Sonoran Desert Tour
The place to go for early and late season singletrack is the Sonoran Desert just south of Tucson, Arizona.
The trails wind through huge Saguaro cacti and the views reach almost to Mexico. The riding is fun and swooping with short technical sections. In the spring, cacti of every description are blooming all over the place. Our route travels on the Arizona Trail through trees and grasslands with great views of Mount Wrightson. We then work our way south to the Santa Rita Mountains.
This trip requires singletrack skills and experience. Low altitudes and short climbs make it perfect for early season riding. It is also a great alternative to Moab for the last hurrah of your mountain biking season in October.
Day by Day Itinerary
TRIP DAY 1
This morning we'll spend an enjoyable 2-3 hours riding in Tucson Mountain Park, a 20,000 acre Sonoran Desert natural preserve that includes one of the most magnigicent Saguaro Cactus forests in the world. The Tucson valley is a high desert, once the floor of an ancient inland sea, and is surrounded by four mountain ranges, the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas and Tucsons. On this trip we ride the best singletrack of the region. In addition to the characteristic Saguaros, there are also chollas, barrel cactus, prickly pear and ocotillo. The Tucson area is well known for its bird watching potential and at certain times of the year over 200 species of birds have been identified in the vicinity. After lunch, our smooth singletrack loop swoops in and out of arroyos finally returning us to the shade of our lunch tree. It's the perfect singletrack to warm us up for the more technical riding in the mountains. We'll load into the van and shuttle to the Santa Rita Mountains to our camp for the next three nights. TOTAL MILEAGE - 16-20 miles
TRIP DAY 2 Out here in the shadow of Mount Wrightson, we will do several loops from camp. The morning ride will take us though limestone cave country, and traverse in and out of old growth oak trees. We'll have a mid-morning stop at the historic gold mining establishment of Kentucky Camp and learn about the trials and tribulations of the early gold miners. We'll return heading south on the Arizona Trail back to our camp for lunch. The afternoon ride takes us up to the newly created Link Trail. This section of trail follows an old water flume built by the ambitious gold miners in the early 1900's. Their hope was that through "advanced water technology" they would be able to recover trace amounts of gold that were previously not extractable. Needless to say, no one made much money, but they did leave us a great swooping and zooming trail that leads us right back to camp. "Downhill in both directions this flume trail!" TOTAL MILEAGE - 12-25 miles
TRIP DAY 3 The Arizona Trail is a singletrack in the making that will eventually run the entire length of the state (approx. 800 miles). Currently the trail is 90% complete and many sections provide excellent riding. From our camp, we'll head up the dirt road for a couple of miles before intersecting a great section of the trail. Here, we'll head north through historic mining claims to Kentucky Camp and early gold mining outposts. The trail rollercoasters through beautiful woods and grasslands offering occasional views of Mt. Wrightson, which rises abruptly 5,000 feet from the desert floor. From Kentucky Camp we'll stay on the trail and climb up to Granite Mountain before rolling along to Forest Road 62 near Greaterville. We'll circle around and return to our same camp in Gardiner Canyon with plenty of time for a splash in the granite walled creek. TOTAL MILEAGE - 20 miles
TRIP DAY 4 After a hearty breakfast, we'll load into the van for a short shuttle to the highlight ride of the trip, "Fantasy Island". In one square mile of land, the local mountain bikers have installed over 20 miles of singletrack. The trails twist between chollo cactus and roll through deep arroyos steep enough to coast up the other side. The trail tread is fairly smooth, firm packed soil. The technical nature of the riding comes from maneuvering your bike through the tight turns and navigating between the pricklies. If you don't have fun here, you're a fun hater. In the ride afterglow, we'll load up and head to our camp at Catalina State Park. TOTAL MILEAGE - 15 miles
TRIP DAY 5 Today's ride is an awesome overview of the week's riding. Pedaling the singletrack of the 50 Year Trail, we'll overlook Oro Valley with the backdrop of the western slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Romero Canyon Wilderness Area. The winding singletrack culminates in the local's favorite section called the "chutes". We'll be riding out and back today, winding in and out of the saguaros, prickly pear and cholla cactus. After lunch we load up for our return to the bike shop in Tucson. TOTAL MILEAGE - 16 miles
About The Operator:
Western Spirit Cycling
The History of Western Spirit
"Back in the day", as our oldest guides say, Western Spirit Cycling was founded by a charismatic mad bike rider named Lu Warner. It was 1989; Lu couldn't get enough of riding his bike and decided he should impart some of his joy on the masses. He acquired a Suburban, dubbed "the burb” and a couple of guides and started taking people around the White Rim. Now Lu can be found in some semi-state of retirement in Crested Butte, CO, but his vision was just the beginning.
