Mountain Biking Patagonia and The Mexican Border

It's an easy ride along Harshaw Road to an overlook of the San Rafael Valley.

san-rafael-valley-bike-trailsA varied and somewhat eccentric group of mountain bikers from Green Valley and Tubac convenes weekly to explore new and interesting rides in Pima and Santa Cruz counties.

On a Saturday in September, we headed to Patagonia and out Harshaw Road to the Arizona Trail trailhead. For the first few miles, the easy-riding, shady dirt road yields views of steep canyon walls, beautiful green meadows and abandoned farmhouses. It is not the usual Arizona experience.

The gently rolling road starts to climb gradually, offering great views of towering oaks and sycamores, dense thickets of brush and glimpses of rocky summits in the distance. Then the road tops out and BAM! You are completely unprepared for the view from the summit: a vast ocean of green stretching for miles in all directions, punctuated by an occasional rock outcropping and rimmed by a distant line of low hills.

Not a tree, bush, cow or building interrupts this panorama of grasslands. You simply cannot believe you are in Arizona. This is the San Rafael Valley, home to a few scattered ranches, a very occasional dirt road and the film location for the movie “Oklahoma!”

“Wonderful” is a word seldom used to describe mountain biking. But the riding here is wonderful. Heading to the left at the summit, we enjoyed mellow pedaling on double track through gently waving grasses decorated with tiny blossoms of wildflowers, with the vast vault of a cobalt sky overhead.

Covering the miles easily, we approached the ridgeline of the Canelo Hills, where we intersected the Arizona Trail again. Heading on would lead to an uncertain climb through the pass and a very long ride home. Already several miles into the day, we decided to return from whence we came, heading back to the Harshaw Road summit, then the very fun downhill and rolling ride back to our cars. It was about 25 miles overall.

This ride is recommended for anyone who has a bit of stamina and plenty of water. There is nothing technical or scary about it, just miles of beautiful scenery and easy riding. While green during the monsoon, the ride is almost as gorgeous the rest of the year, with the grasses glowing golden in the sunlight.

This is my Arizona!

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