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Best of Arizona – Outdoor Adventures in Ahwatukee

Pivot Mach 4

You'll see more than a few of these at South Mountain.

I have mixed feelings about Ahwatukee, Ariz.

On one hand, it’s a dense cluster of red-tile-roofed McMansions. It’s the sort of place where people drive to yoga classes in gas-guzzling SUV. It marinates in suburban blandness.

On the other hand, it is the main access point to the 16,000-acre South Mountain Park. And it’s by far one of the Phoenix area’s best outdoor amenities. It’s riddled with trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

My favorite is the Desert Classic and its various spurs and offshoots. It’s easy to put in a 20-mile ride that never stops being fun. Fast and flowing, with the occasional rock garden. Sometimes, you’ll even glimpse a rattlesnake trailside. Be careful out there, especially in spring and fall! They love the shade from creosote bushes. (Find out more about dealing with a rattlesnake encounter.)

There are some swooping turns where you can countersteer, dig in and lean your bike way over at high speed. There are some sandy sections, so you’ll want to be

Really, the only downside is that everyone knows it’s awesome. So the trails are often crowded, and not everyone has good trail manners. On my last ride, though, I was tickled to see a mom and dad teaching their under-10 son and daughter the mountain biking ropes. Both kids were doing a fine job on the trails.

As always, water is mandatory (I could say this about helmets, too, but that really ought to go without saying). And snacks are a smart idea, too.

What about after the ride? Get out of Awhatukee and get something tasty in your belly. Nearby Tempe has plenty of restaurants. Post-ride, though, I’d lean toward the Cornish Pasty Company.

Mtbikeaz.com has a great Desert Classic map.

5 of the Best Places to Mountain Bike in Phoenix, Ariz.

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EDITOR’S NOTE (May 1, 2012): This post is really old. I will publish an update soon. Subscribe (it’s free) in the box to the right so you don’t miss it! EDITOR’S NOTE PART II (May 11, 2012): UPDATED and cooler than ever. I just recently ran into an old classmate at an ad hoc highContinue Reading