Las Vegas- Day 6 Cottonvalley Canyon

I had ridden these trails on a rented bike back in 2003 or so. At the time I went with a friend, who was not a fast biker, so I was looking forward to riding these trails on my own bike and at my own pace. I decided to start at the Blue Diamond Trailhead, since that is where I started from before. I decided to do the old Norba course across 160 and then come back again.
I started the day at 5:15 a.m., was on the road by 6 a.m. in Phoenix, and got on the trail near Las Vegas around 12 p.m. The first part of the trail was pretty good getting to 160. Since 2003 there has been a new paved parking lot added on Rt. 160. I got over to the other side and did the trail there and it wasn’t bad, although it was kinda slow since it was going uphill the whole time. I ended up going towards 160 to get the start of the Norba race trail. I had to ride some blown out Jeep road to get to it. The trail was ok. I thought it would be better, and it had too much jeep road for me. I did like the part that was single track, and I thought Satan’s Ladder was good challenge (I made it up at least without dabbing). Once at the top, I saw the time and knew that I needed to get going to meet Sara in Vegas (she just came out for the wedding). I had some issues finding the Red Trail to take back, so I ended up just taking the double track road. I was flying on that, which showed that I had been climbing a long time. I ended up seeing the Red Trail later on, so I took that and road back down the trail that I came up. This trail was a blast riding the other way. Once I got back across 160 I decided to do the other half of the Blue Loop to get back to Blue Diamond. I will say this trail was the funnest of the day. It had you going slightly down hill and through some big rollers. There were some technical rock bits in there as well. I got back to the car with some good riding for the day to end the bike part of my trip.
  • The trails closer to Blue Diamond are more frequently ridden and are actually more fun to ride to boot.
  • If I get back here again, I want to hit the Bonny and Clyde Trail, it was the only trail I didn’t ride at all, and it would be the most logical choice for the next ride here.
  • Blue Diamond Bike Shop is a place to know. If you are in Vegas and have a car, just ride like 25 minutes from the strip and rent a bike for $40 to ride for the afternoon.


AZ Trip-Day 5 Quadruple Bypass (MacDowell Mountain Preserve, and Park)

I have found my favorite ride in the Phoenix area! I had read about this ride, and had gotten the intel on how to put the trails together to make this ride happen. I started up the Windgate Trail, and it also turned out to be one of those trail systems that has a ton of hikers on it. I must have passed like 50-60 hikers and only three bikers—compared to Black Canyon where I passed two hikers walking together. Everyone was pretty cool, so that was nice as well. As I was going up Windgate I was a little worried cause I was already walking my bike though a good number of sections. I did this mostly to save my strength since I knew it would be a long day. I was a pretty happy man at the Windgate pass. Had a great view, I knew that the Bell Pass wasn’t as big of a deal to climb since you did not go all the way down then back up. At the top of Bell Pass I saw the downhill and was excited and little apprehensive with my brakes having gone a little squishy (I think I need to bleed them). The downhill off of Bell Pass was fun, and I was only white knuckled on this 50 foot section near the top where the trail really dropped off. After getting down this trail I took the Paradise Trail. I would have liked that trail more if it did not go so close to the neighborhood, but beggars can’t be choosers. I stopped before tackling the Sunset Pass. I was not a fan of the first ¼ of this trail with its blown-out huge rock jeep track nature, but once it really started going up, it was nice. I really liked the ridge ride at the top, and the downhill was one of the funnest of the trip.
The next part of the ride was the part I was the most worried about, as you have to go through a gated community to get to the Dixie Trailhead. I went up 145th Street, and saw a bike route sign, so I followed it. As I was riding this Jeep road, I knew I had made a mistake and I should be biking in the neighborhood. From the topo map, it looked like the jeep road would meet the Dixie Trail eventually. I think I saw a sign that I had entered MacDowell’s Park (Fontana Hills). There was a map on the sign that I had not seen anywhere on the net. This map made clear where the trail head was in the neighborhood, and that you can take the P (trail name), and the S (trail name) to get to the Dixie trail. So seeing the map I was happy because I had confirmation I was going the right way. The S (trail) was a tough trail in places with very steep switchback where I had to walk. I was rewarded, though, with a really sweet downhill to the Dixie Trail. I was tired, and was happy because I knew that the hardest parts of the ride were done, and that I just needed to do one more big climb. I was riding the Dixie Trail, and saw that there were two ways to get back to the Windgate Pass. I came to Prospectors Trail, but it wasn’t marked, so I decided to stay on the Dixie Trail. Once I saw the Coachwhip Trail I knew I missed the trail that was on the topo GPS I was kinda following, but knew the Coachwhip Trail would take me to the Windgate Pass. I got to the Windgate Pass, and was very happy man again. The Windgate downhill was fun, and as I was going down I realized whoever came up with this route was smart. The Windgate hill was the hardest to go up, so it was best to be tackled first. I came down the mountain and took a wrong turn somewhere, ending up at a bigger trailhead and the equestrian area. When I got back to the 104th St. trailhead, though, I had done 36 miles over 6,500 ft. of climbing, so I was pretty proud.
  • The MacDowell Preserve, has had a major over-haul, with several major trail heads that have water and and parking(so you don’t need to park at the grocery store)
  • This kind of riding reminded me of the East Coast riding I like—where you do some major climbs with the reward of long downhills. The trails where not overly technical like South Mountain and some in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve can be, but they still had some rocks and other bits added in to keep it interesting.
  • I can see the Sunset Pass being a great test to get up the whole thing without dabbing.
  • Even though I kinda messed up the Fountain Hills area, I think doing the more trail version is the way to go.
  • I know this will be one of the rides I do next year.


