There’ll be mountain bike trails in Arizona for you to follow, no matter where you live. Some are better than others, of course, but a path is a path, or is it? You may in fact make your own mountain bike path. (I’m not sure about you but that seems like a lot of work) Especially when you can go literally anywhere and ride an established mountain bike trail.
For every type of rider, Arizona, known for its abundance of mountain bike trails, has a bit of something. Whether you are a beginner or a novice you will find the trail just right for you somewhere in Arizona.
How Rated Are Mountain Bike Trails
It’s good to know how the mountain bike trail you’re about to attack is rated, regardless of how experienced you are. The International Trail Marking System or IMBA provides a rating system for most recreational mountain bike trails in the United States.
According to IMBA’s web site, the IMBA Trail Difficulty Rating System can:
- Support trail users make educated decisions
- Encourage travelers to use trails that match their level of ability
- Risk management and minimizing injuries
- Improving the outdoor experience for a broad range of visitors
- Aid in the planning of trails and trail systems
The system the IMBA uses was taken from their system used at ski areas throughout the world. The system can not only be used for mountain bikers but also can be used by hikers and equestrians.
Whether you are a mountain biker or just entering the terrain for hiking or horseback riding, here are each designations and what they mean.
IMBA Trail System of Difficulty Rating
If you see white circle: this is the easiest
- Trail width is 72 inches or more
- Tread surface is hardened or surfaced
- Average trail grade is less than 5 percent
- Maximum trail grade is 10 percent
- And there are no natural obstacles and/or features of the technical trail.
- If you see a green circle: this is easy
- The surface of the tread is firm and stable.
- Average trail grade is 5 percent or less
- Maximum trail grade is 15 percent
- Unavoidable obstacles 2 inches tall or less; Avoidable obstacles may be preset; Unavoidable bridges
- 36 inches or wider
If you see a blue square: this is a more challenging course
- Trail width is 24 inches or more
- Tread surface is mostly stable with some variability
- The average trail grade is 10% or lower,
- Maximum trail grade is 15 percent or greater
- Unavoidable obstacles 8 inches tall or less; Avoidable obstacles may be present; Unavoidable
- Bridges 24 inches or wider; TTF ‘s 24 inches high or less, width of deck is greater than ½ the height
- If you see a black diamond, it’s a very hard course.
- Trail width is 12 inches or more
- The surface of the tread varies widely.
- Average trail grade is 15 percent or less
- Maximum trail grade is 15 percent or greater
- Inevitable barriers 15 inches tall or smaller; Evitable barriers may be present; May include loose rocks; Inevitable bridges 24 inches or wider; TTF 48 inches tall or smaller, deck width less than 1⁄2 height; Short sections may exceed requirements
If you see a double black diamond: this is an incredibly challenging course
- The width of the trail is 6 inches or more,
- The surface of the tread is highly variable and unexpected
- Average trail grade is 20 percent or more
- The maximum trail grade is 15% or higher.
- Inevitable barriers 15 inches tall or smaller; Evitable barriers may be present; May include loose rocks; Inevitable bridges 24 inches or smaller; TTF 48 inches tall or larger; Deck width is unpredictable; Most parts may exceed requirements
- An effort to standardize trail scores is this scheme. It separates technical difficulty from physical difficulty.
- Riding Accountably
IMBA launched its Rules of the Trail in 1998. These standards riding safely have been adopted nationally. As a rider, it’s a pledge that you know that your actions have an impact not only on you, but on the landscape, the trail runs, the animals and other users of the trail.
The rules of the trail are:
Respect the landscape
respect the local trail builders and respect them. Keep singletrack single by remaining on the trail. Do not ride muddy trails because it creates rutting, widening and maintenance headaches.
Drive, not through it, through standing water. And ride (or walk) technological elements, not around them.
Share the trail:
Mountain bikers give way to horses and foot traffic, and climbing riders give way to descending riders. There are some geographic variations and special rules on single-use, directional mountain bike paths. Know the code for where you’re going.
Ride open, legal trails:
Poaching trails, building illegal singletrack or adding unauthorized trail features hurts the access.
