7 Best Road Biking Routes in Arizona

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The silhouette of a bicyclist against a sunset

One of the best ways to explore a new area is through cycling. You’re in control with the wind in your face and the freedom to adapt your ride however you like. Whether you’re hoping to spot wildlife or enjoy the scenery, the best road biking in Arizona can help you accomplish your goal.

Let’s look at seven of the best places to go road biking in Arizona.

Why Arizona Is Perfect for Cycling

There are many reasons we think Arizona is the perfect place for cycling. Let’s get the most obvious reason out of the way first: the weather. Most of the state averages almost 300 days of sun a year. This means you can go road biking practically every day. 

If biking in the blistering heat isn’t appealing, you can always head to cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Plus, it’s only too hot to be out for a few months per year. The rest of the time, the weather is great. 

A straight flat road leading to mountains in Arizona where there are some of the best road biking paths.

Beyond the obvious reasons to love cycling here, there are hundreds of miles of paths across the state. The Central Arizona Project is a 336-mile canal that snakes its way from Colorado to Tucson. There are also hundreds of miles of car-free paths, including the Loop, which is 100+ miles of bike paths that add up to 131 miles. 

Arizona is also full of breathtaking landscapes. Among the Saguaro cactuses, the red rocks of Sedona, or mountain peaks surrounding Phoenix, it’s easy to see why we think Arizona has some of the best road biking.

The 7 Best Routes in Arizona for Road Biking

The number of road biking options in Arizona can feel overwhelming. However, we’ve done some research to narrow it down to the seven best road biking routes in Arizona. Let’s get started!

#1. Mt. Lemmon Hwy, Tucson

Where to Start: 

Many cyclists start their journey on Mt. Lemmon Highway by parking at the Safeway Shopping Center in Tucson. However, you can easily start your ride from anywhere along the highway in Tucson.

About the Ride:

Depending on how long you want to go, this trail takes about 4.5 to 5.5 hours to complete the 41 to 60 miles. Over the total distance of the path, you climb almost 7,000 feet in elevation.

You start in the deserts filled with saguaro cactuses and find pine trees and cool air at the peak. While the climb may be tough, the descent makes it easier to enjoy the scenery. Watch out for falling or fallen rocks and keep your speed under control. 

Difficulty Rating:

This is a challenging road biking route. You go from battling the heat at the lower elevations to thin air as you climb. The almost 7,000 feet of elevation is serious business and not likely something a beginner should try.

A cyclist on an empty road at sunrise steadily climbs an incline of a best biking path.

#2. Bartlett Lake Road

Where to Start:

Because this is an out-and-back road biking route, you can start anywhere, which can help you increase or decrease your mileage and give you more control of your route. 

About the Ride:

Cyclists love Bartlett Lake Road because of its flexibility in distances. By parking at various locations along the road, cyclists can get the mileage they want; however, those doing the entire route will climb 3,720 feet over approximately 46.5 miles.

Once you reach Bartlett Lake, you can stop in at the marina and use the restroom or fill your water bottle. Many cyclists and triathletes will take a quick dip in the lake to cool off during their ride.

Difficulty Rating:

Doing the entire trail is very challenging, but riders can do shorter or flatter segments to control the difficulty because it’s an out-and-back trail. 

A woman enjoys the landscape of Flagstaff, Arizona with green ferns and mountains in the distance

#3. Lake Mary Road, Flagstaff

Where to Start:

You can start your ride from anywhere in Flagstaff. Locals typically start from their homes, but there are plenty of parking options via pull-outs or Forest Service roads. 

About the Ride:

This is easily one of the best road biking routes in Arizona. While the scenery is delightful all year round, riders can enjoy the wildflowers in full bloom during the spring. The trail also has no traffic lights, massive biking lanes, and plenty of options for stopping along the route.

The 55-mile trail is along County Road 3 on the southeast part of Flagstaff. Riders love the flexibility of choosing their route length. Whether you’re training for a big race or just gliding along, the scenery will keep your attention. Stroll through the tall ponderosa forest or cruise along the shores of Lake Mary; enjoy every mile you can on this trail!

Difficulty Rating:

Doing the entire 55-mile trail with only 1700 feet of elevation will never be easy, no matter how flat it is. Small sections can be flat and easy, but miles 18-20 and 38-40 boast the largest inclines.

