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The first time I mountain biked at Gold Canyon in Phoenix, Arizona I was not impressed. The loose, gravely trails felt more like horse tracks than fun singletrack, and while the surrounding landscape is beautiful, it didn’t feel quite as mountain bike-friendly as, say, Hawes or Brown’s Ranch.
But the more I wheedled my way around Gold Canyon, the more I grew to like it. Hoo Doo Trail is super unique and interesting (definitely some expert-only features) and the K-Trail is one-of-a-kind in Phoenix with its slalom moves.
While I wouldn’t suggest Gold Canyon for those just visiting for a day or two, it is a great place to check out if you’re looking for more great mountain biking outside of the ‘must-ride’ trail systems like Hawes and South Mountain.
In this post, I share everything you need to know about Gold Canyon mountain biking including the best trails to hit, route recommendations, and more.
Where is Gold Canyon?
The Gold Canyon trail network is located on the eastern side of Phoenix near Apache Junction. The trails sit at the foothills of the Superstition and Goldfield Mountains.
The two main parking areas are:
Important things to know before you ride
Gold’s Canyon has some great mountain biking trails, but here are a few things to know before you head out there:
Not all the trails are created equal: The trails at Gold Canyon are not created equal. Some are very loose and rocky and not very fun to ride on. Follow my route recommendations below so you don’t end up on a type 2 fun kind of ride.
e-bikes are allowed: Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes are allowed at Gold Canyon.
There is no water: Make sure you bring plenty with you as there is no water at the trailheads.
There are no bathrooms: If you need to go, please pack out your toilet paper.
Ride within your skill level: There are some relatively high-stakes features at Gold Canyon. Ride within your skill level so you don’t get injured or have to make a trip to the ER.
Watch out for cows: This area is open rangeland, so watch out for cattle on the trails!
Rattlesnakes live here: If you see one on the trail don’t freak out, just give it some space.
Best Trails to Ride
As I mentioned above, the trails at Gold Canyon range from super fun to super not fun.
If it’s your first time there, I highly recommend reading through this post to make sure you don’t spend your day on the super not fun trails.
Here are my top recommendations for mountain bike trails to hit at Gold Canyon:
To be honest, Gold Canyon isn’t the best place for beginners. If you’re new to mountain biking, I’d head up to Brown’s Ranch.
K-Trail: Best ridden north to south, this trail is rated black (advanced) on TrailForks, but there’s nothing too crazy on it. It’s the must-ride trail at Gold Canyon and the slalom-like routing is definitely unique.
Jodi’s Dream: A fun trail and scenic loop that you can add to the start of K-Trail.
Diamondback: This is mainly a climbing trail, but it’s beautiful!
Phantom: A great trail to practice your slow-speed tech! There are some really cool rock features and great routing. This is one of my favorite trails at Gold Canyon.
Tech Loop: Another slow-speed techy route with lots of rock gardens. It’s fun if you like tech 🙂
Hoo Doo: A doubleblack pro-line, Hoo Doo is the hardest trail at Gold Canyon. But it’s really cool and routed mainly on rock slabs. If you’re a strong intermediate I’d say give it a go, although you may need to walk sections.
Mountain Bike Packing List
Below are a few of my favorite pieces of mountain biking gear and recommendations for your mountain bike trip or ride:
Two Route recommendations
Since many of the trails at Gold Canyon aren’t ideal for mountain biking, there really are only a few good routes.
Here are two of my favorites: one for intermediate riders and one for more advanced riders.
1. Gold Canyon Mountain Biking Sampler
This route is a good intro to Gold Canyon. It mainly features the K-Trail, which is kind of an iconic trail for Phoenix. I hated it at first, but then it kind of grew on me. It is quite unique.
There are many options to add on to this route or you can opt for the longer and more technically challenging Tour de Tech below.
Route directions: Gold Canyon Parking > Gold Canyon > 2GM > Gila Monster > Diamonback > K-Trail > Jodi’s Dream (clockwise) > K-Trail to car
Make it harder: There are several options to add techier trails from the K-Trail like the Tech Loop (counterclockwise) and Phantom.