Ride in control:
If you need to pass, slow down, ring a bell, or verbally announce yourself, and wait until the other trail user is out of the path. Use extra caution with horses, which are unpredictable. When riding trails with bad sight lines and blind corners, be extra conscious. Make sure that you can hear what is happening around you.
Be prepared and self-sufficient. Every mountain biker should carry what they need and know how to fix a flat tire and make minor repairs for the ride they are undertaking. For navigation, download a GPS trail app on our phone or bring a map to unknown locations. If you’re going out alone, ride with a partner or share your riding strategy with others.
Mind the animals:
When it comes to wildlife, live and let live. If you want to ride with your dog, find out by looking up the leash laws first if it is allowed or not. Be prepared to take care of your puppy. Ensure that your best friend is obedient enough that you, other trail users or wild animals do not cause problems.
Now you are able to bust your way out on the paths. For mountain bikers of every skill level, Arizona has an abundance of trails. You say you want to get out on the trial with your kids, there are trails that will make that experience safe, enjoyable and maybe even an advancement of both of your skill sets.
First, a few things to keep in mind while out in Arizona for mountain biking:
The heat: It’s really early during the summer months, say 5 or 6 am.
Hydration: Take more water than you think you will need. If the kid is large enough make them make their very own hydration pack. Uh! Water!
Cactus: The cactus are everywhere, carry tweezers.
First Aid Kit: Crashes happen to the most experienced riders.
5 Best Arizona’s Bike Trails For Beginners
These trails are in Phoenix and although they are suited for the beginner rider, if your skill set is higher you can get on board too. Most of the trails has side trails and spurs branching off from them that are more challenging.
The five trails are recommended for beginner level trails that populate various areas in Arizona. Some are strongly advised, and others have poor ratings. Going out there and figuring out which ones you want is up to you.
1. Usery Mountain Regional Park
This is the flattest and simplest of the five trails. It appears to get less crowded only south of the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. The paths are either slightly uphill or downhill, and it goes gently down through many desert washes on flat, sandy single and double track for the majority of the trail.
The core of the trail system is the 3 mile Blevins Loop, but there is also the wavy Moon Rock Trail, or you can shred along the combo of the rockier Meridan / County Line / Ruidoso Trail.
There’s an opportunity to come into some coyotes, jackrabbits, roadrunners, lizards, quails, and maybe even a rattlesnake or two along the way.
In this park, you’re never too far from where you started, and it’s easy to get back to your car if you get tired. Stop going down any trails with “wash ” in their word.
2. San Tan Mountain Regional Park
This is a Maricopa County Regional Park, just south of the town of Queen Creek, southeast of Phoenix. It is a continuous climb, the best way to start your ride is to enter at the park’s northmost trailhead at the end of Wagon Wheel Road and start a 1.3 mile long gradual ascent on Dynamite Epic Trail, to saddle, which drops after a series of switchbacks to the San Tan Trail below.
When paired with Littleleaf and a section of Goldmine, the San Tan Trail is a 7.5-mile loop that runs up and over a mixture of single track, double track, and even a large fire path through a small valley.
The San Tan Trail offers a mix of shreddable features: very short , long, downhill portions; quick dips through washes; and lengthy climbs up, over, and through big red rock outcroppings and cacti. Rarely flat, it is either up or down for riders.
3. Bell Rock Area Trails, Sedona
The Bell Rock Area Trails is a trail system that stretches all the way up to the Little Horse Trail on the eastern side of Highway 179 from south of Courthouse Butte. This arizona trail system is home to the easiest trials in Sedona. But be forewarned, some of them can still be challenging.
4. Courthouse Butte Loop, Sedona
Take the Bell Rock Pathway from the kiosk toward Bell Rock to get to this trail. It climbs gently and at A ½ mile there is a marked junction with the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail.
Continue ahead. The trial continues a gentle climb circling to the left of Bell Rock. At 1 mile, it drops out and bends below the slopes of Bell Rock to the right.
5. Preserve of Phoenix Mountain-Trail 100
This trail starts at the Dreamy Draw parking lot and trailhead. Most who ride this trail go east up a gentle 1-mile climb to saddle. This is right in the center of metropolitan north Phoenix, and just off Highway 51. The sounds of the city will vanish an you descend from the saddle into the desert valley below.