Arizona Sonoran Desert Weekend Mountain Biking

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,339 for REI Members
$1,489 for non-members
Departures Nov 2022-Dec 2023

Spend four days mountain biking the Arizona Sonoran Desert on outstanding singletrack mountain bike trails built for novices with previous basic mountain biking skills, intermediate and advanced riders.

The Sonoran Desert has long lured mountain bikers with its iconic trails, warm climate, and sense of peaceful solitude. This trip combines active days in the saddle with amazing views of gorgeous desert landscapes and quiet nights spent under a sea of stars. With more than 150 miles of expertly crafted trails departing from right outside our tents, McDowell Mountain Regional Park is perfectly positioned for exhilarating adventure. Our guides lead the way through the labyrinth of local loops that will amaze and challenge every rider.

Each ride reveals another vantage point of Arizona’s epic mountain ranges and unique desert vegetation. Our expert local guides are intimately familiar with the area and will share their knowledgeable interpretation of the flora, fauna, geology, and the history of this unique area. Each day ends with a stay in a private desert camp, surrounded by towering green Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees. Whether you’re here to soak up the off-season sunshine, try your weekend warrior legs on the dirt, or hone your skills, this trip is a must-do for all mountain bikers!

Activity-filled days in the saddle combine rolling singletrack with amazing views of gorgeous, surprisingly diverse desert landscapes, surrounded by rugged mountain ranges.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore the Sonoran Desert on customizable mountain bike trails lead by local guides
  • Soak in views of dramatic desert landscapes and majestic mountain ranges
  • Spectacular riding on the Pemberton Trail and McDowell Mountain Regional Park
  • Camp beneath the stars in our private basecamp
  • Spend four days riding in the Arizona sunshine


This trip is rated Moderate (3). Trip members should be comfortable riding a mountain bike for approximately 3–7 hours per day for four consecutive days. Rides range from 12–43 miles, some including 1,200’+ cumulative elevation gain.

We will be riding purpose-built and natural singletrack bike trails that can be very narrow at times. The terrain will at times feature golf ball to head-sized rocks as well as roots and sandy sections. The trail surface may be dry and sandy or muddy depending on weather conditions, and we may encounter water crossings.

  • Mountain Biking
  • Cycling

What's Included

A full suspension mountain bike; two professional guides; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; transfers as noted on the daily itinerary; tent; sleeping pad; group cooking and camping gear; all park fees and permits; group first-aid kit; snacks, water, soft drinks, electrolyte mix; saddle bag with emergency tool kit.


Camping, 3 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

Itinerary map for Arizona Sonoran Desert Weekend Mountain Biking
Day 1

Meet in Scottsdale and hit the dirt

Our trip begins today in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meet your guides and fellow riders at our host hotel located in Old Town Scottsdale. After introductions, we load into our van and set out on the 45-minute transfer to the wonderfully remote Tom’s Thumb Trailhead. Here our guides conduct an orientation, basic bike fitting, and then we’re off! We swiftly descend on singletrack through granite boulders and cactus-covered hills into the vast desert below the McDowell Mountain Range. The winding Rock Knob and Bluff Trails have just the right kind of smooth curves and flow to make this route a perfect start to the trip. These epic cross-country trails take us all the way to our camp with views along the way of Tom’s Thumb and the Superstition Mountains. At our private campsite, our guides prepare dinner while we freshen up and enjoy a colorful Arizona sunset behind Thompson Peak. Dinner included.

All Riders: Enjoy the day getting your legs beneath you and learning how to ride the trails of the Sonoran Desert: no slippery logs, no trees to dodge, no boulders to navigate; just sweet, smooth rollercoaster riding through the vast, open landscape. For beginners, use this time to brush up on some basic handling skills that you’ll polish over the next few days.

Mountain Biking: 20 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +592’ / -1596’; Van Transfer: 45 minutes

Day 2

Mountain bike the spectacular Pemberton Trail

At sunrise, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee fills the air followed by a hearty breakfast. After fueling up, we make our first tracks in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Bordered by Tonto National Forest to the east and the McDowell Mountains to the west, the park allows for unobstructed views into several mountain ranges from our basecamp and trails. The Pemberton Loop is known for its cross-country flair, sprawling over 14 miles with quick, fun sections, and slower, more scenic sections. We’ll complete a full loop today, enjoying famously smooth, compacted trails. Our guides will shuttle us to the main campground for showers before dinner. All meals included.

