When most people think of Arizona, they think of saguaro cactus and a blooming desert, kind of like this:

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Arizona is actually very rich in singletrack, offering a great variety of riding. I’ve been lucky enough to ride and race in Tuscon, Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Each offer their own charms, so in this post, I wanted to quickly tell you about the different styles of riding that I’ve experienced in Arizona, and there are definitely types of trails I have yet to explore in AZ! Admittedly, most of it has been through racing. One reason that I love mountain bike racing is because it takes me to so many beautiful areas of the country, and I’m able to cover a lot of ground on two wheels and breathe it all in.

I was in Tucson for the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo in February. Last year was my first time to Tucson. Growing up in Albuquerque, NM, I’ve ridden the desert. The Tuscon desert, and especially the race course, is known for the cholla. Pronounced “choya”

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It looks so soft and furry. One wrong turn off the singletrack, and you become a cholla porcupine. Painful and difficult to get out.

Not to mention any other kind of cactus you can think of…

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Cholla trees? That’s my friend, Shannon Gibson pre-riding with me.

The singletrack in the Fountain Hills area around Phoenix is similar, but the cacti aren’t quite as aggressive, and there are more flowers. The first photo I posted is from the Phoenix desert.

Going to the other end of Phoenix and riding South Mountain offers even less cacti, but introduces loose, sharp rocks and lotso’ fun, technical riding. Bring your suspension and Ergon grips!

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This past weekend, I had a great time racing in Prescott, AZ at the Whiskey 50. It’s only about 2 hours from Phoenix, but the terrain is completely different. Suddenly, you find yourself amidst pine trees and loamy mountain dirt.

On the drive up, the land starts to change…

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You think, “could I really have just been in the desert?”

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You can smell the pine trees.

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The race was really fun and went well. It was a nice change of pace having been in Southern California the previous week. Read more about the actual race itself here. We dropped down into Skull Valley where the terrain changed yet again, full of sage.

If you head NE about an hour and a half, you’ll find yourself in another riding mecca of Arizona – Sedona. Desert? Yes…. but not like Tuscon desert. Riding in Sedona is a lot like Moab! Red rocks and ledgy, technical riding.

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I haven’t ridden in Sedona in almost 5 years. Sad!!

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My teammate, Yuki, was able to get out to Sedona after the Whiskey 50 and took this rad photo!

So there you have it. When you go to play in the Arizona wilderness, you can have it all!

-Sonya