Sunday, October 29, 2006

Milagrosa Canyon

Tucson, Arizona
This was the second time I rode this trail. The first time was in May just before it got too darn hot around here. At the time, I thought it was the best trail in Tucson. Well, this time, my feelings have changed.

Part of it could have been physiological: I didn't get enough sleep, eat enough food, and I rode Fantasy Island late the day before. The other part of it could have been that my Kona is much heavier than my old hard tail and there's a lot of climbing on this trail -- nearly 3000 feet -- if you do it my way. Finally, the trail wasn't as smooth as I remembered it. I was walking a lot more than I did in the spring, on the ups and the downs.

That said, it is still a killer trail and a great adventure. It's the kind of trail that you feel really good about finishing.

The day I went it was cool and overcast. Once you get over that ridge you suddenly feel so remote. Don't hurt yourself. You've got ten hard miles ahead of you.

How to get there: Take Tanque Verde Road. Turn right on the Catalina highway. Turn right on Snyder, the last street before you hit the mountain. Cross Soldier Road and park at the end of Snyder.

Length: 20 miles, 3-4 hours, 4000 foot climb.

Trail Conditions: Dry. Pretty rough. Lots of loose rocks right now.

The Map: Check out my Motionbased map below. There's also a good map at SDMB.
Map of Milagrosa Canyon

The Ride: From your car, head up Soldier Road until it meets the Mt. Lemmon Short Road. Take that up to the Catalina Highway and ride 7 miles to Prison Camp. From Prison Camp, you follow signs to the Bellota Trail which takes you over a hill and into the Molino basin. This is some fun singletrack. When you get to the campground, cross the Catalina highway and follow the Bellota Trail (part of the AZ trail) up and over the ridge. This is super steep and technical and there are these annoying rubber erosion mitigation strips. Although I pooped out this time, I remember staying on my pedals for most of the climb in the Spring. Once you get up the ridge you go through a green gate and begin a technical descent. Lots of dropoffs, switchbacks, and some serious exposure. The trail will flatten out, and you'll cross a little valley. Then, you climb briefly and descend again. You head past a water tank, cross a wash, and go through a second gate. Finally, you'll be on some doubletrack and you will come to a sandy wash. You have to look carefully to see the Milagrosa trail on the right. It is not marked. You know you're on it because you'll be carrying your bike up and over some sand and rocks before you can really ride. Take this all the way along a gorgeous ridge. Watch out for prickly pear and derailleur snapping rocks. As you come to the end, you'll notice a steep red canyon to your left, the trail will veer to the right and descend a fun slickrock section. You cross a wash and climb again, head through one last green gate, and the trail hits some doubletrack just below a few houses. You can find your way back to your car from here.

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