Mountain Biking In The Sonora Desert: Half Day Scottsdale Mountain Bike Tour Review

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DisclosureMountain biking has always been one of my favorite things to do but living in Florida I don’t really get to do it much and when I do go out on my bike the rides are not very exciting, so on our recent trip to Scottsdale going mountain biking on the Sonora desert was at the top of my to do list.  As I researched I was impressed by the great reviews about REI Adventure Centers so I decided to give them a try and booked one of their half day Scottsdale guided mountain bike tour.

Mountain biking in Scottsdale Sonora desert
Mountain biking in the Sonora desert near Scottsdale.

It was 8:00am on a clear spring day when I arrived at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, one of the main trailheads of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I was greeted by Annemarie who would be my guide for the half day ride. My bike had already been fitted according to the information I had provided via email.

blooming cactus Sonora desert Scottsdale
Blooming cactus in the Sonora desert near Scottsdale. Photo: Cesar Diaz. 

Nothing could have prepared me for the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert. The desert landscape has a majestic and powerful presence and I was shocked at the diversity of the flora and fauna and the lush vegetation from giant saguaro cacti to bright red blooming cactus flowers. 

Mounting biking with Arizona Outback Adventures

Annemarie picked the ideal trail for my experience and level: it was fun and challenging enough to make the ride exciting, with just the right amount of elevation gain and many twists and turns that made it technical yet fast. We rode on the single track enjoying the great scenery as Annemarie shared with me a wealth of knowledge about the Sonora desert’s flora and fauna.  I gained a huge respect for the giant saguaro cacti after learning that it takes them hundreds of years to grow; a ten year old saguaro can be just a few inches high. Annemarie also gave me information to stay safe during my ride, like staying away from the the barbed thorns of the fuzzy-looking Cholla cactus, which will cling to your skin.

diamondback rattlesnake in Sonora desert
Rattlesnake hiding just a few feet from the trail. Photo: Cesar Diaz.

REI Adventure Centers have an impressive track record; all you have to do is see their reviews on Tripadvisor or Yelp. After my ride I fully understood what everyone was raving about. It was my first time riding in the desert and the experience was exhilarating and truly memorable: from the breathtaking lush desert landscape to encountering a diamondback rattlesnake.

saguaro cactus in the sonora desert
This impressive saguaro cactus is more than a hundred years old. Photo: Cesar Diaz.

The Sonora desert is truly a paradise for those of us who love to be outdoors and mountain biking is a great way to experience it. Although I could have just rented a bike riding on the guided mountain bike tour was the best decision I could have made as I not only got to experience the Sonora desert but I learned so much about it too.

Mountain biking with Arizona Outback Adventures

If You Go

REI provides all-inclusive, guided experiences that include how-to and safety briefings, and interpretive information about the desert’s geology, flora and fauna ideal for beginner riders or for those riding in the desert for the first time, like me. 

You can feel that the guides and staff really love what they do and love working with REI and their love for the desert and for adventure is contagious, which makes for such a great experience.

You can learn more about REI Adventure Centers and their services; from bike, kayak and tent rentals in Arizona  and half day kayaking, hiking or biking tours to guided full day adventures to the Grand Canyon and other amazing destinations, by visiting the REI Arizona Co-Op Adventure Center to stay informed about their latest adventures and special offers.

Cesar Diaz
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12 thoughts on “Mountain Biking In The Sonora Desert: Half Day Scottsdale Mountain Bike Tour Review”

  1. Other then that rattlesnake which I would prefer never seeing up close and personal it looks like you had a wonderful time. I don’t ride a bike but I would like to experience the desert (minus the snakes) at least once in my life.

  2. I love that they provide the bikes. That would be the one thing that would stop me doing it while traveling; Having to transport my bike with me. Thanks for the info!

  3. Having lived in AZ for a while, I know the desert can be a lot more beautiful than just tumble weeds and cactus. A lot to be aware of too though (think gila monsters, rattlesnakes and scorpions!)

  4. The best place to keep on going on your bike as the sun shines bright. A great way of outdoor adventure to sustain the healthy lifestyle you have. Also, while you travel and go to another mountain with your bike. This exercise will sure to enhance your endurance as well as your stamina during your big adventure.


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