Tortolita Preserve Loop

Tortolita Preserve Loop

A semi-challenging scenic route through desert Ironwoods and shrubby cholla

This singletrack trail circles within the Tortolita Preserve, located in the area of Marana (also called Dove Mountain). This area is unique with a mostly westward-sloping terrain thick in vegetation with a high density of Saguaro, Ironwood, and other flora only found in the Sonoran Desert.

For this out-and-back loop, riders are torn between classifying its difficulty. Some swear it’s friendly to beginners while others slap an intermediate label on it and note a few technical challenges. If you are a beginner, this loop is safe – you just might need a bit of patience and alertness. You’re looking at just under 10 miles of mostly flat ground with rocky crossings that call for caution. This trail offers a bonus for riders who love tough cornering and sharper turns.

“Dove Mountain is perhaps the most stunning and beautiful part of Tucson,” says Ron Reece. “And this trail really shines. Beginners may have to get off their bikes at a couple of points, but the rest is not that big of a deal. This trail is really scenic to bike during the mornings or late afternoons.”

Group of mountain bikers at Tortolita Preserve Loop

“This may be the most beginner friendly trail in all of Tucson,” says Nancy Lewis. “With only 500 feet of total climb over 9.7 miles, this trail is flat as a pancake and can be done on a mountain or a gravel bike. Tortolita is really pretty as you are biking all throughout this Saguaro wonderland.”

The Tortolita Preserve Loop is ranked as one of Arizona’s top trails for mountain biking and is only 20 miles north of Tucson (about a half hour drive). Here’s a full trail map (downloadable PDF). Here in Marana, Arizona, cyclists come from all over the world and call this part of the state their “winter training capital.” Road and weather conditions are ideal most of the year as well, opening up perfect opportunities for road bikes or just casual, family outings on some rented single speeds.

“Surprisingly good singletrack for bicycles in the middle of nowhere,” Ben Reindl remarked. “Go figure!”

Ride along with two mountain bikers as they tackle Tortolita.

Directions: Direct link to the trailhead on Google Maps here. Take Tangerine Road to Dove Mountain Blvd. Turn left (west) at Moore Road and take it until the road ends at a small dirt intersection. The trailhead proceeds after the cattle gate (no cars allowed passed it). Park along the shoulder and proceed through the gate ahead (close it behind you, please).

Bike sales and rentals: Read our recap of Oro Valley and Tucson bike rentals here. For Tortolita, there are convenient options like Oro Valley Bike Rentals and Tucson Bike Rentals that offer a wide assortment of bikes to take advantage of every possible bike option imaginable. Schedule ahead of time and have your bike ready for you when you arrive.

Food and drink: Dove Mountain Brewing Company is a great place to get something to eat nearby. And yes, the beer is great. Check out the Gallery Restaurant (part of The Gallery Golf Club) for a more high-end atmosphere. If you are in town for a weekend, add Honey Bee Canyon to your list for a more challenging ride with feet of elevation gain over 16 miles.