If you have to ask, you need to check out the top five reasons why Arizona is a cycling paradise.
5. Natural landscapes that beckon
Few sights in Arizona are more beautiful than the mountain ranges that surround Tucson, and no vantage point of these peaks can rival the Loop, an interconnected network of bike paths that circumscribe the Old Pueblo. Two sides of the circuit follow the path of the Santa Cruz and Rillito Rivers, which can transform from meager trickles into roaring juggernauts in the blink of an eye. When these rivers capture the run-off from Southern Arizona’s mighty monsoons, they embody the fierce beauty of Mother Nature, a mesmerizing sight for any cyclist who rides along the banks—safely out of harm’s way.
If that’s not enough, there’s also a small landmark in northern Arizona. You might have heard of it. It’s called the Grand Canyon. With each rim sitting at 8000 feet above sea level, but a canyon floor a mile lower, it draws visitors all year round. A bike trail hews closely (but not too closely!) to the canyon’s edge along the South Rim, and all buses in the National Park are equipped with bike racks, so that you and your two-wheeled friend can get around hassle-free.
4. Hundreds of miles of car-free paths across the state
Two wheels really are the best. Four wheels? Not so much. Not to worry though, since Arizona has tons of car-free paths for your cycling enjoyment. In southern Arizona, the Loop is a prime spot to escape traffic and enjoy miles and miles of smooth, vehicle-free pavement. This ongoing project already features over 100 miles of interconnected bike paths, and when completed, it will offer a complete 131-mile circuit. Not only does this path provide a gentle route for a pleasure ride, it offers bike commuters a convenient way to cross the city without having to compete with unpredictable drivers and red lights that just kill your flow.
For those looking to venture farther afield, you can’t miss the chance to marvel at one of the Grand Canyon State’s engineering wonders: the Central Arizona Project. This 336-mile canal transports water from the banks of the Colorado all the way to Phoenix and Tucson, providing an essential lifeline for these desert cities. A multi-use path snakes along many segments of the canal, affording cyclists the chance to traverse long stretches of desert aside a glistening, life-giving waterway. Constructed in 1973, this project ended years of groundwater pumping that threatened the fragile ecology of the desert, and now it serves the dual role of conserving precious water resources and providing an unrivalled open space for desert travelers to enjoy.
3. Off-road mountain bike trails
Road cyclists get all the attention, don’t they? Tour de Tucson, Tour de France, Tour de Force. At least two of those are actual races! Don’t worry, though, Arizona’s got something for you off-roaders, too.
Check out Red Rock country in Sedona, where you can practically summit a boulder on your bike. Venture out on the Aerie Trail and enjoy a rugged single-track trek along hillsides and a dry creek bed. Not enough? Strap on your helmet and take a ride on the Arizona Trail near Flagstaff. Skirting the towering summit of Humphreys Peak, the tallest point in the state at 12,637 feet, this trail darts through ponderosa pine copses, aspen groves, and open meadows. Still looking for more? Man, you’re hard to please, so it’s a good thing Arizona has a lot to offer! Starr Pass Trail, just outside Tucson, is sure both to excite and amaze even the most experienced of off-road cyclists. A challenging, winding single-track trail nestled in Tucson Mountain Park, it’ll be just you and the saguaros up here. Pack an extra tube. Trust me, you’ll need it.
2. Bike events around state
What’s the only thing better than cycling? Cycling with friends, of course! Arizona offers plenty of opportunities for you to meet up with other biking enthusiasts to swap stories and share tips. Tucson is world famous for its El Tour de Tucson, that has been postponed to Saturday, April 10, 2021. El Tour attracts top tier cyclists from across the globe. With circuits ranging from 25 miles to 104 miles, this is the perfect place to find your groove amid a surreal landscape of craggy mountains and desert flora. The day after El Tour de Tucson, on Sunday, April 11, Cyclovia comes to Tucson, offering the bike community the chance to gather downtown to enjoy car-free streets and booths from bike shops that cater to every kind of rider.
Alright, I’ll admit it. The lowlands of Arizona aren’t the best place for a long-distance summer ride. Something about triple digit temperatures just doesn’t sound appealing, I get it. But that’s why Arizona’s mountains are so appealing. Every summer, desert refugees escape to the White Mountains, where they can enjoy cool temperatures and staggering landscapes of tall pines and crystal clear lakes. The White Mountain Tour, which occurs in late June, offers the perfect respite from the summer heat and invites visitors to explore a side of Arizona outsiders rarely get to see.
1. Perfect weather all year
You knew it was coming. The rest of the country is probably sick of hearing about our awesome weather, but c’mon! In the winter, the thermometer still shows a breezy 75! While the rest of America hunkers down for a long, cold winter, we get outdoors. A bike is the perfect way to enjoy Arizona’s far-flung natural beauty, from the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in the north to Arizona’s verdant wine country in the south.
What’s that you say? Summer temps too hot? That just means it’s time for the high country. Phoenix and Tucson are the two biggest metropolitan areas in the state, and both enjoy the luxury of tall mountains just a short drive away. Climb the slopes of Mt. Lemmon near Tucson and enjoy mild summer temperatures. Rising above Phoenix is the quaint mountain community of Pinetop-Lakeside, which, given its name, features exactly what you’d expect: soaring pines and picturesque lakes.
With so much diversity, Arizona offers cycling opportunities for everyone, year-round. So what are you waiting for? Hop on your bike and start pedaling in AZ!
Marana—the Perfect Base Camp
Let’s face it, Arizona’s a big state. You just can’t ride along a river near Tucson on the same day that you explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and it can be hard to figure out where to start exploring this vast landscape. Fortunately, there’s one town that’s in the thick of it all. On the banks of an ancient stream lies Marana, waiting to fulfill all your cycling dreams. Hop on the Santa Cruz River Shared-Use Path and connect directly to Pima County’s Loop. Two mountain ranges cut through our backyard, offering mountain bike trails for every skill level. And if the weather’s too hot, no need to worry. That massive peak reaching into the clouds? That’s Mt. Lemmon, and its cool summit beckons.
When you’re finally ready to explore the rest of the state’s outstanding trails, Marana’s proximity to Interstate 10 will be your new best friend. (But really? Did you see it all? Even the wine country near Patagonia? I didn’t think so.) Hop on the highway and easily reach every corner of the state. Marana’s location means that it’s just close enough to Arizona’s major cities that you don’t have to spend hours in the car to get to your cycling destination, while also far enough that city traffic won’t bog you down.
Cycling in Arizona means exploring a landscape unlike any other. Honestly, I’m a little surprised you’ve read this far. What are you waiting for? Get on your bike and Discover Marana.