5 Star Route / Ridden & Reviewed by JoshV
This route is just a recipe of perfection including ten miles of the Arizona Trail (an intimate, flowy, single track experience that will let you fall in love with the desert), a stop at the Boulders (“Joshua Tree” type geological rock figures just begging your imagination to name them), and a sweet backdrop of Black Mountain. There is plenty of wildlife along with the “not so wild” life (cows and horses). Sprinkle in the evolving, changing fauna — from prickly pears to chollas, to yuccas … and you’ve got one heck of a delicious day.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk [what this means …]
- Technical Riding Difficulty: Moderate
The roads leading to the AZT trailhead are smooth, hard-packed dirt. The singletrack on this portion of the AZT is smooth but does have it’s ups and downs as well as tight corners and maneuvering around cactus arms.
- Navigation Challenge & Risk: Moderate
the AZT can be difficult to pick up in spots and is not always well demarcated. Highly recommend an accurate GPS route for the singletrack portion so as not to get turned around in the desert.
- Remote Risk: Moderate
The route is in a remote location with very spotty cell phone reception.
When we like to ride this …
Excellent ride during the coldest time of year in the desert. I did this in December and the weather was beautiful. During the shoulder months you could definitely catch some heat so be sure to pack enough water. I would not recommend riding this route during the summer months (June-September).
For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.
This route begins about 20 miles east of Florence and is fun from beginning to end! The drive in to the start on the Florence-Kelvin Highway has one of the highlights of the day – a crested saguaro cactus!
Saguaros sometimes grow in odd or misshapen forms. The growing tip occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate. Though these crested saguaros are somewhat rare, over 25 have been found within the boundaries of Saguaro National Park. Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of a lightning strike or freeze damage. At this point we simply do not know what causes this rare, crested form. [National Park Service]
Miles 0 to 20.5 / Bakersville and Freeman Roads / Gravel
Starting at about 2500 feet elevation, Barkerville Road. is a smooth, hard-packed dirt road that leads you on a steady incline of 1 to 2% to the high point of the route [~ mile 16.5] at just over 4000 ft. The beautiful desert landscape will keep you visually stimulated during your ascent as Black Mountain in the distance draws nearer.
Miles 20.5 to 33 / Arizona Trail / Single-track & double-track
This sector [the Arizona Trail Passage 15: Tortilla Mountains, from the Freedman Road trailhead] is the highlight of the route, more than 10 miles of Arizona Trail single track that winds and weaves through pristine Sonoran desert of Saguaros, Prickly Pears, Chollas, and Yucca variants. It feels as if you’re riding through a desert botanical garden!
The AZT is one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S., an elite group that includes the Appalachian and Pacific Crest pathways. It is a complete non-motorized path, stretching 800 diverse miles across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, forests, communities and people. [Arizona Trail Association]
After a quick jaunt on double-track, you’ll stay on single-track until Tecolote Road at mile 33. The trail is mostly on a downhill grade and pretty smooth, especially at the beginning. You don’t want to get going too quickly though, as the cactus impede the trail like arms at the corners. Wind and weave your way with happy caution it. Towards the end of the singletrack, you’ll climb the side of a small mountain (hill?) which gets a bit chunky but other than that, the terrain is pure.
Miles 33 to 38.5 / Tecolote Road / Dirt Road
At mile 33, go left on an unnamed dirt road. This is a short connector to Tecolote road, where you go right. It is a dirt road leading back to the Florence-Kelvin Highway that feels like a wash most of the way and can be quite sandy. There were a couple of times where I didn’t have enough speed going through and had to dismount.
Miles 38.5 to Finish / Florence-Kelvin Highway/ Gravel to Paved
The final stretch of road, the Florence-Kelvin Highway, is easy-going as it’s smooth and downhill. You’ll pass the Joshua tree like Boulders area at about mile 42. Then, you’re quickly back to the start!
If you want (and we recommend it!) to explore the Boulders, go right onto Cochran Road at ~ mile 42. In a couple of hundred yards you will come to a parking lot at the base of the Boulders. Note, in recent years The Boulders have been vandalized with graffiti. (It has since been cleaned up.) If you see any illegal activity, please contact the local sheriff’s office via 911.
Food / Water
Recommend 40 mm tires or larger.