Trail 1A (a.k.a. the Perl Charles Memorial Trail), a strenuous 4.8-mile loop through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve; and the insanely technical 12.4-mile one-way grunt along the National Trail (henceforth, "The Mother of All Phoenix Rides") in South Mountain Park. Thanks to giant rock obstacles, heart-stopping drop-offs, and a fair bit of horse traffic, T.M.A.P.R. is definitely not for the faint of heart--or bike. Call Phoenix Parks and Recreation for details and be sure to pick up a copy of the indispensable Mountain Biker's Guide to Arizona by Sarah Bennett (Falcon Press, $12.95).

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