Already boasting some of the best road riding in the country, Arizona has quietly emerged as a top gravel riding destination in the United States. You will spend six wonderful days riding some of the best routes the state has to offer on this Tucson winter bike tour. You’ll quickly realize why this is a top cycling destination and gravel riders paradise.
The first two days of the trip will be in bike friendly Tucson where you will explore the Desert Museum and see some of the local wildlife and birds of prey that call Arizona home. You will also pedal among saguaro cacti as you ride the iconic Cactus Loop drive. Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran desert so savor this ride!
We then head south to Patagonia. This quaint little wild west town will be our hub for the next three nights. Here you will experience what makes this region so special for gravel riders. Nestled about 20 miles north of the Mexican border in what’s known as the Sky Islands area, Patagonia boasts hundreds of miles of gravel trails. The area is becoming home to a thriving gravel scene as well as local wineries and a few breweries. While here we will be able to explore over 120 miles of mostly traffic free gravel routes. We’ll also enjoy a guided bird watching tour and enjoy wine tasting at a local favorite winery.
At first glance, it may seem like relatively low daily mileage compared to our rail-trail or road bike tours. However, gravel miles pack a bit more of a punch than expected. The unpredictable nature of gravel combined with climbing in the mountains can be slower, and time-wise equals out to about 2-3 times a road or rail-trail mile. Even with some of the shortest ride days on this trip, you’ll end the day feeling accomplished and ready for some time out of the saddle.
From epic gravel routes with short punchy climbs to longer sustained climbs and fast flats with jaw dropping vistas to some road riding surrounded by the iconic saguaro cactus, you can expect a little of everything on this unique tour.
This tour takes place on gravel roads with varied surfaces and we recommend registering for this trip if you are an experienced rider. It is not recommended for beginner riders and is not designed to replicate rail-trail tours. We’re happy to talk about the tour details and answer any questions.
* Bike requirements: A gravel bike (a drop-bar bike with wide, grippy tires) with wide 700×40 or 650×47 tires is strongly recommended. (Highly experienced gravel riders could ride a 700×35, but this is the absolute minimum tire width.)
Saguaro East National Park
Cactus Forest Loop Drive
Bird Watching Tour
Adventurous Gravel Roads
Award Winning Local Winery
Hacienda Del Sol - Tucson
Stage Stop Inn - Patagonia
Day 1: After a local hotel pick-up, we shuttle to the Desert Museum where you’ll get the first taste of desert life. Here you can see native wildlife and flowers. You don’t want to miss the birds of prey demonstration! After exploring the museum our ride starts from the parking lot and heads out on the McCain loop, named after Senator John McCain. Then, you’ll get the first taste of gravel as we ride the Bajada Loop Drive to a picnic lunch. Here there is an optional short hike to the largest petroglyph site in the Tucson Mountain district of Saguaro National Park. Following lunch we have a few more miles until the ride ends at the national park visitor center. You can expect 40% gravel surface. From the visitor center we shuttle to the award winning Hacienda Del Sol, our lodging for the next two nights. Dinner will be as a group at the hotel.
Day 2: The second day starts out with a great breakfast at the hotel restaurant before we have a short shuttle to the ride start. Today’s ride begins and ends at the San Lucas Community Park, highlighted by the quiet beauty of the desert and mostly traffic free roads. We start to increase the gravel and decrease the road riding so you will have about 85% gravel today. Following the ride, we will enjoy another picnic lunch and shuttle back to the Hacienda Del Sol where you’ll be able to take a dip in the pool or relax in the hot tub. Take some time to wander the grounds and discover the sculptures, painting, pottery and history of the resort. Dinner will be on your own tonight and a shuttle will be provided to a local favorite area.
Day 3: The day begins with a short shuttle to an iconic breakfast spot where you are going to see many cyclists fueling up for their trek up the icon Mt. Lemmon. After a hearty cyclists breakfast, we begin pedaling towards Saguaro East National Park where you will get up close to the impressive saguaro cacti as we ride the famous Cactus Loop Drive, an eight mile paved road within the park. We will add in a couple gravel detours along the route so you’ll see the wonderful desert landscape from an uncommon viewpoint. Following a picnic lunch in the park, we’ll shuttle to the Stage Stop Inn in Patagonia, the gravel hotspot and our hub for the next three nights. The historic Stage Stop Inn has maintained a wild west feel from the days of hosting John Wayne along with his cast and crew during the filming of many westerns in the region. After arriving in Patagonia you’ll be able to wander the small town, relax or get some extra miles on an optional ride up Temporal Canyon. Dinner will be at the hotel tonight.
Day 4: This is a day to truly experience the beauty of gravel riding in Patagonia. You’ll have the option of a 57 mile route (88% gravel) or the 29 mile option (66% gravel) that starts from the hotel’s front door. Both rides are challenging but will reward you with great views and quiet gravel roads. It’s not uncommon to be the only ones on the routes today.
Day 5: Another delightfully challenging ride lays ahead as we face plenty of rolling hills accompanied by great views of the Patagonia and Mustang mountains as well as the San Rafael State Natural area. Your reward today is a wine tasting at the beautiful state of the art wine making facility and tasting room at Los Milics Vineyards where Pavle and Ita have brought their passion for wine to the Sonoita region. Following the tasting we will shuttle back to the Stage Stop where you’ll have time to relax before our last dinner as a group.
Day 6: We end the week with a bird watching tour and an epic ride. Patagonia, besides being a mecca for gravel riding, is world famous for birding. We will start the dat with a beautiful walk and guided bird watching tour. This tour will take us to the Paton center for hummingbirds, where, along with hummingbirds, 212 bird species have been reported, and around the Nature Conservancy. The ride, which might just be the most challenging of the week, is 99% on gravel and takes you to the ghost town of Alto and to the Alto Ruins, the only remains left of the town. Following the ride, we shuttle back to Tucson and say our farewells.
5 Breakfasts | 5 Lunches | 4 Dinners
PP Double Occupancy
*This is required if you are traveling solo or if you are traveling with someone but require separate beds.