May is National Bike Month, a campaign sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists that encourages people to embrace pedal-powered vehicles to exercise, travel to work and help the environment.
In honor of the month, we’ve sought out some great mountain-biking trails and multiuse bike paths, whether you’re an avid cyclist or a parent looking for an active Sunday outdoors with the kids.
For more comprehensive maps, pick up a Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Bikeways Map at your neighborhood bike shop. Map My Ride is a great website that offers a smartphone app, so cyclists can create their own custom routes.
Here are some bike paths and trails across the Valley:
Tim Ferguson, a manager of Landis Cyclery in Phoenix, swears by the South Mountain Park for mountain biking, and said that during his 25 years of riding, “he’s never bored riding out there.”
He loves the Mormon Loop, which offers sweeping views.
“I go to the top of Mormon Loop and it over looks all of Phoenix,” he said. “It’s very serene, and a very quiet place to ride. You don’t hear the traffic, and you very quickly feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
The Desert Classic Trail is a favorite among all types of riders, and Ferguson said it’s perfect for “confident beginners,” features a variety of technical aspects and clocks in at 9.2 miles.
Another popular trail is Trail 100, located in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It runs east to west and nearly 11 miles. Riders can access the trail on Tatum Boulevard or 40th Street, just south of Shea Boulevard.
“It’s an excellent trail to work on your cardio,” Ferguson said. “You don’t have to cross major roads, and you can make it very challenging or less challenging.”
Papago Park is also a great place for beginners to go mountain biking, because it is smooth and the trails flow easily, without lots of obstacles.
“It’s not super technical and is good for a timid rider who is working to become more confident,” he said. “This is a place I would teach someone, because I can climb up over the mountain and watch them, and keep my eye on them, and meet up with them in the same place.
Ferguson said downtown Phoenix has gotten much more bike friendly over the last five to 10 years, with many more added bike paths and lanes. The bike-shop manager enjoys starting on Seventh Street downtown and riding south to South Mountain.
Less experienced road bikers can be hesitant navigating the city streets, so Ferguson suggests joining a group ride through the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists to learn the rules of the road and feel more shielded in traffic.
Up in Cave Creek, Crystal Topham, owner of Spur Cross Cycles, enjoys the route created specifically for the Cave Creek Bicycle Festival in November. The route kicks off on pavement at Frontier Town and clocks in at 24 miles. It runs through various trails, including Spur Cross, Maricopa Regional, Overton, Jasper and Quartz. You’ll pass grazing cows and the Nature Center within Cave Creek Regional Park, where you can stop and refill water if needed. You’ll likely encounter hikers and horses on the busier trails, so be aware.
“You’re kind of by yourself when you’re riding out here,” Topham said. “The cactus alone makes the loop one of the most beautiful trails. There are some more rocky, technical situations, but it’s worth every grind you do.”
After heading back to town, grab a much needed bite to eat at the Cave Creek Smokehouse or Big Earl’s Greasy Eats.
Over in Scottsdale, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is packed with trails for riders of all levels. A more experienced rider can start at the entrance on Shea Boulevard and 136th Street, and start on a popular trail call Sunrise, which hooks up with other great trails including the Gateway Loop, Bell Pass and Windgate.
Curley, service manager at Rage Cycles in Scottsdale, loves that several newer trails have sprouted up in the area, giving longtime riders new terrain to work through.
“You’ll do a lot of climbing and descending, and the rides will range anywhere from 5 to 12 miles,” he said.
Topham recently discovered the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, located in the northern portion of McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a little over a mile from Alma School Parkway and Dynamite Boulevard. The trailhead is still under construction but should be finished some time this year. Topham said the extensive network of trails has many beginner-friendly routes, making it a good place for newbies to practice.
Non-mountain bikers can enjoy the Scottsdale Greenbelt, which includes 22 miles of paved pathways stretching from Shea Boulevard between Scottsdale and Hayden Roads, all the way down to Tempe Town Lake.
“A lot of people ride it of all abilities,” Curley said. “It’s a nice ride to get some exercise, and meanders through several golf courses.”
The path is popular, attracting runners and walkers of all ages, roller-bladers and parents with strollers, so be careful. You’ll pass through lush parks with plenty of shade, bathrooms and water, so make a day of it with your family and enjoy a picnic along the way.
The Hawes trail system in the Usery Mountain Range in Mesa features a singletrack trail (meaning the trail is approximately the width of the bike) known as the Hawes Loops. The ride offers spectacular views of the McDowell Mountains and the Salt River, so you’ll want to stop once in a while to soak in the surrounding landscape. The trail also connects with several loops, offering additional adventures along the way.
Tempe is quite bike-friendly, with many ASU students utilizing bikes to get around and organizations like the Tempe Bicycle Action Group advocating bicycle safety and hosting a variety of group rides. The SRP Southern and Tempe Canals, and Sun Circle Trail run through the southeast Valley.
The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a favorite for West Valley residents. The park is located in Waddell, which is a 20- to 30- minute drive from Glendale, Peoria and Surprise.
The park offers 25 miles of trails, ranging from less than a mile to 8 miles and easy to strenuous. It also features a 10-mile competitive track designed for all types of athletes. Goat Camp (6.3 miles), Mesquite Canyon (5 miles) and Willow Canyon (1.6 miles) are popular trails for bikers.
It costs $6 for a day pass for cars and $2 for bikes.
Beginners can utilize the service roads that run alongside the Salt River Project canals. In the West Valley, the Grand Canal goes through Glendale, and it’s longest section runs for 20 miles, allowing cyclists to work on speed and endurance. The Arizona Canal runs through Glendale and Peoria, providing another good, virtually car-free ride.