Elephant Head

3.75 out of 5
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elevation (ft)

Out & Back
Trail Description
About this trail
The Elephant Head Mountain Bike Route is a combination of little-traveled roads and remote trails designed especially for these versatile, muscle-powered vehicles. Winding across the scenic foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains in the shadow of the dramatic landmark for which it was named, the route was designed both to challenge a rider's skill and to provide a scenic, backcountry experience.

One end of the ride is at the mouth of Madera Canyon Recreation Area. The other is at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory Visitor Center on the road to the top of Mount Hopkins.

From the Madera Canyon trailhead, the ride follows old jeep tracks across the desert grasslands and mesquite flats to the base of Elephant Head Rock, where it turns into a single-track trail. As the trail curls around the Rock, it heads up Chino Canyon into Chino Basin along a steep old mining road.

At the top of the climb to Chino Basin, the ride turns south along a rugged mountain trail over a saddle then down a nice grade into Agua Caliente Canyon. After crossing Agua Caliente Creek, the route leads along a couple of little-used forest roads around a couple of foothills that mark the western limits of the Santa Rita Range. The ride ends at the Whipple Observatory Visitors Center where water and restrooms are available. Or you can just make a quick turn around in the parking lot and do it all over again in the opposite direction.

Equestrians and hikers also use this trail, and vehicles use the 4-wheel drive roads, so be alert for hazards.

Before visiting this trail, call the Nogales Ranger District for current trail conditions which can vary with season, weather and maintenance status. Always let someone know where you'll be hiking/riding and when you plan to return.
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Trail Features
Trail features
  • Lift Service
  • Drinking Water
  •   Night Riding
  • Pump Track
  • Restrooms
  • Winter Fat Biking
Directions to Trailhead
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Local Info & Nearby Trails
Photo & Video Gallery (3)
Trail Photos & Videos (3)
Reviews (4)


September 27, 2012
abegold Doubletrack  
Review: 10 morteros just off the trail. Look for a rocky arroyo to south as you cross a larger arroyo headed towards Madera. Lots of sand, rocks, climbs and descents, Wait-a-minute Bush and work on this farily tough trail.

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April 7, 2012
trnsprt Trailblazer  
Review: I rode this trail back in the mid 90's. The only reason I am reviewing it now is the negative review. It certainly isn't a great trail. And it has inflicted it's share of pain upon me. But it isn't horrible. Not a bad alternative if you have no place better to ride or you are in the Sahuarita, Green Valley, Corona area. Not worth driving long distances too. Try to get a good map before trying this sucker. This trail isn't designed as a mountain bike trail. It is much better for equestrian and hiking. This trail was the first I ever tried with clipless pedals. I paid with some cactus puncture wounds.

Similar Trail: Any other marginal AZ trails that aren't well marked and weren't designed to be a mountain bike trail.

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July 8, 2010
greene36 Gramcounter  
Review: I broke my leg last time i was riding on this trail. I ended up hitting heavy sand flying over the handle bars and landing on a rock. Don't Ride here!

Similar Trail: ER!

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February 12, 2010
abegold Doubletrack  
Review: Hawk Way is a better trail head for an out and back ride. It can be shuttled from Madera Canyon to Hawk Way.
There is an ancient Anasazi indian site 100' off the trial about 1.8 miles from the lower singletrack trail sign. I found 10 morteros, around 800 years old there. Mortero is a cone shaped hole ground into the rock to grind beans and grains.* Review edited 7/20/2012

Similar Trail: Robles Pass, Sweetwater, 50 Year Trail, AZT/ATV

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Elephant Head MTB Trail 3.75 out of 5 based on 4 ratings. 4 user reviews.
Trail Conditions
Trail Conditions          < / > embed