This is perhaps the best dirt road ride around Tucson, featuring 48 miles of rolling dirt roads in beautiful, wide-open country under a big sky. I’d previous ridden both ways over Redington Road as part of big Mt Lemmon loops, but 11/14/2017 was the first time I’d done it purely for itself, as an over and back, and I loved it.
Obvious starting points are at the Le Buzz parking lot at the NE corner of Tanque Verde and Catalina Highway, from where about 8 miles of road riding takes you to the base of the paved switchbacks. Or start at the base of the paved switchbacks, from where ½ mile and 200 feet of climbing takes you to the cattleguard and the start of the dirt road. If you start at Le Buzz, the whole ride will be about 64 miles.
I lost my Garmin 500 on this ride so had to find the elevation gained using Google Maps, according to which there is about 3,760 feet of climbing on the dirt road.
So, climb the paved switchbacks for ½ mile to where the dirt starts. Follow the road as it switchbacks up for 2 – 3 miles (this is the most continuous climbing on the ride.)
Continue up up in a rolling kind of way. After about 7 miles from the start of the dirt, just after MM 10, there is a big parking area on the left with toilets. I think of this as the “top” of the climb, although it’s difficult to really tell as the road is very rolling. From here the road continues to roll in a downward kind of way for about 17 miles to the San Pedro River Road.
There are various offshoot roads but the main road is pretty obvious. The only place you might be concerned is between mile markers 14 and 15 where there’s a fork in the road. The road takes the left, bigger, fork.
The last few miles are pretty flat. When you get to the San Pedro River Road, turn round and retrace your steps. The rolling climb seems to go on forever but you are finally rewarded by the fast descent down to the paved road.
Bellota Ranch Side Trip
If you don’t feel like going all the way over to the San Pedro River Road, but want to go further than the “top”, there’s a beautiful ride down the Bellota Ranch Road, which gives you roughly another 10 miles and 710 feet of climbing.
A few hundred yards past the “top” there’s a very obvious road to the left, with a sign saying Bellota Ranch. The ride is mainly downhill on the way out and up on the way back, although there are some good rollers. You will go through several gates, and perhaps enjoy the signs on the gates. Just before you get to the obvious Bellota Ranch buildings, take a very sharp right turn and continue on the dirt road through more gates, until it basically fades away. Turn around and ride back the way you came.
Links and Other Clicks
Instead of retracing your steps, you can continue to ride a big loop around Mt Lemmon.
Or you can climb Mt Lemmon up the Black Hills Mine Road.