In my opinion, Arizona is a largely under-appreciated state when it comes to mountain biking. Too often it’s overshadowed by nearby states Utah, Colorado, and California with better-known mountain biking opportunities. Sure, you’ve probably heard talk about riding in Sedona, but there’s so much more to Arizona than just Sedona. And you might be surprised to learn that there’s so much more to Arizona than just desert riding, too. While you can find plenty of amazing trails to ride all winter long, Arizona is home to some legit mountains and high altitude singletrack that gets buried by snow every winter–most notably around Flagstaff.
And that’s not all. Add in long-distance point-to-point trails like the Arizona Trail and the Black Canyon trail, massive trail systems surrounded by the city of Phoenix, and much, much more, and one could make a case for Arizona offering some of the most diverse, and simply best, mountain biking in the nation.
If Arizona has flown under your radar until now, it’s time for you to finally check it out! Start your exploration with the five trails below, then expand to the thousands of other miles of singletrack in the state.
The Arizona Trail runs 800 miles across the entire state–north to south. While some portions of this trail are closed to mountain bikes (most notably, the stretch through the Grand Canyon), the vast majority is open to knobbies–and in general, the singletrack is fantastic! While you can find dozens of excellent day rides all along the trail’s length, it’s also home to a bikepacking race every spring, with two different distances: either 300 or 750 miles.
“Really great backcountry trail. I rode it in early June so there was still some deadfall, but that didn’t take away from how good the trail was. Some steep ups and downs but mostly ridable. Accessible from any of the campgrounds along the highway. Views are spectacular.” -Eric Foltz
The Hangover Trail has become a household name in mountain biking culture due to its extreme exposure, technical maneuvers, and jaw-dropping beauty. This is a trail that simply must be experienced to be believed–it’s just that good!
Sedona is such a fantastic destination that there are several other trails that could easily make this top five list. In fact, we could almost choose five Sedona trails, call them the “Best in Arizona,” and not be lying. However, in order to keep this list diverse, consider Hangover the nod to everything in Sedona. Other key Sedona trails that deserve honorable mentions and are more than worthy of being ridden include Hiline and The Hogs (the Broken Arrow Trail System).
“This is easily the spookiest trail I’ve ever ridden. The combination of technical challenge and high consequence for failure, all situated among some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet, makes for a unique and moving experience. All but the top 1/10 of 1% will dismount, probably more than once, but it’s so worth it. Even when entering with a good dose of confidence you will likely exit with an even bigger dose of humility. If you can keep the fear factor from overwhelming the fun factor, it’s definitely a 5-star experience.” -John Fisch
The Black Canyon trail is yet another epic point-to-point route in Arizona. While not nearly as long as the Arizona Trail, it does still run almost 80 miles from one end to the other. It’s also been rated the #1 trail in Arizona by Singletracks reviewers, thanks to high-quality singletrack and beautiful views. Tackle an out-and-back day ride on the BCT, or bikepack the whole thing!
“I rode for 10 days in AZ and this was my favorite trail south of Sedona. I started my one-way ride at the Black Canyon City connector and rode south for 30 miles. The trail is perfectly built, with great flow. The only place you could possibly get lost is at the river crossings, but even then it’s not to hard to find where it picks back up on the other side. Download the app and use the tracker. (If done as an out and back from Black Canyon City, I’d skip the Little Pan section- which has some fun downhill but also a long stretch of doubletrack- and just go out & back on the main trail. And yes–get a post-ride slice of pie in Rock Springs.” -reneeATX
The 50-Year Trail is the best-known trail in Tucson–and for good reason. This 20-mile ride with numerous side options has been rated 4.59 out of 5 stars by our reviewers. The furthest south trail on this top five list, this is also your best chance for dry singletrack during the winter on this list, along with southern portions of the AZT. While Sedona generally stays snow-free, Tucson is almost a 100% guarantee for great weather during the winter.
“Have ridden 50 miles here the last week. There’s a great mixture of terrain/difficulty so anyone can have a good time. It takes two or three rides to get the lay of the land, and therefore only gets better. The southbound singletrack has a slight downward slope that encourages speed. But beware, there are always hikers/bikers on the trail, and some of them are elderly. This is a pretty sweet network, but it can be crowded. My favorite route was to park at Catalina St. Park by the horse stables and head north. It’s an intense, rocky climb for the first 1.5 miles then an easy grade the rest of the way. The return trip is a hoot.” -luv2mtb
The exact opposite of the 50-Year Trail, Schultz Creek is the most likely of all the trails on this list to get buried under snow during the winter. With the bottom of the trail located at 7,200 feet and the top at 8,400 feet (or more, depending on where you stop), this is best ridden during the summer. With entertaining rocks, massive pine trees, and beautiful meadows, Schultz Creek is truly a legit mountain riding experience. This trail connects to a massive network that includes the Fort Valley Trail System, Arizona Trail, and more, meaning you can quite literally ride as far as you want.
“Best overall trail in AZ!! Great trail, great weather. Steady uphill climb and once at the top, options are plenty. Can join up with the Brookbank trails (through the hobbit forest), Eldon trail for a difficult climb but awesome views, or to dry lakes to pedal around. Downhill has to be back on Schultz pass, hold on and enjoy the ride. When you are done, you will want to do it again.” -Emer50
Your Turn: Have you ridden in Arizona? What’s your favorite trail?