Where (and When) to Ride Your Bike in Tucson
The road is calling you to get on two wheels and explore the city
There’s a reason Tucson makes all kinds of “best places to bike” lists and half of our cars have some sort of rack on the back. This is a great place to go for a ride and our seemingly endless supply of sunshine means that you’ll almost certainly have nice dry roads to travel. Tucson and Pima County have built car-free paths, bike lanes on existing roads and cultivated a pro-bicyclist culture. Here are some paths and rides for a variety of skill levels. For more information on where to ride in the Tucson area, check out a map of local paths created by the Pima Association of Governments.
This is a great place to go for a ride and our seemingly endless supply of sunshine means that you’ll almost certainly have nice dry roads to travel.
Rillito River Path
Running from Interstate 10 to Craycroft Road, this might be the most popular route in town as part of the city-encompassing Loop project. This fully-paved over-21-mile-long course doesn’t make for a difficult ride, but the upside is there are plenty of places to stop by and visit along the way, including farmers’ markets and a Trader Joe’s, plus you won’t be held up by the need to cross streets.
Starting (or ending, depending on your perspective) in downtown Tucson, the nearly nine-and-a-half miles of paved path runs along the Aviation Parkway (hence the name), near the train tracks, towards Tucson’s eastside and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Make sure you keep your eyes on the road as a wide array of aircraft fly overhead.
Tucson’s first major bike thoroughfare cuts through the center of the city from Main to Wilmot, which is a bike advantage in a number of ways. While you will have to deal with intersections, the residentially-located path does have specialized lights and exchanges to make crossing town as simple and car-interaction-free as possible.
At Epic Cafe on Fourth Avenue, there’s a great bike corral for your parking needs, but if you’d like to take a trip north from there, the Fourth Avenue/Fontana route takes riders to the Amphi neighborhood via a journey complete with public art, bike crossings and a great tour of Tucson houses.
Tuesday Night Ride
Tuesdays, starting at the flagpole outside Old Main at the University of Arizona
Running about 11 miles each week on a different route through Tucson’s city streets, the Tuesday Night Ride attracts around 50 riders a week of all skill levels. No matter what your bike looks like or if 11 miles is a workout or just a warm-up, you’ll be welcomed warmly.
It’s not really a “ride” per se, but Cyclovia makes this list due to its status as a love letter to a car-free existence in Tucson. Held twice a year in different locations, city streets are closed, booths are manned, beer gardens are grown, and pedestrians and bicyclists get a space to themselves for a day. It’s just a lot of fun.
Santa Cruz River Path
Like the River Road path, the Santa Cruz route is also part of the Loop, in this case, making up the west border of the network of trails. There’s lot to ride here and you’ll likely be right next to Tucson’s downtown at some point. The Mercado San Agustin is along the route with some very bike-friendly businesses at your disposal (and bathrooms, which is a definite plus).
Julian Wash Greenway
Also - you guessed it - part of the Loop, the 18 miles of the Julian Drew Greenway go along the south-side of the Tucson area by train tracks, the Pima Air & Space Museum and next to the Kino Sports Complex. If you’d like some wide-open spaces to ride, this might be your best bet.
Definitely not for everyone, the ride up Catalina Highway is a workout for even world-class bicyclists. And don’t be surprised to see one (or a pack) of them fly by you a few miles outside of Le Buzz, the coffee shop on Tanque Verde that acts as a meetup space for the riding community. They might actually be heading out on the full 26-mile ride up to the top of Mt. Lemmon, gaining nearly 6,000 feet in elevation in the process. Again, it’s not for everyone, but it is a great gift to have this ride available and right outside of the city.
Saguaro National Park East
It doesn’t get much more beautiful than this ride, as majestic saguaros surround you on the paved scenic route through this national park. It’s only 8 miles, but it does feature some rollers, a steady climb and an experience you won’t soon forget.
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