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Photo: 29er4ever

Phoenix–along with its myriad of suburbs–comprises one of the most expansive urbanized areas in the United States… not exactly the ideal location for top-shelf mountain biking. But Phoenix most definitely is host to an incredible quantity, quality, and variety of fat tire fun. Not only is the city surrounded on all sides by rugged mountains and stunning saguaro-laden Sonoran desert, but there are even excellent rides within the city proper.  The southern desert location also allows for a very long riding season; year-round for those willing to brave the heat or at least ride early/late in the day during the blazing summer months. Here’s five of Phoenix’s best, all of which should be on your itinerary if you make your way into road runner country.

Black Canyon

Photo: stumpyfsr

At 62 miles in length, the Black Canyon Trail can certainly claim to be “epic.” The best part is the quantity of trail here is matched by its quality. It’s no problem if you’re not up to the magnitude of the entire trail, as there are multiple access points allowing for various out-and-back rides, and even loop opportunities.

“I don’t give out a lot of 5-star reviews, but this trail deserves every one of them. The trail is not overly technical, but there are some steady climbs and there is some exposure. Other than that, this is just a perfectly-engineered trail in a beautiful location.” -Eric Foltz

Gold Canyon

Photo: 29er4ever

Some call this trail “Cloudview” after the name of the main trailhead while others refer to it as “Gold Canyon” after the adjacent suburb. But the name is less important than the excellent variety and fun factor of the trail segments that make up most of this wonderful network. It’s also a feast for the eyes, with every bit of Sonoran flora present alongside the stunning backdrop of the Superstition Wilderness.

“[This] system is lots of fun, with numerous swoopy arroyo crossings in the hills just feet from the wilderness boundary of the scenic Superstition Mountains, [comprising] over 20 miles of trail. Most of these trails are low to intermediate tech with a few tougher spots.” -abegold

Hawes Loop

Photo: 29er4ever

The Hawes Loop is typical of the challenge of Phoenix’s northeast side. The loop can be ridden either direction depending on whether you want to maximize the fun of the downhill or minimize the pain of the climb. Either way, it’s an excellent ride.

“Absolute pleasure. Can’t wait to ride here again. Good work climbing CC and super fun, fast flow clockwise. Might be the most fun I’ve had on a mountain bike.” -Randall Swanson

Pass Mountain

Another east side challenge, Pass Mountain is rugged, the backside remote, and the rocks and cacti are unforgiving–an excellent adventure for the confident rider! But less-accomplished riders need not avoid the area, as the lower trails in the Usury Mountain Park below Pass Mountain are fun and hold no such horrors.

“Wow, now that is a mountain bike trail. Such a great challenge. Such a great adventure. Definitely not for the faint of heart. Much of the east side is one massive rock garden. It’s a high stakes game which you must take seriously. Much of the west side is curvy, flowy singletrack. It is a little lighthearted fun on a bike — the polar opposite of the east side. Did I mention GORGEOUS desert scenery?” -mongwolf

South Mountain

It makes sense that such a large city would have such a large open space park. South Mountain is generally measured as the single largest municipal park in America, and it has miles upon miles of excellent singletrack ranging from level and tame to wicked-steep and downright dangerous. Beginners can enjoy the Desert Classic trail at the base of the mountain, but the area’s strength is in its gnarly, rock-strewn segments like Mormon, National, and Geronimo.

“This trail will test your ability to carry speed over uneven terrain. There are a lot of line options, whether climbing or descending. The climbs are short and punchy but not sustained. With enough skill everything here is rideable, but unforgiving. Wear pads, and if [you’re] going to fall, don’t aim for anything green. This trail is a favorite of mine, but don’t expect to nail it on your first run. This trail is amazing…ly unforgiving.” -RyanFPrice

These five trails are just an introduction to the Phoenix area. There are so many great trails, it’d be a shame to leave it at just those five, no matter how good they are. Here’s four more worthy of an honorable mention. Put these on your agenda if possible:

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# Comments

  • Shane Kweens

    I moved to Phoenix 10 days ago and have been riding the south west area trails and they are amazing! Can’t wait to venture out to these also. Body armor will be here today but I might need a new whip to fully attack all the gnar. The huge miles of amazing single track here is an embarrassment of riches!

  • dhurdle

    As an avid Phx MTBer, I’ve been impressed with this article every time I come across it. Spot-on selection of the very best MTB trails in the area (with so many areas to choose between). Personally, I’d add the McDowell Mountain Park network (competitive loops + interconnected adjacent trails) to the list…

    [Fair warning to the Beginner/Novice- this list is pretty Technical, at least in significant stretches. Experienced MTBers always say “it’s a little Technical” otherwise they might appear a little less Rad or Tough themselves :). BL trails are this list are challenging!]

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