There’s a new spot in town, and it’s not singletrack. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, there are so many trail options that it can be overwhelming when deciding where to ride. Trail #100 at Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the infamous trail system at South Mountain, the competitive track loops at McDowell Mountain Regional Park – see what I mean?
Well, the list got bigger in November 2014 when Desert Trails Park opened about 25 miles east of downtown Phoenix in Mesa. It’s basically a 35-acre cyclist’s playground with free admission, plenty of parking, and open daily from sunrise to sunset. There are two ramadas to shield you from the blaring midday sun, which will be greatly appreciated in the July heat. Unlike most parks in the valley, Desert Trails has actual restrooms and even a filtered water station. Another unique feature is the maintenance station for making quick adjustments to your rig.
There’s something here for everyone: from nine-to-fivers trying to get a little ride time in after work to toddlers on push bikes tearing it up in the pump track. Three multi-use trails are sprinkled in, but the main attraction is the flow trails built by Alpine Bike Parks, which are graded like ski routes. The 490ft Runaway Train is the Green Circle trail, with a few shallow berms and table tops; this is a a favorite for the BMX riders. Squirrel Catcher (Blue Square) is 590ft long and starts with a wooden drop that will have you grinning instantly. This trail is fast with steep berms and several gaps. Don’t worry, you can bypass the gaps if you’re not quite ready to send it. Double Trouble is the 1,036ft Black Diamond line. I haven’t ridden this one, but from what I’ve been told there are no bypasses for the gaps. At almost any time of day you will see kids hucking this line like the pros. A 5,000 square foot skills track complete with teeter totter is great for brushing up on your handling skills, or teaching youngsters the ropes. The 10,000 square foot pump track, built by volunteers from the Gravity Riders Organization of Arizona (GROAZ), is a great workout in between flow line runs.
Since this park is minutes from my house, I’ve made it my mission to ride here weekly. As a result, I’ve seen a major improvement in my body position and confidence level on the trails. Before this park opened, I was mostly riding XC trails on a hardtail 29er and at the BMX track with a 24” cruiser; this was a totally new experience. My first few runs down Runaway Train were choppy and awkward. I’m pretty sure the onlooking parents thought it was my first time riding without training wheels. You could have replaced my bike with a feral horse and my body position would have been identical. Now, I rush over to Squirrel Catcher to practice my drops and high speed cornering.
This is not the place to go for long, technical routes. It will feel like you are spending more time riding back up to the trailheads than actually descending. However, if you have limited time to ride and don’t feel like stepping into your phone booth to reappear as a Lycra-clad Superman 20 minutes later, then look no further. So switch those clipless pedals to flats, grab your knee pads, and find some flow.
Andrea Pirkey is a New Englander transplanted to the desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Bikes are what life has been all about since she started riding in 2011. Andrea keeps a “go bag” by the door, much like an FBI agent waiting for a call with an urgent break in his case. However, what’s in her bag is way more fun – bike shoes, gloves, helmet, patch kits and an alarming amount of Fig Bars. And gauze, always gauze.