Western Spirit Sonoran Desert Tour Opinions?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Western Spirit Sonoran Desert Tour Opinions?

    Hey all!

    I hail from NJ and love Mountain Biking in the West. I took a great, great tour with Western Spirit this past October to the St. George/ Gooseberry area and an Arizona tour has now caught my eye...

    I attached the ride schedule (sorry I know it is long) but could I get some local opinions? These guys put on a first-class tour and I expect a great 5 days in the saddle, but wanted some input as vacation days are few and the cost of the trip is definetly a couple of bucks....

    Also looking at getting out there in April...

    Also, when preparing to ride in St. George I found a great website- utahmountainbiking.com is there a similar site for Arizona (Google didn't turn up anything).

    Thank you!


    This morning we'll spend an enjoyable 2-3 hours riding in Tucson Mountain Park. The park has many fun singletracks that are open to mountain bikes. This southwestern terrain has sharp volcanic peaks covered with numerous species of cactus. The Tucson valley is a high desert, once the floor of an ancient inland sea, and is surrounded by four mountain ranges, the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas and Tucsons. On this trip, we'll ride the best singletrack of the region. In addition to the characteristic Saguaros, there are also chollas, barrel cactus, prickly pear and ocotillo. The Tucson area is well known for its bird watching potential and at certain times of the year over 200 species of birds have been identified in the vicinity. After lunch, our smooth singletrack loop swoops in and out of arroyos finally returning us to the shade of our lunch tree. It's the perfect singletrack to warm us up for the more technical riding in the mountains. We'll load into the van and shuttle to the Santa Rita Mountains to our camp for the next three nights.
    TOTAL MILEAGE - 16-20 miles


    Out here in the shadow of Mount Wrightson, we will do several loops from camp. The morning ride will take us though limestone cave country, and traverse in and out of old growth oak trees. We'll have a mid-morning stop at the historic gold mining establishment of Kentucky Camp and learn about the trials and tribulations of the early gold miners. We'll return heading south on the Arizona Trail back to our camp for lunch. The afternoon ride takes us up to the newly created Link Trail. This section of trail follows an old water flume built by the ambitious gold miners in the early 1900s. Their hope was that through "advanced water technology" they would be able to recover trace amounts of gold that were previously not extractable. Needless to say, no one made much money, but they did leave us a great swooping and zooming trail that leads us right back to camp. "Downhill in both directions this flume trail!"
    TOTAL MILEAGE - 12-25 miles


    The Arizona Trail is a singletrack in the making that will eventually run the entire length of the state (approx. 800 miles). Currently the trail is 90% complete and many sections provide excellent riding. From our camp, we'll head up the dirt road for a couple of miles before intersecting a great section of the trail. Here, we'll head north through historic mining claims to Kentucky Camp and early gold mining outposts. The trail rollercoasters through beautiful woods and grasslands offering occasional views of Mt. Wrightson, which rises abruptly 5,000 feet from the desert floor. From Kentucky Camp we'll stay on the trail and climb up to Granite Mountain before rolling along to Forest Road 62 near Greaterville. We'll circle around and return to our same camp in Gardiner Canyon with plenty of time for a splash in the granite walled creek.
    TOTAL MILEAGE - 20 miles


    After a hearty breakfast, we'll load into the van for a short shuttle to the highlight ride of the trip, "Fantasy Island". In one square mile of land, the local mountain bikers have installed over 20 miles of singletrack. The trails twist between chollo cactus and roll through deep arroyos steep enough to coast up the other side. The trail tread is fairly smooth, firm packed soil. The technical nature of the riding comes from maneuvering your bike through the tight turns and navigating between the pricklies. If you don't have fun here, you're a fun hater. In the ride afterglow, we'll load up and head to our camp at Catalina State Park.
    TOTAL MILEAGE - 15 miles


    Today's ride is an awesome overview of the week's riding. Pedaling the singletrack of the 50 Year Trail, we'll overlook Oro Valley with the backdrop of the western slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Romero Canyon Wilderness Area. The winding singletrack culminates in the local's favorite section called the "chutes". We'll be riding out and back today, winding in and out of the saguaros, prickly pear and cholla cactus. After lunch we'll have an opportunity to take showers at our campsite before we load up for our return to the bike shop in Tucson.
    TOTAL MILEAGE - 16 miles
    I guarantee I will never, ever be accused of bringing sexy back...

