The Black Canyon National Recreation Trail will be a 79-mile hiking,
mountain biking and equestrian trail stretching from the Sonoran Desert
lowlands in Phoenix to the high grasslands of Prescott Valley. Although the
trail is not yet complete, the care given to engineering the trail for a great
mountain bike singletrack experience is already obvious.
This 24-mile “Little Pan Loop” has emerged as one of the favorite segments
of the portion of the trail that has been completed. It may take you longer
than you think: bring lots of water!
The Ride: Leave from the Black Canyon City TH following the singletrack
At mile .85 the trail forks. The right fork is the trail heading towards
Prescott. If you follow it for 1.4 miles to the edge of the Agua Fria River
you’ll get some great views of the river bottom and will get to try your skills
on some tight switchbacks. However, take the left fork for this “Little Pan
Loop” lollipop ride.
Keep your speed down until you are familiar with the trail. There are a
couple tight corners you don’t want to overshoot or you will launch out into
Before you know it you will make the first of four crossings of the Agua Fri
River and will start realizing it’s great to be on a trail designed for mountain
bikes. There are no steep or technical ascents or descents. It’s basically a
middle-chain-ring kind of ride.
At mile 8.7 you begin the loop portion of the lollipop. These directions
assume a clockwise approach to this loop. Turn left out to the gravel road
and be alert and follow the signs for the “Black Canyon Trail.” Keep your
sense of humor when you get close to the river. The trail winds around old
motorized trails through the sandy river bottom and you’ll feel like you are
on a treasure hunt for awhile. The trail eventually climbs out of the river
bottom and is, once again, a great singletrack that’s easy to follow.
At mile 11.93 you intersect (“tee” junction) the main Black Canyon Trail
singletrack. Turning left will take you in the direction of Phoenix. You will
want to turn right and head for your third river crossing. If you leave the
river following signs with an American flag on them, backtrack. You’re
following the wrong trail. Keep looking for signs indicating you are on the
“Black Canyon Trail.”
At mile 15.25 you will complete the lollipop loop and begin retracing your
route back to the TH.
At mile 23.95 you arrive back at the TH – tired and happy.