Tag Archives: Scottsdale

AWESOME SONORAN DESERT CAMP ‘N RIDES NEAR PHOENIX

By Richard Fox

Imagine gliding down a perfect winding singletrack mountain bike trail for mile after mile through the Sonoran desert landscape, jagged mountains in the distance, birds flittering in saguaro cactus, a wide smile plastered on your face. You are downhill on the north segment of the Pemberton Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, located in the McDowell Mountains between Scottsdale and Fountain Hills east of Phoenix. You can finish the ride in the comfort of your RV if you’ve secured a precious site at the beautiful and popular Maricopa County campground. An hour to the south is Usery Mountain Regional Park east of Mesa, where you can also camp out and hop on magnificent mountain bike trails. Usery is flatter with more lush vegetation, whereas McDowell is on a gradually sloping alluvial plain with many more miles of trails and more of a wide open feeling because much of the park burned in the 90’s. The adjoining Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve extends the 50 miles of trails even further. Both have fabulous views of the Superstition Mountains and most of the time no civilization is in sight, a different world than the nearby Phoenix metro area. West of Phoenix, White Tank Regional Park is just as beautiful with a smaller set of trails but still very enjoyable. The vast majority of the trails are non-technical, with few rocks or challenging pitches, perfect for the everyday mountain biker who likes to enjoy the outdoors and get a good workout.

Beautiful vistas abound on the Usery park trails, especially looking to the east.
Beautiful vistas abound on the Usery park trails, especially looking to the east.
The RV campground at Usery Park with Usery Mountain in the background.  Set amongst lush Sonoran vegetation with partial hookups, reserve early for this popular spot that is about a mile along the park road from the MTB trailheads .
The RV campground at Usery Park with Usery Mountain in the background. Set amongst lush Sonoran vegetation with partial hookups, reserve early for this popular Maricopa County Campground ($32) that is about a mile along the park road from the MTB trailheads .
Signed trail junctions on the fabulous Usery Park trails.
Signed trail junctions on the fabulous Usery Park trails.
Spacious campsites with electric and water hookups with MTB trailheads all around it  make the campground at McDowell full most of the winter.
Spacious campsites with electric and water hookups with MTB trailheads all around it make the campground at McDowell full most of the winter.
Gliding down the lovely Pemberton Trail at McDowell Park.
Gliding down the lovely Pemberton Trail at McDowell Park.
Cycling near the striking granite boulders of McDowell park.
Cycling near the dramatic granite boulders, top of the hill at McDowell park.
Trails continue into the adjacent Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Trails continue into the adjacent Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

White Tank Regional Park’s Ford Canyon Trail rewards with some awesome vistas.

Scottsdale-Tempe Scenic Bike Trail Loop

by Richard Fox   Updated February 2018

From November to April, and on many days in October and May, the weather in the Phoenix, Arizona area is picture perfect.  While the most scenic areas are in the natural Sonoran desert parks in the outskirts of the city and best suited to be seen by mountain bike, there is an extensive network of pleasant bike trails throughout the city, many adjacent to a system of canals and drainage channels that traverse the area. Most consider the trails along the Scottsdale Greenbelt and Tempe Town Lake next to Arizona State U to be the best and scenic of these paths.  We have explored these paths, and combined with a route along pleasant canal-side trails to come up with a 22-mile scenic loop with plenty of highlights along the way, including the rock formations of Papago Park, the new developments along the Arizona Canal in Scottsdale, a side trip to Old Town Scottsdale and two interesting bike-ped bridges. The final link in the loop was recently completed along the Arizona Canal Trail in Scottsdale, making this a world-class urban loop ride.

A highlight is the fabulous new ped-bike bridge over Tempe Town Lake.
A highlight is the fabulous new ped-bike bridge over Tempe Town Lake.

Cycling along Tempe Town Lake, with ASU's mountain in the background.
Cycling along Tempe Town Lake, with ASU’s mountain in the background.

The Cross Cut Canal makes a nice N-S connector between Tempe Town Lake and the Arizona Canal.
The Crosscut Canal trail makes a nice N-S connector between Tempe Town Lake and the Arizona Canal.

Scenic portion of Cross Cut Canal Trail near Papago Park.
Scenic portion of Crosscut Canal Trail near Papago Park.

The Cross Cut Canal Trail connects to the Arizona Canal Trail.
The Crosscut Canal Trail connects to the Arizona Canal Trail shown here.

Arizona Canal Trail through downtown Scottsdale.
Arizona Canal Trail through downtown Scottsdale’s “Waterfront” district.

Interesting bike-ped bridge over Arizona Canal in downtown Scottsdale.
Interesting Soleri bike-ped bridge over Arizona Canal along the “Scottsdale Waterfront”.  The trail between this point and Indian Bend Wash Trail was previously packed gravel, but it has become a paved pathway with signaled street crossings, vastly improving the route.

A few blocks on surface streets from either the AZ Canal Trail or the Indian Wash Trail brings you to tourist favorite Old Town Scottsdale.
A few blocks on surface streets from either the AZ Canal Trail or the Indian Bend Wash Trail brings you to tourist favorite Old Town Scottsdale.

The AZ Canal Trail feeds into the Indian Bend Wash Trail  through the Scottsdale Greenbelt.
The AZ Canal Trail feeds into the Indian Bend Wash Trail through the Scottsdale Greenbelt.

Interesting bridge art along Indian Bend Wash Trail.
Interesting bridge art along Indian Bend Wash Trail.