  2. #2
    Tucson, AZ
    Reputation: azepicriderandrunner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    I do not know/ever heard of the tour operator, but it sounds like you are hitting up some of the best singletrack down in southern AZ.On Day 4, I would skip Fantasy Island and do some more AZT singletrack out near the Cienaga Corridor/Colosal Cave, if they let you alter the schedule. The rides you have can be done with a rental too... if you want to do it on your own, I usually recommend CJ at this bed and breakfast for out-of-towners that want to enjoy Tucson. CJ and a few other Tucsonans would be happy to help you out with trail directions, etc, and possibly even join you for a ride or 2.


  3. #3
    Old Fart at Play
    Reputation: Titus Maximus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    That's some good riding and early April is generally a great time to bike in the Sonoran Desert. If your into the group tour thing, Western Spirit is one of the best as far as I've heard.
    If you might go for a more one to one or small group experience, or a more flexible itinerary that can be adapted to your skill and fitness level, then Chad's suggestion of hooking up with CJ and MaryEllen at Way Out West is a good one. You can roll out onto some of the best trails in Southern Arizona from their back yard. There is also a local guide service that I can recommend that can show you all these areas and more.
    For a more economical, bare bones experience, you could just come out and hook up with members of this forum. There is always someone willing to show a visitor around. You also might find a ride with the local IMBA clubs.
    SAMBA, for instance, has a ride every Saturday (occasionally Sunday), often to places a little more exotic and off the beaten path than the tour companies. Come ride with us. The only scheduled rides with SDMB, that I know of, are on the last Saturday of the month. Another option if you have extra time, is do the Western Spirit trip and ride with SAMBA, SDMB, or locals, before or after the tour.
    As far as web sites, your Google is as good as mine. There is nothing that I know of that compares to the utahmoutainbiking.com site. The IMBA club sites mentioned above have some trail maps and descriptions and there is always the trail reviews section of this forum.
    P. S. If you can come a month earlier, 3/12-16, you might take a look at the "sticky" at the top of the AZ forum or http://rockyroad5050.wordpress.com/1...ng-fling-2008/
    Last edited by Titus Maximus; 02-18-2008 at 11:42 AM.
    "... displays the social skills of a barrel cactus." - TNC

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    the above listed 2 sites and this site are probably the best for finding rides in the Tucson area. The Utahmountainbiking is the best there is for a biking tool site. Nothing does compare to that site.
    As for what you are riding in 5 days I like. I would agree with Chad and skip Fantasy and do AZ trail in the Colossal Cave area. Great, great singletrack. You might like the Tucson Mountain Park area a lot more than Fantasy.................How was the St. George trip?? I have heard good things about this group and am thinking of doing that for my birthday in October.

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Thank you for the replies!!!!

    This really helped me out- I felt so much more comfortable with the info they had on the St. George trip, but based on my last experience Western Spirit just simply puts on a great, great trip . Unfortunately, the April Tour does not have any interested parties so it seems my best option is to go in October... March is cutting it a bit tight as the winter doesn't allow the saddle time necessary to get the most out of 5 days of riding.

    As far my experience with Western Spirit for the Gooseberry Trip- outstanding. I still talk about that trip. Trails are amazing- Bearclaw Poppy/Stucki Springs, Goulds, Gould's Rim, Hurricane, JEM and last but not least Gooseberry. I even traveled solo and found some good friends along the way.
    I guarantee I will never, ever be accused of bringing sexy back...

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004


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    I guarantee I will never, ever be accused of bringing sexy back...

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