How to Mountain Bike in Tucson

Where to ride, sleep, eat and sip.

Sunny Tucson, Arizona is famous for its giant, sculptural saguaro cacti—and for good reason. But did you know the city is also surrounded by five different mountain ranges ripe for riding? So whether you’re downtown or down the road, here’s how to get the best of the city’s massive trail network while on two wheels. 

Sample Both the Desert and Mountain

High-quality trails wind up and down the mountains on every side of the city, and the Arizona Trail, which stretches all the way across the state from Mexico to Utah, skirts Tucson along the east side, offering big link-up possibilities.

If flowy, fun and long sounds like your jam, head to Canada Del Oro—or CDO—which winds its way down Mount Lemmon from 9,000 feet to the desert floor over about 21 miles. The 30-mile Full Lemmon Drop connects several different trails on its namesake mountain’s flanks for a dose of both forested and wide-open desert riding. Or for something mellow, the popular 15-mile Honeybee Canyon Loop offers smooth terrain with a fast finish as your reward for starting with a climb. And those rides only scratch the surface.

Get In On the 24-Hour Action

Looking to meet some new mountain bike buddies or have the competitive itch? Register for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo mountain bike race. The event is a great way to experience Tucson’s iconic landscape and local biking culture. For more than two decades, riders have converged in the Sonoran Desert, setting up tents and living out of RVs in “24-Hour Town,” on the edge of the massive singletrack racecourse. It’s one of the biggest 24-hour events in the world, and watching the sun come up when you’re out on a relay lap among the saguaros is nothing short of magical.

Camp Where You Ride

Coronado National Forest isn’t just home to Mount Lemmon. There’s plenty of camping, too. Catalina State Park, north of the city within the national forest, is the perfect place to pitch your tent if your looking to ride the popular Golder Ranch trail system.

If you want to stay on the west side of town, check out the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park. It abuts the south side of the scenic Saguaro National Park, which doesn’t allow any car camping itself but has several primitive, hike-in campsites if you’re craving a backcountry experience sans bikes.

Taste the Mexican Food—But Don’t Forget the Coffee and Pizza

In this part of the country, the odds of finding good Mexican food are pretty solid, no matter where you go. In fact, the city was named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015 for its unique, blended food culture. But we recommend heading to Tucson Tamale. This local legend has three restaurants in town, but it also flash freezes its fresh tamales for shipment all over the U.S. They even have vegetarian and vegan options. For a caffeine fix or a post-ride pizza and beer—or all three—locals head to Time Market.


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