I recently took a winter getaway vacation to the Phoenix area of Arizona and after fatbiking snowy singletrack for the last few months, I was ready to do some mountain biking on dirt again. It has been a long cold winter here in Minnesota and a ride through the desert with the warm sun shining down would be a welcome and much needed change. It would also be an opportunity to introduce my wife to mountain biking, which she has never done before.
TripAdvisor and Yelp, I contacted Arizona's premier adventure tour company, Arizona Outback Adventures. For the best possible ride experience I wanted to get set up with quality mountain bike rentals and expert recommendations of where to ride. This would be my wife's first time out on the singletrack and I wanted her to be confident with the bike, trails and riding conditions while still being challenged making it a positive experience for her. Annemarie and the rest of the staff at Arizona Outback Adventures made this all possible.
There were several locations nearby to ride with varying terrain and technical difficulty so the AOA staff consulted us and helped select the appropriate trails to match our riding criteria. Coming from Minnesota, I didn't want to do a lot of difficult rapid elevation climbs and because my wife would be riding with me also, advanced technical trails would not be a good choice either. We wanted to ride through the desert, take in the spectacular scenery and be challenged while still having some elevation gain and fast downhills. The AOA staff recommended McDowell Mountain Regional Park which includes the Pemberton Trail and many connecting trails and washes in the area. Then they supplied us with maps, quality well maintained mountain bikes (Giant XTC 29'er w/ front suspension) for the type of terrain we would be riding, and a bike rack to get them there since it would be about a 40 minute drive to reach the park.
After paying the $6 entry fee to the park, we headed toward the Trailhead Staging Area. The scenery was already breathtaking with all of the desert vegetation and the McDowell Mountains in the distance. We decided to ride the 15.4 mile Pemberton Trail in a clockwise loop through the park.
We took it slow during the first 8 miles to take in all of the scenery as we drew closer to the McDowell Mountains, which became about 650 feet of climbing. The climb was fun and challenging in some of the rocky steeper areas but not too difficult for my wife who is a novice mountain biker. She had a great time on her first mountain biking expedition. The only thing that intimidated her was coming across a large rattlesnake that was only two feet off the trail under some scrub brush five minutes into our ride. It warned us with its rattle and quickly scurried away into the brush. We kept our eyes peeled for more of them after that brief encounter.
Below is the RideWithGPS track of our ride with geo-tagged photos. To view all of our photos, visit my Flickr Set, Mountain Biking McDowell Mountain Regional Park and Map for geo-location of each photo.
To get a video overview of the Pemberton Trail, watch the YouTube video below.
If you plan on visiting the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and want to get in some great mountain biking, I highly recommend Arizona Outback Adventures. The bike rentals, consultation and experienced staff recommendations were all top-notch. AOA not only has bike rentals (MTB, Road, Hybrid and Childrens), but has guided Mountain Bike Adventure Tours and Half-Day Mountain Biking Tours. Escape the cold for warm desert singletrack with the help of Arizona Outback Adventures!
For more information on Arizona Outback Adventures, visit their website or give them a call at 1-866-455-1601.