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#4. Tortilla Flats Road, Superstition Mountains

Where to Start:

Cyclists often park at Red Mountain Park to start their route. There’s ample parking and facilities there. Parking here puts several places to fill up water or grab a snack on your route.

About the Ride:

This nearly 60-mile biking route is a fantastic option for late fall, winter, or early spring. Trying to do this route in the summer can be difficult as countless boaters head to Canyon Lake. While the road is in excellent condition, it has a very tight shoulder, making it uncomfortable to navigate boat traffic.

Riders who go in March and April get to enjoy the natural beauty of blooming wildflowers. With almost 4,000 feet of descent and plenty of sharp turns, riders must watch their speed and not overdo it on the brakes.

Difficulty Rating:

This is a hard trail due to the tight shoulder, decline, and curves. Novice cyclists may want to avoid this one and leave it for the more experienced riders.

A vibrant sunrise comes up over Superstition Mountains and towering saguaro cacti dominate the landscape.

#5. The Loop, Tucson

Where to Start:

With over 131 miles of paths, you can practically start anywhere in Tucson. Many start in Craycroft to the east or at the Santa Cruz River to the south. 

About the Ride:

Riders love the seemingly endless shared-use paths, which means seemingly unlimited possibilities for your ride. It’s a car-free zone, so you won’t have to battle traffic as you travel across Tucson. 

Remember that you won’t have to worry about traffic, but watch for walkers, joggers, and slower riders than you. Also, look out for sand and debris that washes up after heavy rains. These materials are tricky to navigate, especially if the terrain is unexpected.

Difficulty Rating:

It’s a very easy trail with no major elevation changes during the route. With so many options for starting and stopping, riders can enjoy rides of varying lengths that are relatively flat.

#6. Gates Pass, Phoenix

Where to Start:

Many riders park at the University of Arizona to start their ride. Some start at the top of Gates Pass, but it’s an intense climb back up.

About the Ride:

This is the go-to ride for those on the west side of Tucson. If you make it to the top of Gates Pass, your reward is to rest with some impressive views. You can experience just about every kind of riding terrain on this route. There are flat spots, rolling hills, and some short, killer climbs up to Gates Pass.

The entire trail is just over 30 miles, and you should plan for about 2 hours to finish. The 2,100 feet elevation change can be rather intense for many riders. Riders looking to extend their ride can ride over to McCain Loop and add miles to their trip.

Cycling at Gates Pass, Tucson, Arizona

Difficulty Rating:

This is a hard biking route, and many refer to it as “The Tuesday Ride.” It’s shorter and intense than other rides in the area. However, it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to this route due to the speeds.

#7. Usery Pass Road, Mesa

Where to Start:

Riders commonly ride Power Road and McDowell Road in Mesa and head toward Red Mountain. There are many food, beverage, and restroom stops.

About the Ride:

Usery Pass Road is for you if you want a ride through lush desert scenery and rolling hills. Most riders prefer taking this path in the spring to enjoy the wildflowers and other desert plants. The trail is popular among Phoenix cyclists as they can adjust their rides based on their training.

This moderate difficulty trail takes approximately 1.25 to 1.5 hours to complete. The route is typically part of several cycling races and triathlons. Riding along the Salt River for a quarter of the ride can be exciting, especially during the wet season when wildflowers are blooming.

Difficulty Rating:

Very little elevation gain and wide shoulders make this trail moderately difficult. Riders seeking 0-10 mile rides will face few hills or difficulties, but 10-20 mile rides have slightly more difficult hills to climb during their ride.

Enjoy Road Biking in Arizona

The best road biking routes around Arizona aren’t hard to find. The state is teeming with beautiful terrain and passionate cyclers. Whether you’re a native or a tourist bringing your bike and looking for a local place to ride, you can easily find it here. 

Do you have a ride that you think should be added to the best road biking in Arizona list?

1 comment
  1. Hi, great article and we just got back from Tucson where we found a spot next winter for our new 5th wheel. We’re avid bikers from Portland OR and found an RV park right next to the Loop. One typo though in your list, #6 in Phoenix mentions “University of Arizona” which is in Tucson! Thanks!

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