The Sonoran Desert Loop is perfect for anyone who wants a great workout and a bit of excitement without the risks of a highly technical trail. It’s, however, a multi-use trail, so you might want to pick and choose when to visit it, especially if you don’t want speed limits when going through the descents. Also, for a non-technical ride, there are plenty of turns, climbs, flowing downhills, tight turns, and even the occasional evasion of a cactus.
Despite being a looped trail, you get two optional start/end points, and you can choose one depending on where you’re coming from. For us, it was at the Apache Wash trailhead located at 1600 E. Sonoran Desert Drive, while for you, it could be the Desert Hills trailhead at 705 W Carefree Highway. Either is fine, and there isn’t one that’s more challenging. Also, you can go clockwise or counterclockwise though most riders prefer the former.
If you’re starting from the Apache Wash trailhead like us, you should take a right turn at the intersection with The Big U trail. Following that route will connect you to the Ocotillo trail. From there, it’s a straight shot through the Sonoran Desert loop with hardly any side routes if you stay on the left side of the Ocotillo trail.
You should eventually end up at the second start/end point off Carefree Highway, and from there, you can take the sidewinder trail. It’s worth noting that the Sidewinder Trail overlaps with the Ocotillo Trail at some point. It also overlaps with a section of the big u with a few intersections along the way. One of the intersections is for the Apache Wash Loop. However, you should maintain your course until you end up back at the starting point.
While not technical, you may find some of the climbs to be particularly taxing, although, at the end of most climbs, you get to go through a flowing descent that won’t require much effort.
Also, despite being part of the desert preserve, some parts of the trail receive more rainfall, so there’s lush greenery and desert wildflowers all around. The riding track is mostly singletrack, and there’ll be plenty of bobbing and weaving as well as straight flats.
Nevertheless, some parts of the loop are multi-use, so it’s best to pick a time with no hikers and other trail users for riders who want to go through it fast.
The desert wildflowers are great to look at, with views of the hills in the distance also being an amazing view. However, you can do this while on the bike and don’t need to stop.