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Two-Wheeled Touring: Cycling in Arizona

By: Karl Samson

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With 300-plus days of sunshine and thousands of miles of cycle-friendly roads, Arizona is consistently ranked as a top destination for serious cyclists. But you don't have to be hardcore to appreciate the state's scenic routes.

About the author

Karl Samson

Karl Samson

Although he lives in Oregon, for more than 20 years Karl Samson has been escaping his home state's rainy winter weather to dry out in sunny Arizona. He is the author of the Frommer's Arizona guidebook and has also written about Arizona for Sunset magazine.

From mountain treks and desert excursions to laid-back city rides, there is something for everyone.

Awe-inspiring views

Bell Rock Pathway

Sedona's magnificent red rocks, olive-colored cacti and clear blue skies make for startling color combinations as you ride off into the sunset.

Sedona bike trails are legendary for their slickrock and technical single track, but even novice riders can get dirt in their tread on the nearly four-mile Bell Rock Path (requires a permit), located near the Village of Oak Creek with views of the iconic Courthouse Butte.

Rainbow Rim Trail

On the Grand Canyon's North Rim, mountain bikers can pedal the edge of one of the world's most impressive natural wonder. On the Rainbow Rim Trail, take in the sights of the abyss from above. An ideal way to soak up the views is on a guided bike tour; Western Spirit Cycling offers a five-day ride for introductory to intermediate cyclists.

Sunset Crater Loop

In spring and summer, enjoy the 46-mile Sunset Crater Loop near Flagstaff, a challenging route for experienced bikers. Cycle up 3,000 feet of elevation through two famous Arizona destinations, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and the Wupatki National Monument, on this long-haul bike ride along the border of the Painted Desert. Caution when biking: The loop is part of a paved scenic route meaning you'll possibly end up sharing your ride with other motorists.

Mountain biking adventures



For mountain bikers, there are miles and miles of single track in Western Arizona. Lake Havasu City's SARA Park has an abundance of adrenaline-worthy trails across the rocky terrain. Choose your trail and admire the stunning scenery along the way from desert trails to mountaintop vistas overlooking the namesake lake.

White Mountain Tour

If you're looking for a multi-day ride, check out the Tour of the White Mountains—two days of fun and pedaling through the Ponderosa Pines. Held annually in October, this event lets you experience some of Arizona's best single track as you circle in and around the mountain town of Pinetop-Lakeside. Not a mountain biker? Join the festivities anyway. This family-friendly event invites spectators to partake of food, games, live music and more. 

Peavine Trail

In Prescott, Peavine Trail follows the original Santa Fe Railway and is one of Arizona's few Rail to Trail paths. The six-mile route is rife with cool breezes, warm sunshine and opportunities to spot wildlife. You'll pedal by the golden-hued desert landscape and past glittering Watson Lake on the way to the stacked boulders of the Granite Dells.

Paved pathways, or road cycling

Indian Bend Wash

Scottsdale's network of paved biking trails along the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt, which cuts through the middle of the city, is perfect for a leisurely afternoon ride. The urban landscape comprises parks, lakes and golf courses, with opportunities for a detour at every turn. Break for lunch or a sweet treat at one of Scottsdale’s many foodie destinations along the way.

Sabino Canyon

For a short ride with a beautiful view, it is a steep pedal up (733 feet) Sabino Canyon's car-free road in the southeastern part of the state near Tucson. Pass by saguaro-spotted mountains and Arizona greenery on this paved climb through the canyon. Note: Bicycling prohibited on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

El Tour de Tucson

The 104-mile El Tour de Tucson, Arizona's premier annual road bike ride, loops throughout Tucson and offers routes for people of all ages and skill levels. The nationally recognized November event also has Fun Ride options for those in search of a more casual spin.

Cyclovia and CycloMesa

For a more family-friendly experience, bring the kids to Cyclovia Tucson, a biannual event in late October-November and April that closes downtown streets to motorized vehicles so bicycle riders can enjoy them. Mesa holds a similar event, CycloMesa, in conjunction with El Tour de Mesa.


How to Ride

Several resorts offer bicycles for guests to rent or borrow, including:

Amara Resort and Spa, Sedona
Arizona Inn, Tucson
Bespoke Inn, Scottsdale
The Motor Lodge, Prescott

Outfitters offer bike and gear rentals, as well as guiding packages, including:

Absolute Bikes, Sedona and Flagstaff
Bright Angel Bicycles, Grand Canyon Village
Havasu Bike & Fitness, Lake Havasu City
Oro Valley Bicycles, Oro Valley
Tucson Bike Rentals, Tucson
Prescott Bike Rentals, Prescott

Contributing writers for this story include Teresa Bitler and Nora Burba Trulsson.

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