Mountain biking can seem intimidating to those just getting into the sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Phoenix has a lot of beginner-friendly trails that allow new mountain bikers to ease into the sport.
Mountain biking allows you to see more of an area faster than you do on foot and is a great way to put a smile on your face while getting in a workout. Start small on some of the easy trails around Phoenix then challenge yourself with intermediate and hard trails as you build up your biking fitness and skill set.
Skill Level: Beginner
Trail 100 - North Mountain
From the North Mountain Visitor’s Center on 7th Street, head southwest along Trail 100 until you reach the end of the trail at 7th Avenue. Turn around and make a loop by taking Trail 306 north along the base of Shaw Butte, take the connector trail heading east back to Trail 100 to lead you back to North Mountain Visitor’s Center.
For more mileage, continue east on Trail 100 under 7th Street and challenge yourself by climbing the hill behind Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort.
Double Butte Loop - Papago Park
Papago Park’s iconic red buttes are circled by dozens of hiking and biking trails. The Double Butte Loop is a good option for beginner mountain bikers. The trail is 2.3 miles long and offers great views of the park’s rock formations. Combine this loop with a cruise along the crosscut canal for a fun and easy spin on your bike.
Brown’s Ranch Trailhead - McDowell Sonoran Preserve
This trail system is in the north Phoenix metro area, sandwiched between Scottsdale and Carefree. There are many options for trail riding here, varying between beginner and intermediate. Try a few different combinations and enjoy the incredible vistas of the surrounding Tonto National Forest.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Desert Classic Trail - South Mountain Park and Preserve
The name says it all. This trail is a Phoenix classic that offers fun, flowing trails through desert washes. The trail is rated as “low intermediate” with a trail surface that’s fairly smooth and non-technical, though there are some options for more challenge. The incredible desert scenery makes it easy to forget you are only a stone’s throw from downtown Phoenix and Tempe.
Apache Wash - Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
On the northern edge of Phoenix you will find one of the city’s newest networks of trails branching out from the Apache Wash trailhead. Intermediate riders will enjoy exploring Apache Wash trail itself with a mix of small climbs, moderate rock gardens, and views for miles as you navigate through washes and along small cliffsides. For extra mileage, explore Ocotillo Trail heading west. Or if you're feeling ambitious, hop on Sidewinder Trail and put in the effort of a steep climb or two.
Trail 100 - Dreamy Draw Recreation Area
Smack in the middle of Phoenix you'll find Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Intermediate mountain bikers will love the fun and challenge of riding Trail 100 east from Dreamy Draw. A variety of trails crisscross the main trail, offering options for more technical riding if you are up to it or elect to stay on Trail 100 and ride it to the eastern terminus at Tatum Road. Turn around and enjoy the thrill in the opposite direction.
Skill Level: Advanced
National Trail - South Mountain Park and Preserve
The premier challenge in the Phoenix area, National Trail is a bucket list ride for technically advanced mountain bikers. Some prefer to shuttle up the South Mountain summit road and descend from Buena Vista lookout to Pima Canyon trailhead, hitting all of the trail’s most technical highlights. Others ride the length of the trail directionally beginning at the San Juan lookout on the east side of the Park. Bring your long-travel bike and sharp bike handling skills.
McDowell Mountains - McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts some of the area’s most technical riding. Begin at the Gateway or Lost Dog Trailheads and be prepared to climb. There are options for shorter loops or bigger challenges like the famous Double Bypass beginning at Gateway and heading east over Windgate Pass and then returning to the western side of the preserve via the higher Bell Pass. Like South Mountain you want big travel and big guts for the Bell Pass descent.
An IMBA epic trail, the Black Canyon trail or BCT is about 45 minutes north of the center of Phoenix and is worth the haul for any dedicated mountain biker. Some sections of the trail are more challenging than others and the technical skill required is generally lower than what you need to navigate South Mountain or the McDowells but the mix of wilderness, thorny cactus, rocky features, exposure, and constant elevation gain and loss put the BCT in the advanced category. Nowhere will you find better desert views or feel more remote so close to town than on this trail.