Arizona Sonoran Desert Cycling

Trip Length 6 Days
Group Size 4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$2,799 for REI Members
$3,068 for non-members
Departures Jan 2022-Dec 2022

Seek out Arizona’s wildlife, wine country and other desert surprises on a 6-day jaunt through the Sonoran Desert.

Craving sunshine and memorable time in the saddle? This fully supported tour features both. Food and nature experiences deepen the Southwest flavor. With friendly guides and co-adventurers, you’ll cycle and explore around Phoenix, Tucson and Sonoita. Bring your own bike or be fitted for a high-end rental bike at no extra charge (sorry, no e-bikes). Expect blue skies and bewitching Sonoran Desert vistas around every curve.

Ride handpicked roads and urban trails through varied terrain, among vineyards, palo verde trees, and spectacular overlooks. Behold forests of cacti up to five stories tall in Saguaro National Park. Tackle legendary-for-a-reason Mount Lemmon (or choose a more relaxing route). Take in epic mountain ranges and lush wine-country hills, and stop to spy elusive creatures at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum’s interpretive exhibits. Enjoy locavore meals, like a farm-to-table lunch in a pecan grove. With each passing day, you’ll be awed anew by the beauty and diversity of the American Southwest.

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Trip Highlights

  • Ride through sweeping Sonoran Desert landscapes and the rolling hills of Sonoita’s lush wine-country
  • Watch for roadrunners among the towering cacti of Saguaro National Park
  • Tackle legendary Mount Lemmon, climbing from high desert to cool alpine forest
  • Customize your trip with flexible ride lengths and rest-day activity options
  • Savor special Southwest food experiences

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. Participants should have previous cycling experience and be comfortable in the saddle for 4–6 hours per day. Rides consist of moderate and more vigorous cycling days covering 40–76 miles of open road, city roads, and urban bike paths. Daily rides have total elevation gains and losses ranging from 2,100'–4,800'. The optional summit of Mt. Lemmon includes 7,000' of elevation gain/loss.

  • Road Cycling
  • Cycling

What's Included

Hotel accommodations (5 nights); expert guide leadership and SAG support; bikes; permits and associated fees; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary.

Accommodations

Hotels, 5 nights

Your wheels for the journey

Every great tour begins with a great bike, and our top-flight fleet has been carefully curated for your cycling adventure.

Want to bring your own bike?  You can do that too.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Ride Fountain to Mountain

Meet your guides and fellow trip members this morning. After a group orientation and short transfer, we begin our first ride of the trip, cruising directly from our hotel to Fountain Park, where the town’s namesake water feature shoots water almost 600 feet in the air (one of the tallest fountains in the world). After enjoying the quiet rolling residential streets of Fountain Hills, we ride out into the gorgeous Sonoran Desert along the banks of the Verde River, and into lovely McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Once back at our hotel, there will be time to check-in, relax, enjoy the hotel’s spa or pools before a group dinner at the family-owned Tuscany-inspired restaurant right on property. Lunch and dinner included.

Cycling: 53 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +3,188'/-3,179'

Day 2

South Mountain Summit & Pecan Grove Farm Lunch

Today we join the locals in celebrating Silent Sunday at South Mountain Park, a day blissfully free of vehicular traffic on this popular summit ride. If the twists and turns up the summit road to the panoramic overlook aren't your style, detour along the flatter but equally scenic San Juan Road, which lets you enjoy a more casual ride between two mountain ranges. We descend to the Farm at South Mountain to enjoy a local farm-to-table lunch set in a pecan grove. After lunch, we transfer south to Tucson, the newly evolved hip and bike-friendly community set in the heart of southern Arizona’s most dramatic mountain ranges. After settling into our hotel for the next three nights, we gather for dinner with our guides and newfound friends. All meals included.

Cycling: 33 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +2,108'/-2,108'; Van transfer 2.5 hours

Day 3

Catalina Vistas, Desert Museum & Saguaro National Park

This morning, we have breakfast together and enjoy stunning views of the Catalina Mountains. Once we're properly fueled, we’ll begin our ride right from the hotel, utilizing the popular Loop multi-use urban path through town and along the Santa Cruz River. We climb the narrow and challenging Gates Pass, with a thrilling descent into the heart of Saguaro National Park, where nearly 2 million saguaro cacti thrive, the densest population in the world. We break for lunch at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, recognized throughout the world as a model for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals. We can choose to explore this fascinating museum or do all or part of the return ride back to the hotel. We'll have time this evening to clean up and relax a bit before rendezvousing with our traveling companions and heading to dinner at a local favorite restaurant.

Cycling: 56 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +2700'/-2700'

Day 4

Rest Day with Optional Adventures

Breakfast and dinner are on your own today to allow maximum flexibility in choosing your own style of adventure! Options include a casual ride through beautiful Catalina State Park with minimal ride guide support, a challenging climb to the summit of Mt. Lemmon with full SAG support, or a hike on your own to the beautiful Maiden Pools of Ventana Canyon. For those interested in a change of pace, stay on property and relax by the pool or book a well-earned spa service! Brown bag to-go lunch included.

Cycling (Optional): Mount Lemmon: 60 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +6902'/-6902'; short van transfer

Cycling (Optional): Catalina State Park: 29 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +971'/-969'

Hiking (Optional): 4.7 miles; Elevation​ gain/loss: 1,312'

Day 5

Journey to Sonoita, Arizona’s Wine Country

This morning, we check out of our hotel and head further south into Arizona’s wine country. Today's spin takes us through Tucson to the eastern side of Saguaro National Park – a not-to-be-missed ride popular among local roadies – before we ultimately make our way to remote Sonoita, AZ. The final, optional leg of our ride will find us in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains and is intended for riders comfortable with a narrow shoulder with moving traffic. It will be a steady climb to the high desert grasslands filled with vineyards, and rewarded with inspiring panoramic vistas. Tonight, we celebrate our week’s adventure with a final dinner together. All meals included.

Cycling: 45 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +2241'/-1709'; Van transfer: 1 hour

Cycling (Optional addition): 31 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +4810'/-4810'

Day 6

Parker Canyon Lake Picnic

We awaken on our final morning in the comfort of the Sonoita Inn, and a hand-delivered in-room breakfast, courtesy of our guides. After packing our belongings into our vehicle, we set out on our final ride of the journey—straight from our hotel to Parker Canyon Lake. Our route today provides tranquility and solitude as we take in the incredible lush landscape of southern Arizona, replete with vineyard-dotted hillsides. We'll stop at Parker Canyon Lake for a guide-prepared picnic lunch with a view before our return ride to Sonoita. Our guides will load up the bikes and we'll give our tired legs earned recovery time during the drive back to Phoenix. We anticipate arriving in Phoenix between 6pm-7pm this evening. Breakfast and lunch included. Note that no showers will be available after our ride today so please plan accordingly.

Cycling: 62 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +4221'/-4221'; Van transfer: 3 hours

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

Collection of selected R E I Co-op cycling merchandise and snacks laid out to pack for a bike tour

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.