Note: MM = Mile Marker
I have a page devoted to cycling around Tucson.
Greater Phoenix is a huge area and while I wouldn’t particularly want to cycle in the busy parts of the city, there are some good rides on the outskirts. Here are three.
You can certainly make this ride longer but the extra cycling is perhaps less enjoyable than the ride as described. We parked in a huge parking lot at Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church at the intersection of N. Pima and Cave Creek Road.
Ride east along Cave Creek Road with a great bike lane through a somewhat residential area for just over 4 miles. At this point the road to Bartlett Lake bears off to the right, enters the true desert, and starts heading downhill.
After about 3 miles you start climbing for another three miles, then have a long downhill, broken by a short uphill, down to the marina at Bartlett Lake. Enjoy the views then ride back the way you came.
The views seem prettier on the way back, mainly because you don’t have the sun in your eyes so the colors are richer. One thing to be aware of while doing this ride is the cars/trucks pulling trailers with boats. The trailers are wider than the cars and sometimes the trailers came distressingly close to us as we were riding.
Usery Pass and Bush Highway
This is an enjoyable ride that goes over Usery Pass then along Bush Highway and past Saguaro Lake, before returning the same way. This ride is often included as part of a longer loop, but this involves riding on busier roads so we chose to ride this as an out and back. The ride as described is about 33.3 miles with 2,200 feet of climbing.
We parked in a large dirt parking area at the N.E. corner of the intersection of N. Ellsworth Rd & E. McKellips Rd.
Climb North on N. Ellsworth road up past lots of very fancy houses. You soon enter Usery Mountain Recreation Area, where the houses stop and the desert begins. Continue over Usery Pass and down the other side to the 4-way stop at Bush Highway, which you reach about 7 miles after the start.
Turn right and follow the delightful Bush Highway as it twists and turns and rolls, until you reach Saguaro Lake in another 6 miles. At this point the lovely bike lane pretty much disappears, and you continue riding for another 4 miles to Hwy 87.
Turn round and ride back the way you came, perhaps with a little detour down to the marina at Saguaro Lake to enjoy the view. And remember to turn left at the 4-way stop and head back up over Usery Pass.
South Mountain Park Summit
This is a fun climb up to the radio and TV towers at the high point of South Mountain Park on the south side of Phoenix. The road twists and turns and goes in seemingly random directions before you finally reach the top. The out-and-back ride is 13.9 miles with about 1,400 feet of climbing.
Continue up the road, initially following signs for the Summit, and later on following signs for the TV towers, although the direction to go is always pretty obvious. The gradient varies and even includes some short sections of downhill.
At the top there is a large parking areas and if you are lucky you may see people paragliding from here.
Skull Valley Loop
The best-known loop in the Prescott area is the Skull Valley Loop, which is 52.6 miles with about 3,553′ of climbing. While never dramatic or particularly steep, it goes through some pretty country. It’s a very easy loop to follow, with very few decisions to make.
Start in downtown Prescott, at the corner of Montezuma & West Gurley, by Courthouse Square. Head north on Montezuma and follow it as it turns west and becomes Whipple St then Iron Springs Rd. The first 3 miles are built up and commercial, then you enter the countryside. After some initial climbing you do a long, long descent into a wide-open valley covered with small bushes and dotted with rocks and boulders.
After 19.5 miles you reach the small village of Skull Valley, then after 26.4 miles you reach a Stop sign and T-junction. Turn left here onto Kirkland Valley Rd, then after 30.8 miles you reach another Stop sign and T-junction. Turn left onto Hwy 89.
Keep riding up the gentle hill until at about mile 37 you start climbing the lovely mountain curves. Eventually the road starts rolling, but still mainly climbing until you finally reach the downhill back into Prescott at around 48 miles. Follow the road as it becomes White Spar Rd then Montezuma St.