I’m planning a trip to Phoenix this holiday and I’m bringing my road bike. We are looking at lodging and I’m not sure where we should stay. I would like to be not too far from good roads to train in the morning. I’ve heard that Tucson is MUCH better, but this also a “couple trip” (my girlfriend is coming) and she wants to be around the city.
So, if you have some tips about nice roads or lodging, I’m all hears open!
North Phoenix or Scottsdale has the best riding and good bike lanes. There’s lots of good shopping and restaurants in Scottsdale too. IMO the best riding is out north of the city (cave creek, bartlett lake, fountain hills) and through Paradise Valley There’s a few week day early morning group rides in the Paradise Valley area and a few good Saturday group rides in Scottsdale.
I’m from Phoenix, but more recently lived in Tucson for several years. With that caveat, here’s my recommendation:
Scottsdale is the most obvious answer for where to stay. It sounds like your partner enjoys the city life, so I would avoid North Scottsdale as it can be a bit of a snooze nightlife wise. Anywhere in central Scottsdale (near-ish to Old Town, but probably not in Old Town) should be fine. Downtown Phoenix (and even Tempe to an extent) has more cultural offerings but entails more traffic-heavy city miles to access some of the main rides in the area, so weigh that if you’re considering staying in a more “city” environment. The one exception to this is South Mountain, which is located in South Phoenix, and fairly easily accessed from downtown.
Depending on where you’re coming from, the riding isn’t spectacular (I might be biased here), but there are some good desert loops to be had, most of which are located near Scottsdale. If you do wind up staying in central Scottsdale, check out Bike Haus for group rides or route beta. A trip to Tucson to climb Mt. Lemmon is well worth it if you have access to a car.
I would avoid the Southeast valley (Chandler, Gilbert, etc) like the plague unless you like flat, 6-lane roads and SUVs passing you at 60 mph. There are lots of bike lanes and smooth pavement, true, but anything too far out of the city center is just car-centric exurban nightmare sprawl.
Edited: Changed Southwest to Southeast. Nevertheless, I’d avoid both.
I live in N.Central PHX. In no particular order here are some good rides in the valley. Goole Map:
Tortilla Flat: Highway 88 is a super scenic rolling climb to the NE of Apache Junction that rolls past Canyon Lake, past Tortilla Flat and finally climbs up to the end of the pavement in the Superstition Mountains. The road turns to dirt and you can ride a road bike all the way to Lake Roosevelt but, a gravel bike would be perfect!
Usery Pass area: Usery Mountain regional park is just to the west of Apache Junction. You can mountain bike on vast trail system or ride Usery Pass road to the north and ride Bush Highway up past Saguaro Lake. Keep going and you can connect to Hwy 87 (Beeline) and ride all the way to Payson or loop back toward Fountain Hills and make a loop back to Usery.
Four peaks: Gravel riding or mountain biking here is fun. Gravel roads go up from the Beeline and over to Lake Roosevelt.
Fountain Hills: Lots of routes to explore. A popular one would be to ride McDowell Mountain Road to Rio Verde, up what we call 9 mile hill (Rio Verde Dr) to the west and that ties into North Scottsdale. From there you can go up Pima Road to Carefree and or Cavecreek. Or head south down Pima and loop back to Fountain Hills by way of a road called Via Linda. Ride all the way to the top (past the gate) and hook up to the MUT which will take you up and over into Fountain Hills avoiding Shea Blvd which can be busy. I ride that too but, why ride with cars when you don’t have to.
McDowell Mountain Preserve: Vast mountain bike trails and many suitable for gravel bikes. You can access the Preserve many ways but, most drive to the gate off McDowell Mountain Road. You can access it from 9 mile hill from 128th (I think) but, you will just sort of have to find you way. Lots of gravel roads and granite trails. Finally Tom’s Thumb Trailhead.
Tom’s Thumb: This sits just to the north of McDowell Mountain on top of the McDowell Preserve. The trail system is gravel bike friendly but, you will want to ride down on the Pemberton trail. For a diversion do the hike up to Tom’s Thumb. If you only have a road bike you can ride back down 128th to Ranch Gate Rd to Happy Valley and explore from there.
Brown Ranch: Mountain and gravel biking. Huge system of trails. Gravel ride all the way to Bartlett Lake or Mt. Humboldt way to the north.
Carefree/Lake Bartlett: Carefree is a little community on the north edge of Scottsdale. You can start down in Scottsdale or drive up and start further up. Find your way to Cave Creek Road and ride up to the Bartlett Road turnoff. Ride down to Bartlett.
7 Springs Mt. Humboldt: Instead of turning down to Bartlett keep going on Cave Creek Road to 7 springs. Super scenic. The pavement ends and you can ride another 5 miles on dirt roads to the base of Humboldt. I ride the road bike on it often but, a gravel bike would be more comfortable. However, the road up the the Radom on top of Humboldt has been recently paved. It’s like riding glass! Super smooth and a beautiful climb. It’s a single lane road much like you see in Europe. More like a golf cart path width. No cars.
South Mountain: I ride there down Central (bike lane) but lots of traffic. Not a huge deal. The park is nice and there is a nice road to the top. Mountain biking and great hiking all around as well.
Canal path: Stop in a shop and inquire depending on where you find a place to stay. It’s fun and a good way to get around and avoid cars…just keep it in the back of you head. Pretty extensive system but, I don’t have a link to a map. All in my head…
So much more but, it’s sort of linking these areas together. Cheers
thanks a lot! I’ll be looking for something in that area.
Thanks a lot for your detailed answer. I’ll be searching for something around Scottsdale. And, of course, Mt Lemmon is definitely on my “bucket list”!
Wow, thank you! With those options in mind, do you think it would be better to live for the week around Mesa or Scottsdale? Scottsdale seems closer to more of your rides, but I’m curious to hear your opinion.
Scottsdale has more night life, shopping, closer to downtown which has things to offer off the bike. You’re SO/wife/GF/BF will appreciate that…
As far as riding, depending on where in Scottsdale, you can easily hit every ride except Tortilla Flats. EDIT: you can ride to every ride is what I meant. Tortilla is ridable but, realistically a car drive to start. Just depends on what kind of rider you are. Experience, fitness…
More cool bike shop options in and around Scottsdale as well.