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Level: Advanced
Length: 13 mi (20.9 km)
Surface: Other
Configuration: Out & Back
Elevation: -
Total: 6 riders

Mountain Biking Elephant Head

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#146 of 408 mountain bike trails in Arizona
#4,783 in the world

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.

First added by searsandrewj on Dec 15, 2008. Last updated Apr 29, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
* To Madera Canyon Trailhead: Leave Interstate 19 at the Continental Road/Madera Canyon Exit. Turn east and follow the Madera Canyon signs about 11 miles to the Proctor Road Parking area.

* To Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory Visitor Center Trailhead: Leave Interstate 19 at the Canoa Road Exit. Take the east frontage road 3 miles south to Elephant Head Road and turn east 1.6 miles to the Mt. Hopkins Road. Turn south and drive 5.5 miles to the Visitor Center. Park outside the gate at the trailhead parking area and ride up the road to FR 4077. Turn north on this unmaintained Forest Service road and follow the mountain bike signs.
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(on Nov 30, 2013)
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  • trnsprt

    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.

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  • greene36

    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!

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  • abegold

    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

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