Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Arizona Black Canyon Trail mountain bike ride in one day, on a singlespeed

The Black Canyon Trail is one of my favorite Arizona desert rides.  Typically it’s done as an in-n-out, a shuttle or a loop utilizing a nearby road.  The trail is well built and perfect for a singlespeed.  The access is easy and trail access is plentiful not far from I-17.  If you have driven this route before don’t think that you have already seen all the scenery around there.  It is spectacular along the trail and the builders planned the route well to take advantage of the canyons and vistas.  More information is available at http://www.bctaz.com/

We chose to shuttle the entire route north to south (hwy 69 to hwy 74) and mountain bike it in one day.  Don’t let the word shuttle fool you.  You will definitely end up lower than you started but there is still a lot of climbing in between and you may want to take a bike light.

The trail is well marked but there are a couple of sections where the route crosses or gets on 4wd roads that could be confusing.

My favorite sections were Antelope Creek and south of Black Canyon City but the rest is all great riding as well.  The section south of New River Road is not that fun unless you just want to do the entire thing.  There is some more singletrack north of highway 69 and there are plans to eventually go all the way to Prescott but at this time the best northern start is at 69.

Jeff Hemperley and I started at highway 69 and Old Sycamore Road.  There is a fire station there.  We rode up Old Sycamore Road and caught the trail on the north side of hwy 69.  We passed the singletrack the first time and had to backtrack.  It wasn’t marked well there.  When the Trail crosses Antelope Creek Road it is a bit confusing.  Just continue straight across the road onto a 4wd road that veers to the right and look for the trail just past that.  Eventually you cross the mesa and then descend on the Antelope creek section which is sweeeeeeet. 

There is a fair amount of ups and down as you are heading south through the Bumble Bee area on this section of the trail.  The trail is easy to navigate until north of Black Canyon City where it gets on and off of 4wd roads.  Just watch for the trail like a hawk so you don’t miss it and end up in Black Canyon City.

You will cross the Agua Fria River wash multiple times.  At certain times of the year there may be a lot of water to ford or it may even be impassable.  West of Black Canyon city there is a spur to the left going to a trailhead but you want to go right.  If you need to resupply this is the place to the left.  It is a relatively short ride to a store in Black Canyon City. 

The next section that heads west away from Black Canyon City then veering south is one of my favorites.  This also has the biggest climb on the route.   

Follow the trail signs and you eventually get to the Agua Fria River crossing.  This can be kind of confusing.  On the other side of the sandy crossing go left on the old road and watch for the trail on the right.  Two trails climb out of the wash and then join again at the top.  Take either one but I like the right better.

After crossing the Table Mesa road you will start the last significant climb.  After that there are still ups and downs but not as big.  There is a very cool section with gigantic saguaros with arms point in all kinds of crazy directions.  North of the New River road there is a “Y” left is better, going right puts you on an old 4wd road.

The last section before reaching the New River Road is fun and is well marked but does require some navigating where it goes on and off of 4wd roads.

The section south between New River Road and the Carefree Hwy 74 is kind of flat and boring.  If you were going to cut anything off of this ride it would be that section.  We ended up riding most of this section in the dark and it made it harder to navigate the mess of old roads.  Starting just a half hour sooner would have avoided any night riding but it made it fun.

Great trail and a great ride!