by Eric Newton
The Sonoran Desert runs through Southern Arizona and is most famous for the Saguaro Cactus towering over the desert floor. With its solid trunk, the human like figure looks as if it has arms pointing up to the sky. The plant is so hard to mistake that whenever somebody says “draw a picture of a cactus” 60% of the time every time, the Saguaro Cactus is the go-to image.
On my visit to Southern Arizona I found myself next to one of those big Saguaro’s and as I looked up at its arms reaching high into the sky I couldn’t help but wonder “how old are you? and what have you seen in your long lifetime?”
The Sonoran Desert is not only home to the Saguaro’s but also home to some of the best mountain biking in the country! With its fast flowy desert dirt, paired with some chunky rock and consequential no fall cactus zones, what more could you ask for?
McDowell Mountain Regional Park and The Black Canyon Trail (north of Phoenix) are probably two of the most famous mountain biking locations in the Phoenix, AZ area.
Roughly 50 miles of singletrack make up the McDowell Mountain Park. Here you will find plenty of those big friendly Saguaros just hanging out and enjoying the view as time passes them by. The trails are wide and the soil can be loose and sandy so be mindful of berm-less corners because trust me they sneak up on you! Luckily, most of the trails here are beginner friendly which makes it a perfect spot for riders of all levels or a family bike ride!
If you are looking for something a little more “epic”, then look no further than the Black Canyon Trail (BCT). The trail covers 77-miles point-to-point with about 4,000ft of climbing and 7,000ft of descending! The BCT is undulating singletrack with chunky technical climbs and fast descents with variable terrain, so hang on and keep it pinned!
The BCT is well marked with brown metal stakes labeled with “Black Canyon Trail’ or “BCT”. The BCT is a true singletrack trail with some off-camber riding and steep drop-offs that can be broken down into many different sections. The trail head can be tricky to find so make sure you have a map.
If you are riding for the first time it is wise to go with friends who have conquered this beast before or play it smart and take a guided tour with amazing guides from the best in the bizz Escape Adventures . The benefit of riding with a guide is they know the trail like the back of their hand and they know where to find all the secret petroglyphs and cool historical stuff that without them you may miss out on.
At the end of a long day of riding be sure to stop and grab some world-famous pie at
Rock Springs Café, I you will not regret it.
The best times of year to visit this desert land with its towering Saguaro giants is undeniably fall, winter and spring. If you find yourself here in the summer and don’t feel like riding at 5am or earlier to try and “beat the heat” then pack up your bike and gear to head north!
Escape Adventures offers several tours all over the US for all seasons so don’t miss your chance for an adventure of a lifetime.
At the end of the day this part of the U.S has some awesome riding to offer and if you are looking for something a little different than the riding where you live, this should be the next mountain bike destination marked on your calendar.
See you all out on the trails!