“This is a popular combination of trails departing from the Golder Ranch Trailhead.”
— Kirby Rodriquez on Jan 5, 2014
Ave/Grade (4°): 4%
Max Grade (13°): 19%
The trails of Golder Ranch are made up by seven small biking trails that are nestled in the mountains of Tucson, Arizona in a maze. They can be very confusing, for tourists and even for locals. There are no signs along the way so a GPS is a must, unless you’re thinking of mountain biking with a personal guide. There are quite a variety of technical drops, rollers, and other features on these cycling trails. Some of them are extreme. You will find yourself scooting down some rollers on your butt if you aren’t confident enough to ride them, which can be a humbling experience for cyclists of all levels.
The Golden Ranch trails have something for everyone. You can arrange your ride to last virtually any distance or time you would like. The trails are beautiful and well-kept by local volunteers. Cycle a trail that’s only 2-miles and provides introductory fun, or head over to a trail that includes 30-miles of killer climbs and technical challenges.
Out of all trails, the 50-Year trail is the most popular and the section we recommend visiting. The 50-Year Trail is located north of Tucson in Oro Valley, Arizona, at the end of Golder Ranch Road. This is certainly one of the nicest areas to ride, and the location of our ever-popular Bike and Brats yearly party! There are plenty of single-tracks, including some technical areas along the way with a whole bunch of beginner to intermediate sections.
“The 50-Year, Golder Ranch, the Chutes, Upper 50, and Middlegate are a part of the 50-Year trail and are a must-do Tucson mountain bike ride. I love The Chutes—such a roller coaster experience! My perfect day is to waking up, hitting Honeybee Canyon, and the heading over to Golder Ranch.”
Jason, The Bike Bandit
If you park at the main trailhead, you will need a State Land Permit. Also be aware that there has been occasional vehicle break-ins, so don’t leave any valuables visible in your car. Be aware that this area is multi-use and gets a lot of equestrian traffic. Be conscious of your riding and yield always. And we’re not talking rolling stops here, but full stops to let the equestrian riders go by. They’re all nice folks and we’re all out to enjoy these fantastic trails together.
50-Year Trail: To start the popular loop, find the single-track that starts just to the left of the entrance, past the cattleguard. It is mostly flat, fast, and curvy. Eventually, you will come to a wide open area near another cattleguard. Stay straight to start the intermediate level riding, or take the jeep road to the left to take the easy route to The Chutes.
Catalina State Park: For a bigger challenge, park at the Chase Bank at Oro Valley Marketplace directly across from Catalina State Park and ride your bike in. Once in the park, follow the sign to the stables on your left, and the biking trail starts just to the right of the stables. It will give you an immediate workout with a long, challenging climb. It is almost impossible to get lost if you follow the single-track and signage. Remember to always close the gates behind you. It is almost all single-track intermediate riding. This trail is about 20 miles (counting the pavement into the Park) with a 1,600 ft. change in elevation, and should be 2-3 hours of riding. You can get water at the Equestrian Center but nowhere else. If you park in Catalina State Park, be prepared to pay a $5/vehicle fee, and sometimes rangers require cyclists to pay while riding a bike in.
Middlegate: Middlegate trail breaks off toward the Catalina Mountains just after the 50-Year trail meets another old, flat jeep road. Look for it off to your right, and don’t forget to close the gate behind you. It will curve back South and meet up with the 50-Year trail again. This trail is intermediate riding with some really fun rock features that you’ll bike through.
Deer Camp: Deer Camp Trail is an old equestrian trail that breaks off from Middlegate and takes a fall line route up to Deer Camp, where a picnic table and spring beds are at about midway up Samaniego Ridge. Most locals ride the “Deer Camp Loop” consisting of Middlegate from the gate South to where it joins up with 50-Year trail again.
The Chutes: Think: “roller coaster for bikes.” An old motorcycle playground dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, the Chutes is a rocking, rolling, fast, and incredibly fun end to the 50-Year trail. Beginners can ride it as long as they take it easy and slow. The trail will end in a wash, and then you need to head back left (South) to join back up with the 50-Year toward the trailhead.
Upper-50 Trail: The Upper-50 Trail starts from the Northeast corner of the top of The Chutes. You’ll need to drop in to the first “whoopeee!” of The Chutes, but instead of going left to follow The Chutes, take a right and follow the fence. You’ll begin to do some intense, lung-busting climbing. This trail is fairly technical with intense climbs and some rocky portions. It will drop you back down onto Middlegate trail.
SlickRock Lollipop: Another more technical, fun, and incredible trail that branches from Middlegate/Deer Camp. Pros: we recommend you hit SlickRock after doing all the others for an intense end to your cycling workout.