Well-Spoken Rides

By: Karl Samson

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March 10, 2014

For Arizona's best in cycling - from mountain bikes to road cruisers - check out a sample of routes and rental companies from around the state.

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.

Winter-weary cyclists take heart. Spring training in Arizona doesn’t just refer to baseball. With its sunshine and warm weather, Arizona is a great place to break out the spring-training wheels. So slap on some sunscreen for an awesome Arizona adventure as you bike along scenic roads, car-free bike paths and desert wilderness trails.

Tucson and Southern Arizona

With an elevation gain of more than 6,000 feet, the Mt. Lemmon bike ride up the Catalina Highway from Tucson is an epic route that professional cyclists use for training. 

Other serious riders come to Southern Arizona for El Tour de Tucson, Arizona’s premier road bike ride. Lesser mortals can content themselves with the short, steep pedal up Sabino Canyon’s car-free road or a spin on the 23 miles of the combined Rillito River Park Trail and Santa Cruz River Park Trail

If you’re looking to do some Tucson mountain biking, check out east Tucson’s Fantasy Island trails or Tucson Mountain Park, west of downtown. 

Stop by Cycle Tucson for a bike rental. They also offer two-wheeled day tours around the Old Pueblo. 

Greater Phoenix

Scottsdale and Tempe’s network of paved biking trails along the Indian Bend Wash and adjacent to Tempe Town Lake are an ideal route for a leisurely ride. For a longer workout, head to the north side of the valley to try favored trails by avid cyclists, such as the Grand Canal Trail and Arizona Canal Trail

Mountain bikers will find some of the area’s best mountain biking on the trails of South Mountain Park and McDowell Mountain Park. This latter park is the site of the annual McDowell Mountain Meltdown mountain bike race. 

For rentals and guided tours in the Greater Phoenix area, contact Arizona Outback Adventures.

Arizona’s West Coast

For mountain bikers, there are miles and miles of single track in Western Arizona. Lake Havasu City’s SARA Park has miles of challenging trails, and in 2014 was the site of the Havasu Havoc mountain bike race. Bike rentals are available from AZBuilt Sports, where you can also book a guided bike tour. 

Farther north, just outside Kingman, there’s some sweet single track amid impressive scenery on the Monolith Gardens system of mountain bike trails.

Sedona and North Central Arizona

Sedona bike trails are legendary for their slickrock and technical single track, but even novice riders can get some dirt in their tread on the Bell Rock Pathway and other easier bike routes. 

With its wide bike lanes, Highway 179 between Oak Creek and Sedona lets skinny-tire cyclists enjoy the red rocks on a 39-mile ride that loops west on Highway 89A to Page Springs and back. This route is also part of Bike MS: Ride the Vortex, an annual ride that begins and ends in Cottonwood, southeast of Sedona. 

For a Sedona bike rental, get in touch with Sedona Bike & Bean or Absolute Bikes. The latter of the two has a sister location in Flagstaff, which also rents bikes and can recommend scenic rides with views of the San Francisco Peaks. You can also book a guided mountain bike tour through 360 Adventures, an Arizona-based outdoor company. 

Mountain bikers should also check out the Black Canyon Trail north of Phoenix, Prescott’s Peavine Trail (a scenic rail trail) and Pinetop-Lakeside’s White Mountain Trail System. Together, these are some of the best mountain biking routes in the region.

Grand Canyon

Come summer, there are still loads of cycling options in Arizona’s high country. On the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, visitors can ride the Greenway Trail that links Tusayan with Grand Canyon Village. Continue pedaling out on Hermit Road for a 35–40 mile ride. Bikes can be rented from Bright Angel Bicycles

On the canyon’s North Rim, mountain bikers can pedal the edge of Arizona’s famous abyss on the Rainbow Rim Trail. Contact Western Spirit Cycling Adventures for a guided bike tour of the area. Road bikers will be equally thrilled with the North Rim Parkway, also known as the Kaibab Plateau Scenic Byway, a 44-mile paved route from Jacob Lake to the edge of the canyon.


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