Santa Ritas to Saguaro NP
This diverse and exciting three-day adventure features 60 miles of flowing singletrack through oak and juniper forests, across golden grasslands and finishing among stands of giant saguaro cacti. While technical challenges will be encountered each day, the majority of the route is ideal for beginner and intermediate riders who want to experience the Arizona Trail near Tucson.
The Santa Rita Mountains are incredibly biodiverse, and are one of the only places in America where you might share the trail with a jaguar or ocelot (both have been documented here in recent years). This is the only trip where you can spend time underground, and a walk through Colossal Cave will reveal the incredible world that exists underground. Ending in Saguaro National Park (one of only two National Parks in the country that allow mountain bikes on trails), this three-day itinerary is about as much fun as you can have on your mountain bike.
Our meeting point for this trip is Tucson, 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.
The adventure begins in a canyon on the northern end of the Santa Rita Mountains near a permanent water source. Follow singletrack through dense forests of piñon pine, juniper, oak and manzanita toward Gardner Canyon. Climb a short, steep series of switchbacks before descending toward historic Kentucky Camp. Old adobe structures and rusting mining equipment help tell the story of when this area was bustling with hopes of riches in the dirt. The trail rises and falls through a series of canyons, testing your legs and lungs throughout the day. This area is a bird watcher’s paradise and you’re likely to see everything from tiny grassland sparrows to elegant trogons. Deer, javelina, mountain lions and coatimundi are also abundant. Camp is in a remote valley in the foothills of the Santa Ritas. Ride length is about 19 miles.
Continuing north along the Arizona Trail, today’s route is mostly fast and flowing with a lot of elevation loss between the start and finish. The terrain makes the first few hours a challenge as you ride through the accordion-like ridges of the foothills. But soon you’ll feel like you’re flying as you coast through formidable terrain on recently-built trail. The Las Colinas and Las Cienegas passages of the Arizona Trail were built almost entirely by volunteers, and most of them were mountain bikers. The miles pass quickly as you descend toward Cienega Creek Nature Preserve, a perennial source of water in an otherwise dry desert. Soak your feet in the cold creek water before pedaling north toward Colossal Cave, where the trail gets slightly more technical. The final descent into Colossal Cave Mountain Park is exhilarating, and you’ll roll into camp with your cheeks sore from grinning. Camp is in a lush mesquite and cottonwood forest within La Selvilla Campground. Ride length is 29 miles.
The day begins with a rocky, gentle climb north out of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Limestone dominates the landscape, which makes for challenging riding, but soon disappears as you descend into lower elevations. The trail seems to get easier with each passing mile, rolling downhill toward Rincon Creek. Sometimes flowing like a creek and other times just a trickle, it’s a pleasant change from the prickly pear and ocotillo forests nearby. Climbing out of Rincon Creek the Arizona Trail enters Saguaro National Park, first on singletrack then on an old doubletrack road that allows you to soak up the inspiring views of the massive Rincon Mountains. Healthy forests of saguaros surround you and Gila monsters and rattlesnakes are commonly seen here. Where the Arizona Trail enters the Saguaro Wilderness area, you follow the Hope Camp Trail toward the Camino Loma Alta Trailhead. If you want more miles, pedal the paved loop through Saguaro National Park – one of the most scenic routes anywhere in Arizona. Along the way you’ll encounter the Cactus Forest Loop, a short segment of trail that is open to bicycles. It’s a great way to experience the biodiversity of the Park. Ride length is 12 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