Warm weather is a perfect time to get out and moving fast enough to have the wind whip by you. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in a road ride or a mountain adventure, Oro Valley has many options for all levels of cycling enthusiasts. I’ve listed two of my favorite rides that I think anyone can enjoy, utilizing Big Wash Trail and The Loop.
The mountain bike ride begins at the Big Wash trailhead off Ranch Vistoso. This trail is enjoyable from the first moment you begin your ride. It weaves back and forth and has a lot of fun S-curves. There are a few sandy wash crossings which can make it difficult for a beginner to remain in their saddle. After opening and closing the cattle gate, you will recognize that you are in a flat area perfect for desert cattle grazing. The next challenge on the trail is a rocky uphill. The wonderful expanses of well used smooth trail make every challenge worth it for the beginner and add to the fun for the experienced rider. On this ride you will pass dense cholla cactus forests of many types, hills and valleys, and you may pass cattle, too, as you continue along the windy trails. In many locations, the views of the desert, mountains, valleys and city are so breathtaking you want to stop to capture the memories in a picture. This ride usually takes an hour and a half to cover 12.5 miles. An experienced rider could go much further in the same amount of time and a beginner would cover less territory, but any way you experience this area makes it worth the effort. It is beautiful from the beginning to the end. The whole way, you feel like you are on the greatest ride on earth.
For those who prefer a road ride, an 8-mile flat ride awaits starting at Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Park at the intersection of Magee and Shannon roads in Pima County. This park contains beautiful artwork that memorializes and celebrates the life of Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the January 8, 2011, shooting at Gabby Giffords’ Congress on your corner event. Going east on the CDO Shared Use Path, you will pass through a tree-lined section of path adjacent to the Omni Tucson National golf course. Wave to the golfers overhead as they pass over the golf bridges between holes of the course. From La Cholla Boulevard to La Canada Drive, the car-free path passes through desert landscape and several ranches. Upon entering Oro Valley proper at the La Canada bridge, the path passes the Oro Valley Country Club; enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass as you travel by.
Passing underneath First Avenue and behind Home Depot, you will then encounter Steam Pump Ranch, the Town’s historic gem. On Saturdays, a bustling Farmer’s Market takes place at the ranch. Restroom facilities and water are also available if you would like to stop off the loop for a moment. Crossing the CDO on a bridge behind Basis High School, you then make a right turn close to the octotillo ramada. From there, the path goes under Oracle Road and puts you at the road entrance to Catalina State Park. On the return trip, examples of Oro Valley ranch brands are visible when you cross under the Oracle bridge. This ride allows connections to both other shared use paths and bike routes in Oro Valley, as well as to the Pima County Loop.
The adventure, beauty and excitement awaiting you in and around Oro Valley abound. The spring is the best time to experience it. We hope these stories inspire you to get outdoors and enjoy what awaits you not far from your front door.
Please remember to always take plenty of water on any outdoor excursion. Dehydration due to lack of water will quickly change the fun to something very different. A snack is also advised for any adventures taking more than two hours. Have fun and be prepared Oro Valley!
Nancy Ellis is an assistant recreation manager for the Town of Oro Valley.