Mountain Bike Trails
Some of Tucson's best trails selected for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Get ready to shred. With these selected trails there's a little something for everyone. And watch the video below for some tips from one of our hometown MTB pros, Todd Wells!
Video: Tucson Pro-Tips with Todd Wells
The Loop is a 100% family-friendly system of bike paths that surround Tucson allowing for riders to almost completely circumnavigate the city. Most paths are paved but there are certain opportunities to get in the dirt and it allows for a fun way to get just about anywhere in town on your bike without having to worry about those pesky things we call cars. Basically, If you can ride a bike, then you can ride The Loop.
Fantasy Island is a trail system in east-central Tucson built from a series of interconnected loops that provide fun no matter your level. However, we place it in the beginner category because less-experienced riders can enjoy this system without the worries that come along with some of Tucson's other trails. It's close to town, well-traveled and has only a few sections that could be considered even remotely "technical". A newer section accessed from just west of the intersection of Valencia Rd. and Houghton Rd. has some shorter loops that are extremely friendly for beginning riders, and those looking to get a decent workout can connect it back to the original trail system to make for a longer cross-country style ride.
Click Here for a map of Fantasy Island's Lone Cactus Loop courtesy of MTB Project.
The Sweetwater Trail System is a short series of loop trails on Tucson’s western edge that can really be enjoyed by any level of rider for its well-maintained trails and beautiful scenery. This area can satisfy both beginners who want a bit of a challenge or experienced riders who are looking for a more relaxed day in the saddle. Bordered by Saguaro National Park West these trails provide a perfect way to experience supreme desert riding without venturing too far outside of the city.
Click Here for a map of the Sweetwater trail system courtesy of MTB Project.
The Golder Ranch Trail System, northwest of Tucson near the towns of Oro Valley and Catalina, provides access to a wide variety of trails for riders of a more intermediate level. On segments like 50 Year and Middlegate, you will find some of Tucson's best singletrack with just enough technical challenges to keep it interesting. And as a major bonus, riding here comes with some of the most picturesque desert scenery in the region. For some really fun, fast lines with steep berms try one of the area’s most popular segments, aptly named "The Chutes". This system can be accessed from Golder Ranch Rd. to the north or from Catalina State Park to the south. Note: A park entrance fee of $7 is required if you wish to park and ride in from Catalina State Park.
Click Here for a Map of the Golder Ranch trail system courtesy of MTB Project.
The Starr Pass Trail System is one of the most popular places to ride in the Tucson area, with a good mix of technical rock sections and smooth single track riding. This is undoubtedly one of Tucson’s crown jewels when it comes to mountain biking and boasts plenty of loop segments that can be connected to the Tucson Mountain Park Trail system to the north or to the equally fun Robles system to the south. If you happen to be staying at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort then access to this rider’s dream is just outside the door.
Elephant Head Trail in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains just south of Tucson, allows endurance riders to test themselves on a long out-and-back through a mix of jeep road and single track. Get an up-close look at the strikingly beautiful Elephant Head rock formation as you pedal through the open desert on this fast, occasionally technical ride, ending with a curvy, challenging descent down Chino Canyon.
Click Here for a map of the Elephant Head trail courtesy of MTB Project.
Lemmon Drop offers steep, tech trails and the challenge of higher altitudes at the start. This epic run links together the alpine beauty of the Green Mountain and Bug Springs trail to the lower elevation grinds of Molino Basin and La Milagrosa trails. In traversing a large portion of Coronado National Forest, and stretching from the Santa Catalina Mountains into the Rincon Mountains, riders can experience the full range of diversity that the Tucson landscape has to offer. This excursion is a perfect fit for advanced riders in search of a strenuous challenge. For a similar experience on the opposite side of the Catalina's, you’ll find the backwoods bliss of the CDO Trail; less technical but equally challenging in terms of distance and overall ruggedness.
The Ridgeline Loop in the Tortolita Mountains treats riders to steep technical climbing with the reward of some incredible views. Couple this more difficult trail with the traditional cross-country stylings of the Honeybee Canyon trail for some added miles. Between the two, serious riders can go all out for an awesome half-day adventure that is easily accessed from conveniently located Oro Valley.
Click Here for a map of the Ridgeline loop courtesy of MTB Project.
The Brown Mountain Loop is another popular option for more advanced riders but offers a shorter trip, clocking in at just under 5 miles. This loop is part of the previously mentioned Tucson Mountain Park trail system and passes right by the famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Because of the proximity to other trails and local attractions, including Old Tucson, it is is pretty well traveled and will require the occasional yield to hikers. If you are looking for a quick but technical challenge and a wonderful example of desert riding, look no further.
Click Here for a map of the Brown Mountain loop courtesy of MTB Project
Bonus: Those in search of a truly hardcore bike-packing odyssey can take on the challenge of The Arizona Trail, an epic 800-mile route that stretches from the Mexico border all the way to Utah (mostly ridden north-to-south). Some of the most beautiful and fun sections of the AZT wind just around the outskirts of Tucson making it easy to access and experience some choice segments even if you don't have the extra vacation days needed to take down the whole thing.
*The trails mentioned here can be dangerous! If you are uncertain about your ability to ride a specific trail, check in with one of the local advocacy groups to get more information or seek out a local guide. Also, please be aware that many of the trails mentioned here are multi-use, so look out for horses and hikers, and no matter where you ride, always remember to be kind and share the trail!
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