“A fun out and back on the AZT”
— Hillary Mathis on Jul 28, 2013
“Start this ride at Pistol Hill or at Gabe Zimmerman. Get ready for some rigorous climbing and some rocky technical challenge. I love this trail because you are totally away from it all and it has that Old West feeling.”
TUCSON, Arizona – Mountain Biking – The Arizona Trail is an 800-mile trail that stretches from Utah to Mexico. The sections through Tucson are some of the most beautiful trails we have, and Pistol Hill to Three Bridges is one of our favorites.
Typically a North to South out-and-back of 24-miles or so starting from Pistol Hill parking, it is made up of gorgeous singletrack with rolling ups and downs, a few technical sections (easily walked if needed) and one significant climb halfway through the ride. If you don’t want to go all the way to the bridges, a popular turnaround point is the top of the climb.
If you’d like to add another dozen or so miles, there is a very beginner-friendly, gorgeous section heading north from the northern Pistol Hill parking lot. After a 6-mile meandering descent to a large creek, turn around and climb back out. Be aware, that due to the Saguaro National Monument Wilderness the trail is not open to cyclists past the creek.
Take plenty of water, but know there is water and restrooms available within Colossal Cave Mountain Park about 6 miles from the Pistol Hill trailhead. You will occasionally see equestrians, and sometimes hikers, so be polite and yield. There are some cattle trails and old ATV trails that break off here and there, so make sure to stay on the trail which is marked with brown AZ Trail signs. Always close the gates along the trail, even if you find them open!
The Pistol Hill parking area is just North of the trail where it crosses Pistol Hill road. From the parking area,ride back up the road about 20-yards and cross over the cattleguard. The easier 6-mile northern section is through the large gate on the the right side (west) of the road. If you want to head toward Three Bridges, hang a left (east) and you’ll see the singletrack start there.
Directions to Pistol Hill Parking: Head East out of Tucson on 22nd Street, and hang a right on Old Spanish Trail just past Houghton. Follow this road for about 13-miles following the signs to Colossal Cave Park. About two-miles out from the Park, you’ll come to the Pistol Hill intersection which will be dirt on your left and paved on your right. Hang a left onto the well-graded dirt road and follow this about 1.5-miles. You will cross a cattle-guard and see the parking on the right with a large wooden signboard. The trailhead is about 20-yards back up the road past the cattle guard.
Directions to Three Bridges Parking: Take Interstate 10 South out of Tucson and get off on exit 281. Hang a left and cross over the highway and once over, instead of merging back onto I-10, hang a RIGHT onto Benson Highway (also called Frontage or Marsh Station Rd). About 3.0 miles in, you’ll swing into the large dirt parking lot on your right, before you cross a bridge over a creek. Ahead of you, you’ll see two train bridges above and to your left. (Hence the name Three Bridges!) From the parking lot, you’ll head northeast and descend into the canyon, wind under a train trestle and climb back out. Hang a sharp left on the dirt road, cross over the paved road, under the OTHER train trestle, and you’ll see the trail due west, just on the other side of the flattened barb-wire fence. OR, if you don’t want to head through the Canyon, just ride along the road until you get across the bridge.