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.