December 6, 2013

South Mountain: AES Primer Loop

So you want to try one of those Arizona Endurance Series rides, huh? The distance and stories have your legs feeling wobbly. How do you know if you're cut out for a race like that? Start here. This short 11.5 mile loop will give a fair representation of what the official race series is like without the need for a GPS or re-supply logistics. While the GPS is not mandatory for this loop, it would be a nice way to introduce yourself to how one works for following a route. This loop will begin to test your mental/physical well being as you navigate the ups, downs & HAB sections.

Start the loop at the west end of Desert Classic trail at South Mountain off of Desert Foothills Parkway. Ride the short paved pathway to the Telegraph Trail junction and proceed up to Telegraph Pass. Embrace the Hike-a-bike (HAB), there 'may' be more. At the top, take a quick look around, nice view, huh? Hang a left and ride down the paved summit rd to the Ranger Trail split. Start climbing the twisting singletrack up the front side of S. Mtn. There are a few tough tech moves and some exposure on the Ranger trail, but it's a nice climb up to National trail. At the National junction, hang a right for some of the best ridgeline trail around. Be careful to keep your eyes on the trail so you don't a)Ride off the mountain b)fall into an exposed mine!! This section of National is a distant cousin to its chunkier tech laden east end, enjoy the flow!!
National ridgeline.
What goes up, must come down. The descent starts off innocent enough, some nice banked turns, a few small drops here and there. The trail eventually drops off the west end of the ridge and with it becomes loose & steep. One section in particular gets me everytime, so I do the glorious downhill HAB. The trail winds down over some techy bits before meeting up with the Bursera trail. This is a relatively new connector over to the Gila Valley. It's a short steep smooth switchbacked descent into the valley.

From this point the trails aren't necessarily 'official' park trails, but they are widely used. Take a left at the next junction onto the Gila Valley trail. This trail crosses a few steep drainages while climbing up to a saddle.
Climbing towards the saddle.
From the saddle the route bombs downhill once again eventually meeting up with the Pyramid trail. Take this trail up a gradual climb and through a wash where the trail splits. Stay straight, turning left here will take you up a wicked series of switchbacks, and exit the singletrack back out on Desert Foothills Pkwy. Hang a left to return to the trailhead.

If that loop kept you grinning, you may be ready for your first AES event!! Come on out.

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