Head west to Tucson Mountain Park and start the ride of your life at the Starr Pass Trailhead. Some mountain bikers stop along the 9.3-mile Starr Pass Main Loop to admire the view, but most are here to hone their skills on bumpy descents and technical climbs. With more than 60 miles of shared-use trails in the park, this area is popular among riders of all skill levels and a must for visitors experiencing the desert for the first time. Expect a workout that will rattle your bones.
Cactus Forest Loop Drive at Saguaro National Park East is to road bikers what Six Flags is to roller coaster junkies. Eight miles of paved road through the Rincon Mountains includes narrow passes, steep climbs, and tight hairpins. Skilled road bikers train for speed and agility here under bright blue skies year-round. Visitors tend to throttle back a bit to admire the craggy landscape loaded with massive saguaros reaching for the sky.
Stay Right, Pass Left
Year after year, Tucson ranks among the top U.S. cycling cities. One big reason is The Loop. With 131 paved miles of shared-use trails that cut through metro areas and run along river washes, The Loop makes a circle around the city and even reaches into Marana, Oro Valley, and South Tucson. The best part: no cars and no traffic lights. The Loop sees a lot of people-powered action, so it’s best for a leisurely ride between point A and point B rather than topping your personal best.
What a View!
Just north of Tucson in Oro Valley, people hike up into the foothills of Catalina State Park to catch magical sunrises and sunsets that increase their odds of capturing Insta-gold. Commit more time to embark on the Romero Canyon Trail, a moderate 5.5-mile out-and-back hike that leads to Romero Pools. If you tackle the trail during the cooler months you’ll be rewarded with cascading waterfalls. Splash your feet in the pools to cool off—you’ve earned it.
Ringed by mountain ranges, Tucson’s most prominent natural landmark is the Santa Catalina Mountains. Head east to access Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, a popular day-use area with a paved path that leads to multiple side hikes that put the dirt under your feet. Roughly 8 miles out-and-back, follow the creek through the rugged, saguaro-studded desert to Seven Falls. Water flow varies from a trickle to a stream depending on the time of year—and is always a surprise.
The Air Up There
South of Green Valley and Sahuarita, Madera Canyon is tucked away in the Santa Rita Mountains. At just over 5 miles, the Nature Trail offers a pleasant romp through rolling foothills to the edges of an oak and juniper forest. Look up to see Mt. Wrightson—the highest point in the Santa Ritas—and birds of all colors and sizes. Shade comes in handy during the hotter months, which leads to the most important tip for desert activity year-round: arrive hydrated, stay hydrated.