Oracle to Picketpost
This Arizona Trail mountain bike tour is truly a hidden gem. Deep in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona lies one of the finest stretches of singletrack anywhere – The Arizona Trail between Oracle, AZ and Superior, AZ. We often use the word “remote”, but this section of trail may take the cake. It’s OUT there. Despite being one of the hottest deserts in North America the Sonoran Desert is teaming with life. Gila monsters, desert tortoise, javelinas, rattlesnakes and countless types of cactus permeate the landscape. Rugged and unforgiving as it is beautiful – it is magical world many of us do not get to experience often.
This is a self-guided tour, but not like our others. We mandate the following: GPS with the AZ Trail track from Topofusion.com loaded, latex or Slime tubes (and plenty of them), 100oz hydration bladder and at least one water bottle mounted on the bike, and beefy tires. A little preparation goes a long way on this trip. Our goal is not to scare you, but simply be prepared for a great time mountain biking the Arizona Trail. This is a difficult, advanced level trip for experienced mountain bikers.
We created this trip for those who don’t want a guide, don’t want to be supported during the week and generally just want their own self-serve adventure with a bit of logistical assistance. Each day we relocate a very deluxe camp setup (provided by Ready Camp) of (2) 10×10 canopies, full kitchen, dry firewood, camp chairs, fresh water, coolers of food and beverages (you purchase prior to trip) and all your personal gear like tents, bags and clothing. You can go as cheap or deluxe as you want on food, beverages and amenities!!
Our meeting point for this trip is Apache Junction, AZ at the Best Western. The day before the trip starts you can pick up a cooler (if needed) from us to do your shopping for the week.
Our first day we’ll meet at 7:00am and then start with a shuttle from Apache Junction to Oracle, AZ of about 90 minutes. The beginning of the trail from Oracle takes you up and down on narrow singletrack crossing 5 or 6 washes. Distant views of Antelope Peak, our night’s destination, reveal themselves periodically. Behind us we can see the northern slopes of Mount Lemmon, Tucson’s signature peak. The vegetation in this area consists mainly of low-lying cacti such as prickly pear and chollas. During one of our scouting trips of this trip we came across a hissing gila monster in this region – a beautiful, but poisonous reptile not to be trifled with! After a long, enjoyable descent on some newly-built singletrack you’ll have a few miles on dirt road which will be a welcome relief as the singletrack in this first section demands attention. This road points directly at Antelope Peak, a reddish ancient volcano. You’ll soon rejoin singletrack to traverse the right hand flank of Antelope Peak, but keep your eyes peeled in this section as route-finding is tricky. Ride length is about 28 miles.
The second day of your journey marks the transition into the more stunning final 3 days of purpose-built singletrack, flowy trails and rugged, jaw-dropping terrain. Right from the gate riders are treated to some fast, flowy singletrack into the “Boulders” section of the AZT. The sky-scraping spires of the Gila Canyons dominate the northern backdrop throughout the day. The singletrack is interrupted by a short two-track traverse before giving way to rolling singletrack into the washes below the Prickly Nipple. This our name for the unnamed peak in the distance with Zorro-like switchbacks scored across its face. Those switchbacks are the AZT snaking its way up the Prickly Nipple; one of the great singletrack climbs of the entire trip. Once atop the Prickly Nipple riders are treated to ridgeline riding with outstanding 360-degree views. The descent from the ridgeline is arguably the best descent of the 4 days – miles of bench cut trail weaving in and out of Saguaro cacti fields all the way to camp! Ride length is 27 miles.
After yesterday’s rollicking descent off the Prickly Nipple it’s hard to believe the trail is going to only get better. Riding away from camp on even more great bench cut singletrack you’ll wrap around a ridge and slowly merge into the Gila River corridor. The trail in this section is stunning – excellent contouring grades through thick Saguaro forests with the Gila River gently flowing beneath us to our left for the entire day. Today can easily be categorized as a recovery day as the climbing is reasonable and the mileage is a bit shorter. In designing this trip we went back and forth over how to configure these last 2 days, but we settled on recovered, rested riders versus forcing an overly long day and a short day 4. So the theme today is go easy and enjoy the day and prepare for the final, “queen’s stage” on day 4. Ride length is 19 miles.
Riders will want to wake early and get a move on for their final day. Day 4 is truly a “queen’s stage” that starts with a very sizeable climb up through the Gila Canyons. The route today will leave an imprint of desert beauty and diversity on riders as they head home and for weeks afterward. Simply put this final day is one of the best days of singletrack riding you’ll get anywhere, anytime. It’s challenging, beautiful and rugged and is the perfect finale to a great trip. You’ll pull away from camp and rejoin the singletrack AZT very quickly. The climb is very reasonable in most spots, but is mixed with some grinder sections as well. The desert spires and Saguaro forest will keep your mind off the effort as you slowly creep up the canyon. The trail is very kind in spots giving riders a breather before pointing back up canyon. The final part of the climb is surreal as the trail clings to 50 and 60-degree slopes and cuts through solid rock. As riders crest the brunt of the climb they are then deposited into a traverse that contours just below a flowing ridgeline. Below you is a remote canyon that rivals sections of the Grand Canyon and other deep-cut desert chasms. The steep canyon gives way to an open bowl of a valley at the head of the final “Picket Post” section of the trail. This final section rolls up and down for a bit with no significant efforts before an almost all downhill ride to exit trailhead just west of Superior, AZ where the van will be waiting! Ride length is about 25 miles.
What’s Included in My Trip?
> Shuttle Van and driver
> Luggage, gear and cooler/food relocation
> Ready Camp kitchen and general gear
> Alcoholic Beverages – we can haul and keep them cold though!
> Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
> Weather Control – Mother Nature has a mind of her own