2. Tour de Tech
This loop links up most of the technical trails in the area including Hoo Doo, which is really cool, but definitely only for advanced riders. The route doubles back to do Cojones, which I haven’t done.
From there, it links up the K-Trail, Tech Loop, and Phantom for a challenging, but fun ride.
Route directions: Gold Canyon parking area > Gold Canyon Trail > Cougar > 2Doo > Hoo Doo > (Optional: Cojones) > Lost Goldmine > K-Trail > Phantom > K-Trail > Tech Loop > Holy Hill
Make it easier: If you don’t want to do Hoo Doo take Lost Goldmine. If Hoo Doo isn’t on your list, though, I recommend doing the Gold Canyon Sampler route above because the climb up to K-Trail is better.
What to Wear & Pack
For detailed recommendations on what to pack for your trip to Phoenix, check out these posts:
Specific to Gold Canyon, here are a few gear recommendations:
Hydration pack: While routes at Gold Canyon tend to be shorter than some of the other cross-country trail networks around Phoenix, there is no water at the trailheads or on the trail. Be prepared with at least 2-3 L of water in your hydration backpack.
My go-to mountain biking backpack is the Osprey Raven 10L (men’s). It’s a great mid-size pack that can fit all my tools (organized in an integrated tool roll), spares, snacks, and layers. Plus, it comes with a 2.5 L reservoir.
Shop the Osprey Raptor/Raven at:
Knee pads: I typically always wear knee pads when I’m mountain biking, but I’m especially glad to have them at Gold Canyon where there are lots of sharp rocks, cactus spines, and opportunities to fall a ways if you do the more advanced trails.
My go-to knee pads have been the Fox Enduro Sleeves for many seasons. They’re lightweight, easy to pedal in, and relatively breathable.
Shop the Fox Enduro Sleeves at:
Tubeless repair kit: Phoenix trails are boobytrapped with sharp, pointy things that want to hurt your tires. Tubeless tires are essential, but I also recommend bringing a tubeless repair kit so you can plug a puncture that is too much for your sealant.
I have the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Repair Kit. It comes with a sheet of 5 plugs as well as an insertion tool. It also has a valve core remover/tightener on the bottom and you can fit a few valve core spares inside.
Shop the Tubeless Tackle Kit at:
Mountain Bike Shops & Rentals
The closest bike shop and rental place to Gold Canyon is probably Bike Masters in Gilbert. They are a Specialized store and have a service shop as well as retail shop.
Camping at Gold Canyon
There is no camping allowed at Gold Canyon. The closest paid camping is Lost Dutchman State Park north of Gold Canyon
There are free dispersed camping sites throughout Phoenix as well, including Peralta Canyon east of the trail network. I recommend using these apps to find camping around Phoenix:
Prefer to stay in a bed? Use the search box below to find a hotel around Apache Junction.
What else can you do at Gold Canyon?
Gold Canyon is a popular place for mountain biking as well as other outdoor adventures. Here are a few other non-biking things to do:
Hiking – You’ll probably see a few hikers on the trails at Gold Canyon. It’s a pretty popular spot. There are lots of great hiking trails, including some that head into the Superstition Wilderness. For great views, head up Siphon Draw Trail.
Camp at Lost Dutchman State Park – Lost Dutchman State Park does have some mountain bike trails, but honestly, I don’t recommend them because they’re pretty beat up from horse traffic. I DO recommend camping there, though. It’s beautiful and has a lot of hiking trails to great lookout points.
My first ride at Gold Canyon didn’t make me fall in love with the trails there. K-Trail was kind of annoying on the first go, but I did grow to like the area and appreciate the trails after a while. They’re techy and challenging, so keep that in mind before you head out there.
Hoo Doo is definitely a must if you like more advanced riding!
Planning a mountain bike trip to Phoenix? Check out these other networks to ride: