Mountain Biking in Arizona
We asked some of Arizona's most experienced athletes for their picks for the best mountain biking trails for all levels and views.
With hundreds of miles of pristine mountain biking trails in Arizona, it can be difficult to know where to start. So we went to the experts.
Meet our experts
Lars Romig (@MountainMongo)
A life-long Verde Valley local, originally from Jerome, Lars Romig now lives, rides, advocates, adventures, works and raises his son in "Shredona" (aka, Sedona). As an advocate for sustainable mountain biking (MTB) with the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition, he encourages riders to give back through trail work, donations, and support of businesses such as Specialized bikes and SRAM, both of which contribute to trail-building efforts and for whom Romig serves as an ambassador.
"I have also raced a fair bit in mostly downhill and enduro but also some XC," says Romig. "When traveling I use Trailforks to find the best way to ride destinations. [The site] also enables you to give back through their Trail Karma feature that donates to organizations responsible for the trail cracking a smile on your face."
You can also catch Lars with friend and fellow rider, Nate Hills, on YouTube, where he makes the occasional appearance.
Chloe Woodruff (@chloewoodruff)
Kait Boyle (@kait.boyle)
We also spoke with two athletes from Tempe-based Pivot Cycles: Chloe Woodruff, World Cup and Olympic cross-country racer, and Kait Boyle, endurance racer and co-founder of BackpackingRoots.org.
Says Woodruff: "In Arizona, we have trail access year-round. The Phoenix and Tucson areas are excellent for riding in the winter, while Prescott and Flagstaff offer higher-altitude options for summer. I've spent the last 15 years traveling all over the world for mountain bike competitions and still feel like there's no better place to ride than Arizona."
“The geography in Arizona is so diverse that with just a few hours drive from anywhere, you can ride in an entirely different ecosystem," adds Boyle. "Pine forests, juniper-covered mesas, chaparral slopes, desert scrub… Arizona has incredible landscape diversity."
Read on to discover these cyclists' favorite mountain biking trails in Arizona. For specific trail details, such as surface type, direction and difficulty ratings, check out sites like TrailForks.com or MTBProject.com.
Best Short Singletrack Trail
Lars Romig: Little Rock Rabbit Ears Loop, a new trail in the Village of Oak Creek. The ride is intermediate with a great layout, delivering an enjoyable ride. Expect the rocks and ledges Sedona is known for.
Chloe Woodruff: White Spar Trail, Prescott
Best Long Singletrack Trail
Lars: The Arizona Trail! (Also Kait's choice.) Pick your section or go full-meal deal. The Arizona Trail traverses the state from the Mexico-Arizona border north to the Utah-Arizona border and supplies numerous options from desert to alpine riding.
Chloe: Black Canyon Trail, Black Canyon City (22 miles north of Phoenix)
Editor's note: The Arizona Trail's Southern Terminus has been affected by border wall construction, and as of June 2021, portions of the trail through Superior are closed to all traffic due to recent wildfire activity. For more information, visit aztrail.org.
Best Trail with Epic Views
Lars: Rainbow Rim Trail. Located west of the Grand Canyon National Park's North Rim, this amazing bit of trail contours in and out of ponderosa pines and aspens onto the rim of the Canyon with breathtaking views. It is intermediate to beginner-level with minimal elevation change. Try camping at Locust Point, but be sure to load up with good eats and drinks—this place is out there!
Chloe: Ridgeline Trail, Oro Valley
Kait: Arizona Trail, heading south from Picketpost
Best Trail for Riders of All Skill Levels
Lars: Schultz Creek, Flagstaff. (Kait agrees.) Located in the Coconino National Forest, the trail has great flow up and down. It rides intuitively for beginner to intermediate riders, and advanced riders will appreciate the playful feeling of the trail while descending. Schultz is a kick-off point for many different ride plans in the Flagstaff area that access Dry Lake Hills and Mount Elden.
Chloe: Spence Basin Trails, Prescott. There's a little something for everyone in a small area.
Best Trail for Steep Climbs
Lars: National Trail, South Mountain Park and Preserve, Phoenix. Can you say Upduro? The trail has numerous technical ups to challenge the best of riders; in fact, many put the National Waterfall on their bucket list of uphill accomplishments. National Trail from end to end in either direction serves both great ups and downs and offers a good combination of surrounding trails. Definitely for advanced riders, so bring your fitness and tech skills.
Chloe: Little Granite Mountain Trailhead to Clark Springs Trail #40, Prescott
Kait: Granite Dells, Prescott
Best Trail for Steep Descents
Lars: Lemmon Drop, Santa Catalina Mountains, Tucson. If Arizona has anything comparable to Moab's Whole Enchilada, it's this. Literally dropping in from the summit of Mount Lemmon, it slopes down with nearly 10,000 feet of vertical drop. Don't think it's all downhill or easy though; there is about 3,600 feet of climbing hidden in the ride. Throughout the 31 miles, you'll test your skills with black to double black skillsets needed.
