eBiking the Desert of Tucson, Arizona

eBiking the Desert of Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona has a strong history of biking culture and it is a fun city and area to explore on and off an electric bike. There are roads and paths to explore in the city as well as roads, trails, and dirt roads to adventure on an eRoad or eMountain bike.

Combining a trip to Tucson with one of the events like El Tour de Tucson, Cyclovia, or the Gem, Mineral, and Fossil show can be a fun experience. Also it is a great place to enjoy good food and drink. Tucson is a City of Gastronomy per the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

This guide is just some of the highlights of Tucson that barely scratches the surface of what is out there but it will give you an idea of what to expect and plan for.

Best times to visit

Generally mid October to the end of April is a good bet for comfortable eBiking weather. It can be anywhere between sunny 90ish degree days to a snow storm during that time frame, no joke.

Fall is really nice for warm days and cool nights and you can catch some fall colors on the trees on Mount Lemmon. Winter is great for generally 60 and 70 degree sunny days; you will forget about the real winters folks in the North are going through! Spring is nice for longer warmer days and catching the desert blooms on cacti and trees.

Summers are crazy hot! So I’d recommend avoiding a trip then unless you want to ride/suffer in really hot weather.

Places to ride around Tucson

The Loop is one of the true highlights of Tucson’s bike scene. It is over 130 miles of protected bike paths that loop around the city and has offshoots to other communities in the area. The paths are wide and most of them follow the drainage channels around town from the Santa Cruz River, Rillito River, Pantano Wash, and more. There is no car traffic on the Loop paths and most of the views are of the mountains that surround the Tucson area.

Here is a look at the Loop: 

Sounds ideal doesn’t it? It certainly is but unfortunately the Loop is technically off limits to electric bikes. Pima County manages the Loop and has blanketed it with a “no eBikes” stance for overall consistency even though some of the cities and towns the Loop goes through may technically allow them. You can learn more about the details in the Pima County "User Etiquette and Guidelines" portion of their website.

It is a shame that this amazing bike path is technically off limits to electric bikes. The county indicates that there could be a citation for those that violate the rule. So ride at your own risk, but you wouldn’t be the only eBike rider doing that. In fact there are several eBike rental businesses that will rent you an eBike on or very near the Loop…

Beyond the Loop there are many bike paths and bike boulevards around the city that are lower traffic streets and are good connectors. Riding around the University of Arizona offers many good bike route options like Mountain Ave to the north and 3rd Street to the east.

Here is a map of the many different city bike routes.

Places to ride an eMTB and eGravel bike

Trailforks is a great map based trail and dirt road resource for finding areas where you can ride an eMTB or eGravel bike off road. They have an Activity Type tab that has the option for eBike and it will filter the rides that are open to eBiking.

One of the highlights for electric mountain bikes is the Honeybee trail system that is near Oro Valley and Catalina which is north of Tucson. This is a network of fun windy trails through classic Sonoran desert landscape with big views of the Santa Catalina mountains in the background.

Fortified Peak trail system is further north and is the home of the famous 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo mountain bike race. It features fun loops with more intermediate to advanced riding. The trails are located at a little higher elevation which will be slightly cooler than the Tucson area.

Fantasy Island is also a fun trail system south east of Tucson featuring beginner to intermediate trails. This area is generally flat with a lot of twists and turns through the desert landscape. It also has some fun and creative trail features for riding as well artwork for admiring.

Places to ride an eRoad bike

Saguaro National Park East has a scenic loop ride that offers trailheads into the park and informative signs to learn about the unique desert landscape. It is about an 8 mile loop ride with around 700 feet of total climbing. There is a small fee if you don’t have the annual National Parks pass. The fee is worth the ride!

Riding up and down Mount Lemmon is a very iconic and challenging ride for road riders in Tucson. It climbs from the desert floor of around 2,800 ft to 8,000 ft or 9,000 ft depending on how far you want to go. You start in the desert with large Saguaro’s and climb through many ecosystems up to the alpine forest with Ponderosa and Aspen trees. The Forest Service states “it offers the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada in a short stretch of 27 miles”.

It truly is an amazing ride but do be aware that the shoulder of the road is not huge and the car traffic on the weekends can be busy. Riding during a weekday is a better experience with less traffic. Also, make sure you have enough range and pack some warm weather clothing because the ride down can be chilly.

