Phoenix is a vibrant city in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, known for its sprawling bike-friendly areas that offer a thrilling experience for cyclists of all levels.
The Phoenix trail scene is supposed to be a desert, so there are plenty of dry, dusty singletracks to explore. They meander in and around the hills in the area and offer good flow, especially if you’re going downhill.
Naturally, as in most desert areas, cactus plants are a dime a dozen, with some lining some of the trail sections. As such, while they may not be as technical, avoiding the thorns while you ride through may prove tricky, depending on the speeds.
Also, some parts of the trails get a bit more precipitation than the rest, so you should be able to go down some green hillsides with desert wildflowers lining the singletracks instead of the cactus.
|1,338 km² / 516.6 mi²
|1,510 m / 4954 ft
|267 m / 876 ft
Phoenix is a pretty densely populated city with 3,102.92 people per square mile. It’s actually the fifth largest populous city after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The median age in the city is 33.9 years as of 2020, and as such, it has a fairly young population.
Given how young the population is, the city has a vibrant nightlife with the people also trying to keep fit. As such, it has one of the biggest bicycling communities in the country, with some using bikes to commute while others only take up their mountain bikes in the evenings or during the weekends.
|Total population (in 2021)
|Population density (in 2021)
Given that the city is in a desert region, temperatures are rarely ever low enough to prevent you from hitting the trails. However, given that there’s barely any tree cover and shade in the trails, you might need to rethink going out at midday during the summer when temperatures can be as high as 104.2°F.
It may be chilly during winter, but riding your bike should warm you up. Besides that, the trails should be open and rideable almost all year round.
The Greater Phoenix area is one of the top bicycling communities in the country, and of the more than 700 miles of bike infrastructure, mountain bike, and off-street trails make up just about 100 miles. The rest is bike lanes that can be used for daily commutes and running errands in the city.
This is, of course, understandable given that the city has a 517.9 square mile area, with most of the off-street trails being outside the city limits. With that, visitors can also explore the city on their mountain bikes before hitting the trails.
Phoenix is also a popular holiday destination, and with that comes multiple highly-rated hotels. The Hyatt Regency, for instance, is less than five miles from the airport and just under 220 yards from the city center.
Others like Found Re Phoenix are just as impressive with year-round outdoor pools. That said, you’ll have to be further away from the city center, which makes sense if you want easy access to some trails.
You can see the city from trails like the Phoenix Sonoran Desert loop, with the hills in the area also providing a lovely landscape to look at while cycling with amazing sunsets. If you’re looking for a whole-day trail as soon as you touch down in town, the Trail 100 is a great place to get yourself acquainted with the area and should be a snippet of what to expect on other Phoenix trails.
There’s also the Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park. Fortunately for mountain bikers, there’s a trail network in the park that you can use to access the garden while you explore. If you find the trails gorgeous, you may want to consider a hot air balloon ride while in the city since it should give you a much better vantage point. It may even help you plan which trails to explore first, especially if you don’t have enough time for all of them. In addition to Papago Park, some of the more popular parks for mountain bikers include Reach 11 Recreational Area, Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve, and South Mountain Park.
If you want to experience Phoenix on two wheels for a beginner, the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve North/South Loop is a great place to start. While it is long, there’s hardly anything technical about it, so you won’t need great bike skills to get through. The only problem might be the hot midday sun and harsh exposure in the summer, but if you go in the cooler months, it shouldn’t be a problem.
For the most part, you don’t need much travel when exploring the Phoenix bike trails since most of the drops and jumps aren’t that big. You can make do with a basic mountain bike just fine. However, if you want to rip through the trails fast, the more travel you have, the better.
If you don’t want to travel with your bike, you can still find rentals to use once you’re in the city. Some renters offer maps, helmets, and even the water you’ll need to get through the sunny trails.
There are also electric bike rentals for exploring the city, so if you want to save your legs for the climbs and technical off-street trails, you can.