Chloe: Heart Trail, Flagstaff
Best Desert Trail
Lars: Mesquite Canyon, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Waddell. This is a great winter destination that overlooks the Phoenix metro area. Expect a good amount of work as the trail is rocky and steep. It affords a beautiful cornucopia of cactus, but watch your hands as you pass by all the pokiness. An advanced skillset is needed for the number of rock gardens and descent fitness to make your way up.
Chloe: 50-Year Trail, Oro Valley
Kait: La Milagrosa, Tucson
Best Forested Trail
Lars: Arizona Trail from Snowbowl Road up and over to FR 418 in Flagstaff. Starting on the south end on Snowbowl Road, climb through ponderosa pines, which give way to aspens as you traverse below Arizona Snowbowl. Then descend north on narrow buff singletrack down to FR 418. Flip around and head back to descend south to the start. The southern descent is rockier and techier, but it rides oh so well. Definitely try to catch this one during the fall color change.
Chloe: Arizona Trail, San Francisco Peaks section, Flagstaff
Kait: Arizona Trail from Hart Prairie Road to Schultz Pass Road, Flagstaff
Best For a Smooth and Fast Ride
Lars: Bullseye Trail and Blowout Trail, Cottonwood. These are freshly built trails in the Blowout Wash trail network west of Cottonwood in the Mingus Mountain foothills. These trails afford great sightlines and a smooth finish. As you top out on the Blowout Trail the rocks become more abundant, but they're to my liking. The views looking across to Sedona with the San Francisco Peaks as a backdrop are stunning.
Chloe: Ranch Badger Connector Trail, Prescott
Kait: Arizona Trail in Saguaro National Park East, Tucson
Best Trail for a Technical Ride
Lars: Hangover Trail, Sedona. The big H of the triple H in Sedona. Hangover keeps you working those bike skills the whole way up and the whole way down. Rocks, steeps, exposure and technical through all those bits. I've ridden Hangover hundreds of times and I'm still ultra stoked to get it clean all the way through. The big bonus with Hangover is the views are jaw-dropping the whole way. Add in Hiline and Hogs to complete the triple.
Chloe: National Trail, South Mountain Park and Preserve, Phoenix
Kait: Lemmon Drop, Tucson
Most Remote Singletrack Trail
Lars: Arizona Trail from Picketpost to Kelvin, Superior. This bit is best done in late winter or early spring once the desert has bloomed. The wildflowers are amazing. The feeling of solitude, once you get back into Martinez Canyon, is prime Arizona backcountry. Start early for this one and make sure to bring some grit to get through all the pedaling.
Chloe: Arizona Trail from Picketpost to Kelvin, Superior
Kait: Rainbow Rim Trail, North Rim of Grand Canyon
Editor's note: As of June 2021, portions of the Arizona Trail through Superior are closed to all traffic due to recent wildfire activity.
Favorite Urban Trail
Lars: Flagstaff Urban Trail System
Chloe: Geronimo Trail, Phoenix
Kait: Arizona Trail through Flagstaff
Most Balanced Trail
Lars: Wolverton Mountain Trail in Prescott is rewarding and fun, but also not too technical. Earn your turn to make the climb up. Once you start descending, this well-designed trail gives you a good long descent to White Spar Road. There isn't anything super gnar on Wolverton, but it is entertaining. Link this ride with any number of loops in Prescott.
Kait: Any section of the Prescott Circle Trail
Best for an Endurance Ride
Lars: Black Canyon Trail, Black Canyon City. It stretches 85 miles, and more trail is being built on the north end. Lots of great trail to stretch those legs all day long. My favorite portion is from Antelope Creek south to finish at Rock Springs Café for food, libations and pie.
Chloe: Prescott Circle Trail, Prescott
Kait: Black Canyon Trail, Black Canyon City
Best for Twists and Turns
Lars: McDowell Mountain's Sport Loop. Located at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Scottsdale, this sweet loop has great flow and turns zipping through the desert foothills. The corners are just great. Mind the kitty-litter-like soil, though. The trail is a popular one used in many XC races.
Chloe: Juniper Gate and Vista Trails, Prescott
Kait: Sticks and Stones, Flagstaff
Favorite Spot for a Post-Ride Brew or Meal
Lars: Diablo Burger in Flagstaff; Taco Guild in Phoenix; El Guero Canelo in Tucson; Park Plaza Liquor and Deli in Prescott; Belfry Brewery in Cottonwood
Chloe: Seis Kitchen and Presta Coffee, both in Tucson, or Los Taquitos in Phoenix
Kait: Soul Ride Bike Shop & Taproom, Prescott