The Tucson Loop Trail
We found the LOOP trail on the Tucson municipal website. They have a pretty good PDF of the trail map online.
We prefer bike trails that are reasonably flat, reasonably well maintained, that go through places where one would want to spend time, that has things like fresh air not polluted by motor vehicles, trees or other natural things to view. Asphalt or concrete pavement. Straight or curved doesn't matter. But as it turns out most rails to trails projects end up with straight trails mostly, which is ok. This trail, the loop, is not a rails to trails resource. It's a bike trail that goes along an Arroyo. According to a dictionary, an Arroyo is a small steep-sided watercourse or gulch with a nearly flat floor, and is usually dry except after rains. They are usually designed so that the Arroyo won't be full unless the rains are especially heavy, even extreme. Tucson has several of these drainage ditches, and has placed in many cases along both sides a nice paved trail, complete with landscaping, restrooms, trailhead parking, and other features of a professionally designed bike trail facility. Tucson is to be congratulated on this project. It is an outstanding addition to the city, and it is a tourist attraction, and it facilitates city events, not to mention the fact that it encourages citizens and visitors toward bicycling, which is an element of behavior which is a part of a healthy lifestyle.
The main idea is to get fresh air, good exercise that is a good experience and is good for most everybody, and is a pleasant pastime. In Arizona, the winter is very favorable for this kind of outside activity. For this kind of activity, one wants the temperature to be between 45F and 80F, which lines up well with Tucson winter temperatures.
The other side of that coin is if you're going to go on this trail, then don't do it in the summer. Tucson in the summer is blisteringly hot, with temperatures well above 100F being the normal highs. Of course one doesn't have the broiling humidity that one experiences in the midwest here in the summer. But the sun is particulary hot in Tucson, hence outside activity is discouraged in Tucson in the summer. Up on top of Mount Lemmon at 9,000 feet elevation, just north of Tucson is a small resort town called (aptly) summerhaven, where you can get away from the blistering heat of Tucson in the summer, although I don't know if they have any bicycling up there.
So to summarize, Tucson is a great place to ride your bike from about November until about the end of March, or perhaps April, depending on the year.
For the most part, this trail is in very good condition, and by most standards is well maintained. There are few exceptions to this standard, and again, Tucson is to be congratulated for this accomplishment. Clearly Tucson wants to be known as a town that wants bicycle tourists to come and visit and ride on their excellent bike trails.
For this ride, I started out less than a mile from St. Phillips square trailhead for the loop, and rode my trike to the trail on city streets. You must do this with care, because although the drivers here are bike friendly compared to many cities, in general city drivers tend to run over bicyclists on a routine basis. Hence if you wish to live long and prosper, or at least live long, use great care when riding on city streets. Perhaps it's better to ride on the sidewalks where possible. For this ride, I had my trailer hitched up to the trike, and I had my pack with my water bottle, and Pearl the wonderdog was riding in the trailer too. So I was pulling a trailer that weighed about 85 pounds loaded. There was a nice 10mph breeze blowing uphill, so that ballanced the effort out between the ride upstream (heading east in this section) of the arroyo and downstream (westward headed). Once I started riding on the trail, I headed east from Campbell steet, and turned around when the trail reached Craycroft ( see picture with odometer reading of 5.83miles ). I then rode the trail back to Campbell, and kept on going until that section of trail deadended at near Interstate 10. At this point (odometer reading of 18.0 miles) I turned around and rode back to Campbell, and then rode back to our rental house. Total distance 26.0 miles. This is longer than our normal ride which is on the order of 8miles to about 16 miles, but it wasn't a bad ride. It's good for aerobic exercise, and it's free, safe, clean, and well maintained. I highly recommend it. The loop has more than 100 miles of trail, and it has another 50 miles planned or under construction. It's a truely excellent facility. Bravo Tucson!
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Last Update: November 17, 2014
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