Alright mountain bikers, listen up. If you haven’t checked out the Hawes mountain biking trails in Phoenix, you need to asap. They’re awesome!
I’ve ridden at Hawes several times now and every time I go, it’s a treat. The trails are super well-built (even the climbs) and the descents are even better. There’s no mediocracy here.
As an added bonus, it’s not ugly either. The views out over Red Mountain and the surrounding saguaro-studded desert are stunning (especially during golden hour).
I tell everyone who’s heading to Phoenix to ride to put the Hawes trails at the top of their list. It’s one of my favorite trail networks and I’m excited to share it with you!
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Getting to the Hawes Mountain Biking Trails
The Hawes trail network is located east of Phoenix. It’s technically in the ‘city’ of Mesa which, like all big cities, is basically just an extension of Phoenix.
Where to park
There are several trailheads that you can park at depending on which trails you want to ride (see route recommendations below).
- The Wildhorse parking area is at the start of the Wildhorse climbing trail, which accesses the more downhill-focused trails
- The Bush Highway Parking area is on the west side of the trail network and is a good starting spot for the lower-down trails (that are still equally fun with plenty of descending!)
Why Mountain Bike at Hawes?
So. Much. Fun! Really, though, I love the riding at Hawes. It’s one of those trail networks that you would be happy having as your hometown trails.
Here are a few things to expect when mountain biking at Hawes:
Important things to know
As we all know, mountain biking isn’t all hero dirt and sunshine. Here are a few important things to know before heading out to Hawes:
- e-bikes are… not allowed? But they are everywhere, so… I even saw Chris Cocalis – founder of Pivot Bikes – out there with his crew testing their new e-bike.
- The advanced trails are best left to the advanced riders. I’m usually all for people pushing their skills and confidence, but at Hawes, the trails are built in a way where less experienced riders are damaging the trails. People are trying to go too fast without knowing how to control their speed (as evidenced by the massive brake bumps and rutted corners). If you skid because you don’t know how to brake, stick to the blues. Thank you 🙂
- There’s some exposure on the upper trails where it would not be good if you went over the edge.
- Watch out for hikers. While this network is more popular with mountain bikers, you’ll probably see some other trail users as well. Practice good mountain biking etiquette!
Best trails to ride
Most of the trails at Hawes are pretty fun. I haven’t ridden all of them, but I have ridden probably 90% of them.
Here are what I consider to be the best trails for mountain biking at Hawes:
- Big Sister – really fun flow trail with optional droppers and kickers
- Wild Horse – mainly used as a climb trail to the DH stuff, but you can make a nice loop with High Noon
- Secret – A beautiful trail with amazing views out over the valley
- Dirt Therapy – A new-school-ish flow and jump line
- Red Mountain Rush – an absolute must!
- Iron Goat – I didn’t love this one as much as Red Mountain Rush, but it’s still fun
- Mine – a fun, steep descent down to the river
- High Ridge – a beautiful traversy trail before it plunges with tight switchbacks
- Boulderdash – lots of fun rock rollers, some spicier than others
- Sunset Ridge – a legit double black with great trail building and interesting features
Trails to skip
- The climb up Cactus Garden
Below are two very different, but very awesome routes for Hawes mountain biking. There are tons of ways you can modify them to your skill and fitness levels, but they give a good idea of what Hawes has to offer.
This is one of the original classic routes in Hawes before the newer trails got put in (or at least sanctioned and reworked by a professional trail crew).
It’s the first ride I did at Hawes and I loved it! I will say, though, that if you only have one day at Hawes, though, I would skip this route and do the one below. But you should definitely budget more than one day to spend at Hawes.
Ride it for:
- Great mix of flow and tech
- Amazing views
- Because Hawes is awesome
Need to know:
- The descent down Mine is steep with tight switchbacks
Route directions: Granite Reef Dam Parking > Ridge > Lower Hawes > Magic Mountain (briefly) > Upper Secret > Secret > Saddle > Saguaro > Mine > Granite > Ridge
Make it easier: Instead of taking Saddle to Mine, after Secret take Upper Ridge to Ridge
Make it longer: Before descending Mine, take Twisted Sister over to Big Sister. Then climb back up Twisted Sister to finish the route. Big Sister is a treat!
Red Mountain Rush
Red Mountain Rush is the highlight trail of Hawes for many riders. It’s beautiful, moderately challenging, and a whole lot of fun.
However, please ride it responsibly (i.e. no skidding!). It’s easy to get a lot of speed and lock up your back wheel around the tight corners and steep pitches. This ruins the trail for everyone. If you don’t know how to control your speed and braking, please stick to the lower trails 🙂
Ride it for:
- Red Mountain Rush
- Awesome views
Need to know:
- Don’t ruin the trails by skidding down the mountain
Route directions: Wild Horse Trail Parking > Wild Horse > Lance’s Trail > L’Alpe d’Huez > Goat > Red Mountain Rush > Wild Horse
Make it easier: If you’re a newer rider, a good beginner-friendly loop is to climb Wild Horse and then take High Noon back down.
Make it longer: Add a lap on High Ridge. This is a beautiful trail with a fast plunge on steep switchbacks. Then you’ll climb back up L’Alpe d’Huez and finish with Red Mountain Rush.
If you have more time to explore, check the “best trails” section above to check off a few more of the must-ride trails at Hawes.
If you’re an expert rider (seriously), Boulderdash and Sunset Ridge are really cool.
What to Wear & Pack
The mountain bike trails at Hawes vary from easy, casual cruising along desert singletrack to full-on downhilling with big features – natural and manmade.
Choose your gear accordingly. If you’re going to keep it mellow, you can skip the protective gear. But if you’re going to hit the blacks and double blacks, I recommend at least wearing some knee pads if not a full-face helmet (I wish I had one on Sunset Ridge).
You’ll also want to bring your mountain bike pack essentials and plenty of water since there is none available on the trail or at the trailhead.
If you’re new to mountain biking, check out these posts to help you gear up for your ride:
Need some knee pads?
I pretty much always ride with knee pads. I’ve had too many close calls (and stitches) not to.
When I’m riding relatively mellow trails where I don’t need full-on knee guards, the Fox Enduro Sleeves are my go-to’s.
They’re pleasant to pedal in, pretty breathable, and most importantly, they don’t ride up or slip down with every pedal stroke.
Camping at Hawes
There isn’t any camping at Hawes, but there’s a great city park campground at nearby Usery Mountain Region Park.
You can even pedal into Hawes from the campground. Learn more about fees and how to book on the Maricopa County Website.
I hope this post gives you all the info and inspiration you need to head out to Hawes for some unforgettable mountain biking fun!
Hawes is my favorite place to mountain bike in Phoenix and I think you’ll see why 🙂 Enjoy!
Spending some time mountain biking in Phoenix? Be sure to check out these great networks as well:
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What questions do you have about mountain biking at Hawes? Have you ridden there? What are your favorite trails or routes? Let me know in the comments!