From smooth asphalt to desert dirt, and lush suburban parks to stands of towering saguaros, Tucson, Arizona has just about everything a cyclist could be looking for when it comes to conditions and views.
Hundreds of miles of trails – both paved for a flat, level road ride, and rugged and steep for an exhilarating ATV ride – crisscross and surround the southern Arizona community.
In fact, the quality and variety of Tucson’s bike trails regularly place the city on lists of the best places to cycle in the United States. In early 2021, Tucson’s popular Chuck Huckelberry Loop earned the distinction of being named the number one recreational bike path in the country by USA today.
Showcasing the city’s sunny climate, rugged mountain ranges, and pristine cobblestone trails, the Visit Tucson tourism website states, “It’s no wonder Tucson is consistently ranked as one of America’s best cycling cities.”
For me, there is no more enjoyable way to get around the bustling city than to get on a bicycle and whisk along the very smooth cobblestone paths, taking advantage of the convenient underpasses to avoid the on-going car traffic. of road.
Based on my experiences on the Tucson trails, as well as information from the community’s tourism website, here are five reasons Tucson is a cyclist’s paradise.
1. You can go almost anywhere by bike
Home to the expansive University of Arizona campus, Tucson is a natural place for biking. And pretty much anywhere you look in the city, you’re likely to see people on their bikes – on leisurely rides with their family or on their way to work or school.
The variety of trail surfaces ensures that almost anyone can find a suitable cycling experience. With the endless mountain biking and road biking possibilities available, Visit Tucson notes that “cyclists of all skill levels can easily find their solution.”
In 2018, the city was ranked in the top five of the best places for bicycles in the United States by the PeopleForBikes website. Among the major cities in the United States, Tucson was number two, behind Portland, Oregon. Overall, Tucson ranked number five, behind Fort Collins, Colorado; Wausau, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon. The website defines a great cycling city as a place where you want to ride for fun, not just for convenience.
Tucson’s trails live up to this standard, offering interconnected routes that easily take cyclists from one neighborhood to another. Not only is the connectivity convenient for locals, who can easily get around, it’s also great for visitors who want to leave their cars behind and enjoy the warm desert air.
2. It is home to the most beloved trail of 2021 in the United States
The Chuck Huckelberry Loop, a 136-mile system of paved, shared-use trails and short sections of buffered bike lanes that connect community parks, greenways, trailheads, bus stops, hotels, restaurants, schools, shopping areas and places of entertainment.
Along the way, the network also connects the communities of Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley and South Tucson.
The paved path offers dozens of access points throughout the metropolitan area. It offers spaces not only for bicycles, but also for walkers, runners, skaters and riders. The Loop is also the site of annual cycling events such as Loop the Loop, which kicks off Tucson’s El Tour season in September.
In February 2021, USA today announced its top 10 awards of the year and the Chuck Huckelberry Loop was ranked as the number one recreational trail in the country.
The loop is made up of a series of shorter trail sections. Either alone or in combination with other loop sections, several of these shorter trails are worth a visit.
Santa Cruz River Park Trail
Following the route of the Santa Cruz River, the 42-mile Santa Cruz River Park Trail passes through a number of parks and scenic neighborhoods including El Rio Park, Christopher Columbus Park, the pretty area from Lake Silverbell and the El Paseo de los Arboles memorial. Parking.
The trail was born out of a flood control effort, after the Santa Cruz River inundated neighboring communities in the early 1980s. Today, the trails that run along both sides of the riverbed largely dewatered are used for both flood control and recreation.
The Santa Cruz River Park Trail also includes part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, a system that follows a historic route taken by de Anza on his journey in 1775 to establish a fort in the Bay Area. San Francisco, California.
Cañada Del Oro River Park Trail
Known for its panoramic views of the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail stretches 18 km through the northern suburbs of Tucson, Marana, and Oro Valley.
Along its route, the trail passes through shopping malls, as well as the northwest campus of Pima Community College.
Part of the trail is called Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park in honor of one of the victims of the January 2011 shooting at a Congress on Your Corner event hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Improvements to the park include a shaded plaza, a bronze statue surrounded by a butterfly garden, botanical trails, benches, and a butterfly sculpture.
Rillito River Park Trail
The nearly 35 km paved Rillito River Park Trail runs along both sides of the river of the same name. The trail, which connects to the Santa Cruz River Park Trail, is a magnet for families looking for an easy ride on a mostly flat route.
The trail passes through a number of shops and restaurants, making it a convenient route for a longer outing. The Rillito River Park Trail also has regular stops with water fountains, toilets, and exercise stations.
Julian Wash Green Lane
Showcasing the natural attributes of the Sonoran Desert, the Julian Wash Greenway stretches 18 miles from the Santa Cruz River Park Trail near South Tucson to the southeast corner of town.
Along the way, the trail offers views of distant mountain ranges and desert terrain. It is connected to several parks, including the Julian Wash Archaeological Park, which tells the story of the Hohokam people who once lived in the area.
For much of its route, the Julian Wash Greenway runs parallel to a soft surface path for riders and joggers.
3. Bike rentals abound
For those who want a quick and easy way to access Tucson’s trails, Tugo Bike Share offers rental access to 330 bikes at 41 stations in 13 of the city’s neighborhoods.
Bike sharing comes across as a fun, flexible, and economical way to navigate the city, whether you’re commuting, shopping, or sightseeing. The system offers rentals for one-way, full-day or unlimited 3-hour trips within a 24-hour period.
4. Mountains are great for stellar single track hikes
Street biking isn’t the only cycling option in the Tucson area. With its ring of rugged mountains nearby, as well as its iconic Saguaro National Park, Tucson is full of rugged single-track trails that regularly draw hordes of mountain bikers.
The Mountain Biking Project recommends 25 routes in the Tucson area, including the Honeybee Canyon Loop, a route recommended for beginners because of its fairly smooth surface; the Sweetwater Trail System, which includes a number of loops of varying difficulty levels through classic desert terrain; and the Golder Ranch Trail System, an 11.1 mile intermediate to difficult route that includes steep sections and tight turns.
5. You can ride (almost) all year round
With over 350 days of sunshine a year, Tucson is considered one of the sunniest cities in the United States, and Visit Tucson emphasizes this point, noting that “the seemingly endless supply of sunshine means you’ll almost have certainly nice dry roads to travel. “
Of course, with all this sun, there is a pretty intense heat during the summer months. While you can technically ride a bike in June, July, and August – and some people do – temperatures over 100 degrees can be dangerous and uncomfortable. Still, that leaves plenty of ideal weather for cycling in the fall, winter, and spring.
Desert dwellers know that during the hot summer months, the early mornings and evenings are the best times to exercise outdoors. As Tucson’s high average temperatures hit 100 degrees in June and July, and mid-to-high 90s in August and September, average minimum temperatures drop to a more comfortable 70-degree range throughout the summer months. .
Tucson, Arizona’s second largest city, is located approximately 115 miles southeast of Phoenix. Flights are available from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport or Tucson International Airport.