Tucson Mountain Park on two wheels

Well, only a third of Tucson Mountain Park (TMP) - but the fun third. Camping at the Gilbert Ray campground inside the park is really convinent for riding since there are quite a few trails that start nearby or even inside the campground. Last year, we'd managed to get completly lost on some of the trails to the south east of the campground. This year, armed with a better map and some intel from the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists website (http://www.sdmb.org/), we knew where we were going and what trails we wanted to ride. We were hoping for about 4 hours total and knew there were plenty of trails avalible. It would just depend on how our legs felt.

First up on the agenda was Brown Mountain - a fairly short loop just to the west of the campground. But short does not always mean quick - this trail had a reputation for being fun and really challenging. We took the recommened counter clockwise route around the trail and I am happy we did. The first half of the trail meandered along the north base of the mountain, with some small rock gardens and some winding climbs. We saw a pair of coyotes resting in the shade as we pedaled along, hiding among the saguaros and prickly pairs. Then the trail turned up, a steep, switchbacked up with tight turns, loose terrain and rock gardens. I didn't make all the switchbacks, and had to re-do one set, but we finally got to the top. A nice, expansive view of the park and cities to the south was the treat as the trail traversed the top of the mountain. It was rolling, with some fast downhills broken up with tight switchbacks and steep climbs. The mountain dropped away from the trail, with a long fall only prevented by the cacti lining the trail. Finally, after a few ups and downs - the rocks turned pink and the trailed turned downhill. I'd seen hikers on those switchbacks when we started the ride. It was steep as it looked - I walked about a third of the switchbacks because of the steepness and the loose gravel. But the trail was fun - it took us about an hour to do the loop and I could have ridden it a few more times!
At the start of the climb on Brown Mountain Trail - TMP

After Brown Mountain, time for some easy trails. We headed north on Cougar trail, then north so more on Orcutt until it entered the National Park. Being good mountain bikers, we stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view and admire the cacti. Then back on the bikes for the rest of ti ride. A few more out and backs on Cougar and Orcutt, then up Gates pass trail. My goal was to ride to the top of Gates Pass - since we wouldn't be taking that road in the Turtle. We got just to the base of the really steep section of trail, about a 1/4 mile from the top, and I was done. The trail was really loose, my legs were tired and I was running out of water. Time to beat a retreat back to the camper. We took the easy and fun trails down by Tucson Studios, managing to aviod the herds of horses, and meandered bak to the campground. Once again, TMP's secrets elluded us - there it plenty more single track to be explored - just finding the best route over there from the campground will be the issue. Just gives us an excuse to come back!


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