Mountain Bike America: Arizona
by Paul Beakley (The Globe Pequot Press)
© Paul Beakley/The Globe Pequot Press. All Rights Reserved.
I had a chance to ride with CJ,the proprietor of Way Out West Bed and Breakfast, who lead me on a great tour of the 50 Year Trail and Deer Camp Loop. The weather was perfect and the trail had just been dampened by some light precipitation the day before. What a great experience! CJ is not only a great rider who knows the trails like the back of his hand, but he is also very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and the prehistory of the Hohokam people who lived in the area. These trails are great for winter riding because they drain so quickly and if one is not in prime riding condition, the trails provide an equal balance of super fun technical sections with short climbs and great downhills. You will get a workout and have a very enjoyable ride. I found myself whooping aloud section after section and wishing I could spend several more days there not only exploring other trails, but repeating the trails I rode that day. There are many sections that are deserving of repeats because they are challenging in a variety of ways.
Steep rock faces, narrow trails through the rocks and plenty of ups were just a few of the memorable portions of this trail system. It was great to escape the cold of the northern climes and find yourself riding short sleeved in the desert for a two to three hour ride. Trail finding might have been more challenging for me so I was glad to have CJ as a guide, but if feeling adventuresome, just go explore these great trail north of Tucson.
Hiked this trail from end of Golder Ranch Road, through Catalina State park to my home on the south side of the park. It took about 3 1/2 hours with a 20 minute stop for lunch and quite a few photos. Probably about 5 miles. We had to share the trail with lots of mountain bikes and cows! Great scenery, easy hike. Beginning of actual trail is quite a ways past the cattle guard. There is an equestrian trail right past the cattle guard near the parking area that gets you to the trail a bit faster. Watch out for dead cows!
As a Tucsonan I have ridden this trail many times. It is the best intermediate trail in the Tucson area. The 50 year Trail is marked and combined with the "Chutes" takes 1 1/2-2 hours. Many trails exist in this area so loops can be ridden. A nice 4x4 camping area exists east of the trail. The trail curves, swoops, climbs and falls thru hundreds of obstacles such as yuccas, cactus and boulders. It was partly re-routed in the fall of 2002 and is more fun than ever. Climbs are short until you leave the trail and head east where several trail climb into the Santa Catalina mountains. If you wish this trail can be extended dozens of miles from Catalina State Park to the town of Oracle and the Arizona Trail and beyond to the Galiuro Mountains.
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