AZ Trip-Day 4 South Mountain

After the big day I had on Monday I decided to take it easy and do a shorter ride. I had ridden the Coast to Coast on South Mountain at the spring fling before, but wanted to check out the dessert classic, since I had not done it before and it would be an easier ride (also since I was alone I didn’t want to chance it with crashing too bad). I enjoyed the ride, ended up doing a little more hike-bike then I thought on some of the side trails, but was rewarded with some nice down hills. I wandered around past the Helo pad trails and then decided to head on back directly on the Dessert Classic trail. After getting back to my car, I had more in me, but I decided to just save it for my ride the next day.


AZ Tip-Day 3 Black Canyon

The Black Canyon trail I had done 2 years ago at the MTBR Arizona Spring Fling has grown (65 miles) and is expected to be 85 miles when complete. I really liked the trail because you could ride it without worry about breaking your arm falling in a bunch of rocks. I decided to start from the southern area where I had finished 2 years ago on Table Mesa Rd. I had wanted to ride south for a bit then back north to the Black Canyon Trail head parking lot and back. I didn’t see the trail going south off of Table Mesa Rd. I ended up going on an ATV trail that dead ended, but got back to the trail I knew. I went north and was amazed at the amount of spring vegetation and the wild flowers in bloom. The biggest disappointment in the ride was the middle river crossing. With the winter rain Arizona had gotten, the river had become wider and the crossing just). I had another first on my trip after the earthquake—an encounter with a rattlesnake. I have experienced snakes on trails, usually as they slither away, and one or two times I’ve bunny hopped over them. I came around a bend and was about to do a dip in the trail when I saw a snake curled up in a striking stance. I held up and when I did I heard the telltale rattle. I backed off and threw some rocks to scare it away, but I still heard the rattle when I tried to ride on through the dip. The snake was under a bush hiding, but when I threw more rocks he eventually went on his merry way.
By the time I got back to the Black Canyon parking lot I was already tired—but I was only a little over half way done. I then went back and took the western option. I got a little confused and the river was really washed out. I had to walk around in the sand to figure out where to pick up the trail. I ended the day with my first long mountain bike ride of the year.
Random points;
  • The southern trail continues, but you can see it a lot better coming from the north, not coming from the southern trail head.
  • The gates on the eastern trail were a little annoying, mostly because I was very tired. Not sure why they are needed.
  • I do like this trail, but I was amazed yet again, how slow your avg. speed is because of all the turning.
  • Next time I do the trail I might start even farther south and just ride to the river and back.


AZ Trip-Day 2 Phoenix Mountain Preserve

For Easter Sunday, I wanted to be able to have dinner with my aunt and uncle, my two cousins and their families. I knew I couldn’t spend all day on the trails. I had ridden the Phoenix Mountain Preserve more than any other trail system in the Phoenix area, so I knew my way around the park. Plus, it was only about seven minutes from my cousin’s house.
I got up early and was on the trail by 8 o’clock. As usual when it comes to Phoenix, there were tons of hikers. I must have passed 70 throughout the day; everyone was nice and courteous, which was always good to see on a shared use trail. I started at Dewey Dream again, which is the middle of the park, and decided to do the eastern half, which has more trails and variety. As I went along, I was never lost, but sometimes I wasn’t quite sure which trail I was on. I ended up going on the 302 toward the south end of the park, which has some pretty steep drop-offs that caused me a scary moment or two. I had to walk down two of them—better safe than sorry. I went up the 8A trail, which was where I dealt with the most hiker traffic. I got some encouragement from the hikers—or was it just strange looks?—as a mountain biker going up a really steep climb. I did pretty well, but I had to walk some of the rocky stair steps. After that I worked my way to the eastern end of the T100 trail, turning around when I realized I needed to get back soon after. I took the fenced trail that parallels the T100, which I think is the smoothest in the park. I ended up trying to do a rocky cut-through, where I had my only wreck of the day. I got hung up and couldn’t unclip—and the park boundary fence made a nice purple tattoo on my ass. I got back to my cousin’s house within 1 minute of the time I said I would be there—go me :)
Side note: At Easter dinner, I experienced my first earthquake. It was in northern Mexico and was a shallow quake, which I guess reverberates more and allowed it to be felt all the way in San Diego and Phoenix. It felt exactly like the effect of the ground “swaying” when you get off a cruise ship. At first I thought I had low blood sugar from the hard ride, but then the pool had water sloshing out of it.


AZ Trip-Day 1 Dewey Dream Park

This was my third trip to Arizona to get some good mountain biking miles in before spring came to the East Coast. Usually, I go in February or early March, but this year since I was attending a wedding in Vegas April 10th, I moved my trip to coincide with the wedding. In 2009, I had to forgo all but one day of riding since I got the flu and ended up with a temperature of 104 degrees. This year I was hoping for a better trip.
Day 1 Dewey Dream Park
After getting to AZ late on Friday, I leisurely put together my bike Saturday morning, got the bike rack set up on the rental car and decided to do a shakedown ride with Kennedy, my cousin’s daughter. I had ridden with Kennedy two years prior, but we rode on the street and a paved trail. I decided this year to try to take her on a light foray into mountain biking. We went to Dewey Dream Park, which is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. We did some of the trails, which were harder than I thought they’d be, and considering that her bike did not have low gearing or shocks, she did fairly well. We rode a little bit on the trails and the paved bike trail that goes along the park. All-in-all, it was a good little spin—I got to spend some quality time with Kennedy and make sure that the bike was working well after being taken apart fully and then put together again.