Just for the record, yes, we still have the burb. It's retired. And those "couple of guides" are our finest Rachel & Johnny - no sign of retirement there!
Then the Mid-90s
Ashley Korenblat bought Western Spirit in 1997 and since then has spent many days riding unknown trails (with a headlamp in her backpack, just in case) creating the plethora of trips that Western Spirit now offers. Ashley is a graduate of Dartmouth and Tuck Business School, a former bike racer, former Wall Street captive and possessor of entrepreneurial spirit. She was president of Merlin during the Titanium mountain bike heyday and served as the IMBA President working to sustain trail availability to everyone. Combine all that with the desire for a Moab lifestyle and an alternative view of a fulfilling career path, and you have the perfect recipe for the owner of a cycling tour company. Enter Mark. Mark is our charming, wicked-fit, voice of reason, miraculously lured from his ski town tradition to live in the desert. Ashley and Mark got married in 1999 in Moab and now run the company together.
Well, actually Kip runs the place. Kip is Ashley and Mark's young boy and he has his own bike helmet and chariot. He is also beginning to tear it up on the dirt with his training wheels.
Our office staff is comprised of mostly gals...and Mark. Thank goodness for Mark! Mark is our bike junkie and can be seen pedaling on a daily basis. Ashley makes the best backcountry bacon you will ever have, but definitely burns off those calories towing the little Kipster around town in his trailer. Anne Clare loves riding her road bike and hiking in the mountains. Sheri and Tonya both love the water and do their best to kayak 365 days a year. Emily is pretty "green". She is the founder of a non-profit organization, Community Rebuilds that promotes affordable and eco-friendly housing.
All of us have worked outdoors and are familiar with what you will experience on a Western Spirit trip. At any given time when you call you can talk to someone who has been on any trip that interests you. That's because we love to be out there too!
In our busy world, we often don't get to be outside enough. Even if you do, there's some phenomenon that just makes you want more. Nothing like going somewhere to make you realize all the other places you still need to go! Traveling outside makes you see Mars when it's the closest to earth it'll ever be, makes you smell the fragrant lupine covering the mountain slope, makes you feel the wind, see the perfect sunset, catch an eclipse of the moon, experience the herd of elk in the alpine meadow, and start to tell time by the location of the moon in the night sky.
What's that all worth in our busy world? Well, it is our world.
On all of our tours, we strive to protect our fragile mountain and desert environments. Many of our campsites are remote and unimproved, and we seek to leave them better than we found them.
Food is one thing we take pretty seriously. Our guides are great backcountry chefs and your trip includes all meals from lunch on first day to lunch on last day.
Our customized trucks and vans carry all of your gear as well as many camper comforts! We have the coolest custom F-450's in the industry. Our guides have incredible backcountry experience, but the best part is that they are all super friendly and look forward to a week of riding with you.
We camp primarily in pristine locations where it's quiet, dark and peaceful. The finest morning view comes with a hot cup of cowboy coffee. All shuttles are included from our meeting place to the start of your ride. At the end of the trip we shuttle back to our meeting place.
Western Spirit Cycling, Inc. operates under special use permits from the USDA Forest Service in the Boise, Coronado, Dixie, Grand Mesa, Gunnison, Kaibab, Manti La Sal (Moab and Monticello Ranger Districts), San Juan, Sawtooth, Sierra Vista, Uncompahgre, Challis, Clearwater, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Caribou-Targhee, Black Hills, Mount Hood, Umpqua, Nantahala, White Mountain, Monongahela, and Pisgah National Forests and by Dakota Prairie Grasslands. As well as under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management in the San Juan Resource Area; Henry Mountain Field Station; Moab, Arizona Strip and Grand Junction Field Offices; Grand Staircase National Monument; and by Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake and Blue Ridge Parkway National Parks. Western Spirit is a concessionaire in Canyonlands National Park.