For more ideas here is a Top 10 road bike rides in the Tucson area.

Places to rent an eBike

Pedego has 2 locations, one in the Saint Phillips Plaza in the mid part of Tucson and one further north in Oro Valley.

Tucson Loop Bike Rentals has 2 locations to rent electric bikes, one in central Tucson and the other in Oro Valley.

Fun events to check out

El Tour de Tucson is a classic charity bike ride around the Tucson area that draws thousands of cyclists each year in November. And they have a category for electric bike riders! There are generally 3 ride options: 100 miles, 60ish mile, and 30ish mile (eBike route).

Cyclovia Tucson is a fun event for celebrating all forms of people scale transportation like biking, skating, scooting, and walking. There is generally a circuit in town that is temporarily closed to vehicle traffic and open to everyone else. There are usually bands playing along the way and places to get food and drink. It’s like a big block party and people get dressed up as well. Good times!

The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Shows are one of the largest events in Tucson and it is quite the experience to see the amazing variety of items on display around the city. Visit Tucson puts it “Every winter, over 65,000 guests from around the globe descend upon Tucson, AZ, to buy, sell, trade, and bear witness to rare and enchanting gems, minerals, and fossils at over 48 gem show locations across the city.” This is not a bike event but definitely worth checking out if you are visiting in January - February.

Other fun things to do

Beyond the events there are many other iconic Tucson places to check out:

  • The Sonoran Desert Museum is a great place to see and learn about the Sonoran desert environment and creatures.
  • Mount Lemmon as described before is an adventurous ride but it is also a great drive to checkout all the different biozones and hiking trails all the way up to the small town of Mount Lemmon.
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory is a great place to visit to be able to use some of the public telescopes that are available. As of this writing the Observatory was closed due to a forest fire that happened nearby. Check the website for the latest updates.
  • Kartchner Caverns is an amazing network of limestone stalactites and stalagmites. There are 2.4 miles of passages to explore. It is about a 1 hour drive from Tucson and worth the trip!

Good food

Tucson is a City of Gastronomy per the The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) so you know there is a lot of diverse and good food! Here are just some of the highlights, there are so many good places to choose from.

El Charro is one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Tucson and they have a wide variety of good food from their Carne Seca plates to many plant based entrees. The atmosphere indoors and outdoors is great.

The Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress has a good variety of food and the atmosphere is great with the historic hotel, large patio and stage for live music. Also checkout Maynards restaurant and market across the street for more food and drink options.

Time Market is a classic spot for good pizza, sandwiches, and salads. They have a nice market with a well curated gourmet selection of foods and drinks. The shaded patio is a nice place to hangout after a ride.

Other good spots to checkout are: The Mercado and Annex, La Cocina, Five Points, La Indita, Reilly, Boca Tacos, Blue Willow, Tuk Tuk Thai, Poco & Moms, and many many more!

Coffee & tea culture

There are many good coffee and tea places to enjoy around the Tucson area. Here are some of the highlights.

For the coffee focused connoisseur there is Cartel, Presta, Raging Sage, Exo, Decibel, and Cafe Lucce. Of course there are a number of Starbucks and Black Rock coffee shops to choose from around the city.

For those looking for good tea there is The Scented Leaf, Transit, Ding, and The Kava Bar.

Beer & wine tourism in Tucson

Tucson has an impressive brewery and winery scene that offers a lot of variety and good places to relax.

The brewery scene is fun with many of the breweries in historic buildings in or near downtown. Some of the highlights are Barrio, Borderlands, Crooked Tooth, Pueblo Vida, MotoSonora, Dragoon, 1912, Thunder Canyon, Dillenger, Iron John’s, Gentle Ben’s, and more.

The area southeast of Tucson near Sonoita has a bunch of wineries that have found a good environment for growing grapes. If you feel like a road trip many of the wineries offer tastings and purchase options. There are also wine tasting rooms in the Tucson area like Old Pueblo Cellars, Flying Leap Vineyards, Arizona Wine Collective, REVEL, and more.

So much to enjoy

Again, these are just some of the highlights of the Tucson area to give you an idea of what this rich desert town has to offer. Visit Tucson is a good resource for planning more trip ideas, activities and places to stay.

Enjoy your adventures on and off your eBike!


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