Beginner / Intermediate Rider: The Pemberton Trail is one of the most well-respected trails in the state, covering a wide variety of terrain including several washes, dips, short climbs, and curves to navigate. Those looking for some time in their boots, can spend the afternoon hiking directly from camp up nearby Lousley Hill, or exploring the park or the visitor’s center’s reptile display.

Mountain Biking: 19 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +1039’ / -1039’

Advanced Rider: Challenge yourself on a spur trail that grinds up to Bell Pass for incredible views of Phoenix and a quick, ripping downhill to rejoin the group on the Pemberton Trail.

Mountain Biking: 26 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +2110’ / -2110’

Day 3

Rough granite boulders and smooth flowing singletrack

After waking in the cool desert stillness, we begin our day with a guide-served breakfast before we either shuttle or ride directly to a new set of trails that has the Valley of the Sun’s mountain bikers buzzing. Specifically designed for mountain bikers to create smooth, rolling twists and turns, Brown’s Ranch Trailhead will be our destination today. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is filled with diversity and for many, today is the highlight of the trip. We’ll ride as a group on groomed desert singletrack with gradual grades and fun, banked turns. Today will end with that desert grit in your teeth that can only come from mile-wide trail smiles. Along the way, we take in views of the “mini” mountains located in the preserve, including Brown’s Mountain, Cholla Mountain, and Granite Mountain, all with very distinct geological characteristics. As we glide through the desert landscape, we savor the sun’s warmth and the beauty of our surroundings. All meals included.

Beginner / Intermediate Rider: Shuttle to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead where we’ll rendezvous with the advanced group to ride together through one of the most varied mountain bike trail systems in the state. Today’s mileage and difficulty is completely in your hands, with your guides there to advise and assist.

Mountain Biking: 29 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +859’ / -1866’; Van transfer: 30 minutes

Advanced Rider: Begin the morning with an early cross-country ride to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead where we meet up with the rest of the group. We’ll ride the maze-like curves of Brown’s Ranch together, with off-shoot options for those willing to hit some technical granite slab riding or some big ascents. Advanced riders can challenge themselves to technical features on the Diablo Loops or conquer their fitness goals by climbing Brown’s Mountain and logging big miles.

Mountain Biking: 47 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +2562’ / -2562’

Day 4

Ride famous unidirectional race loops at your own speed

We get an early start today, jumping back in the saddle for our final ride in the dirt. We’ll ride as a group on velvety desert singletrack from camp to a unique set of trails called the Competition Loops. The trails are bordered with diverse desert flora and views of towering Saguaro cactus, giant sentries found only in the Sonoran Desert. Watch for the state bird, the Cactus Wren, or even a Red Tail Hawk while you carve out your final memories on the unforgettable trails of Arizona. After lunch, we load up and return to Phoenix where we bid farewell to the Saguaro, the dusty trail, and our newly found friends. Breakfast and lunch included.

Beginner / Intermediate Rider: These one-way singletrack trails were designed for beginner and immediate riders to fine-tune their skills at a level of their own choosing, while offering fun, intricate loops that can be customized to the rider. We’ll also hit the Pump Track, where your guide can give you indispensable pointers to flowing with your bike and the trail.

Mountain Biking: 10 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +681’ / -737’

Advanced Rider: Originally built to serve as the home for the Cactus Cup, bike manufacturers contributed resources to develop professionally hand-crafted one-way loop trails specifically for mountain bikers at the Competitive Track. Flowing through the Sport and Technical Loops, we’ll have a blast fine-tuning our skills on the twisting trails, turning berms, dips, jumps, and straightaways that are sure to get our adrenaline pumping and spirits soaring.

Mountain Biking: 13 miles; Elevation Gain/Loss: +980’ / -1037’

Itinerary map for Arizona Sonoran Desert Weekend Mountain Biking

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation. This gear list is provided to help you in choosing your equipment and clothing for this trip. Try to bring only what is necessary.

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

What to pack

You might also consider

Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (emailed prior to departure date)

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (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.