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If you haven’t yet explored the Arizona mountain biking scene, it’s time to pull out the calendar. For real. Do it now. Arizona is home to amazing mountain biking trails and destinations from the grippy red rock of Sedona to the legit DH tracks down Mt. Lemmon in Tucson to the fast and flowy purpose-built trails in Phoenix. There is riding for anyone and everyone. And the views? Simply stunning. The first time I visited Sedona, I was blown away by its beauty. Phoenix and Tucson aren’t ugly either.
So if you’re anything like me, and are itching for a good road trip – especially to escape the winter blues – here’s everything you need to know about mountain biking in Arizona.
Ready for some red rock riding and endless desert landscapes? Here’s what you need to know before planning an epic Arizona mountain biking adventure.
Why is Arizona mountain biking so great?
Glorious Winter Temperatures
The daytime winter temps in Arizona can range from a semi-chilly mid-40s all the way up to a glorious mid-’70s, making it a perfect winter escape, especially for those of you who (very perplexingly) live in a sub-0 arctic climate. If you’re looking for a winter mountain bike escape, definitely put Arizona at the top of your list.
Badass network of trails
Arizona mountain biking is pretty underrated. Sure, most people are clued into the amazing riding in Sedona, but what about Phoenix? And Tucson? And the Black Canyon Trail?
There are so many places to mountain bike in Arizona. You could ride for a week in Phoenix and not even explore every trail or zone. TrailForks says that Arizona is home to over 3,000 trails and 5,629 miles of riding! Of course, not all of that is going to be fun singletrack, but trust me, a lot of it is.
The scenery and landscape
One of the reasons I love mountain biking in Arizona so much is that the scenery and landscapes are absolutely stunning. Arizona is home to some of the most beautiful vistas in the US. To be able to pedal through blooming desert landscapes and pause to look out over towering red rock bluffs is definitely a big reason why I think Arizona is one of the best states to mountain bike in.
Best time to mountain bike in Arizona
Because of blistering summer temps throughout most of the state, early spring, winter, and late fall are the best times to plan a mountain bike trip to Arizona. Some places, like Prescott and Flagstaff, do typically get snow in the winter, so always check the weather and conditions before heading out.
The good news, though, is that if one place is covered in snow, there’s usually some sunny and warm singletrack a few hours or less away.
Best mountain biking in Arizona: where to ride
Ok, now that you’re convinced that you need to get you and your two wheels to Arizona for some mountain bike action, where should you go? Here are the 7 best Arizona mountain biking destinations:
Sedona is one of my favorite places to mountain bike in Arizona. It’s beautiful, the dirt is tacky and grippy, the trails are challenging and engaging, and you get a lot for your efforts.
Sedona riding could be considered mostly cross-country, but for me – someone who loves a good technical descent – I find that Sedona trails are definitely more interesting than most cross-country destinations.
Expect a ton of rocky features, epic views, reasonable climbs, and a few rowdy descents.
Here are a few blog posts to help you start planning your mountain bike trip to Sedona:
- A complete guide to mountain biking in Sedona
- Best mountain bike trails in Sedona
- A beginners guide to mountain biking in Sedona
- Sedona bike shops and rental centers
I’ve ridden in Flagstaff a few times and it has a great network of cross-country trails. Truthfully, Flagstaff riding is not my all-time favorite (I’d rather head down the hill to Sedona!), but it’s still a great place to check out if you’re in the area. There are lots of forested cross-country trails and the potential to lay down a lot of miles if you’re up for it.
I haven’t ridden Flagstaff enough to write up a complete guide, but I plan on returning soon!
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Full Lemmon Drop, but if you haven’t, here’s what you need to know: 30 miles of rocky, technical, fast, and full-on DH with a few steep climbs and a whole lot of fun. It’s not for the casual rider, though, so if mellow is more your scene Tuscon is also home to some fantastic networks including Fantasy Island, Tucson Mountain Park, and Catalina State Park.
Definitley plan your mountain bike trip to Tucson in the winter, though. Summer temps are brutal!
I love Phoenix riding and I think it has some of the best mountain biking in Arizona. There is SO much singletrack around the city and more is being developed every year.
Brown’s Ranch has blown up in recent years and South Mountain is home to the popular National Trail. A little farther outside of town – but highly worth the visit – is Gold Canyon with some cool rock riding with good flow. Then there’s Fantasy Island North and Hawes, both of which are little slices of purpose-built mountain biking heaven.
5. Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu is a popular winter destination for boaters and watersport enthusiasts, but there’s also a network of cool singletrack around the town. It’s not exactly extensive or diverse – there are about 60 miles of deserty singletrack – but if you’re looking for a weekend mountain bike getaway to someplace warm and sunny with good food and drinks, Lake Havasu could be your answer!
Plus did you know that Lake Havasu is home to the actual world-famous London Bridge? So random! There’s also some nice beach-front to relax on post-ride.
6. Black Canyon Trail
The full Black Canyon Trail is on my bikepacking bucket list and if you’re into bikepacking, it should be on yours as well. It’s a 77-mile singletrack route the runs roughly from Prescott to Phoenix. If you’re just looking for a day ride, you could do a portion of it as an out-and-back, or if you’re up for some suffering, some people do the 77-miles in one day.
The BCT passes through beautiful Sonoran desert landscapes, rugged canyons, and open ranch land. The winter/spring months are the best time to ride the BCT because of cool temps and minimal precipitation. I haven’t ridden the BCT (yet) but it’s definitely on my to-do list now that I have a bikepacking mule – my Santa Cruz Chameleon ?.
Prescott is another amazing Arizona mountain bike destination with dozens of miles of trail and really cool terrain, especially around the Granite Dells. The city of Prescott is situated at around 5,400ft, so it does get a bit of snow during winter – about 13 inches per year – but the average winter day temps are in the 50’s. You can also ride throughout the summer, just be aware of the temps and bring plenty of water with you.
I hope this post gives you some inspiration and tips for planning your next mountain bike adventure to Arizona. Arizona is one of my favorite places to ride and I think you’ll love it, too!
Have you explored the Arizona mountain biking scene? Where is your favorite place to ride in the Grand Canyon State? Let us know in the comments below!