Mountain Biking the Black Canyon Trail

Fred & Emily

Good evening, Peeps.

Today Fred and I grabbed a quick ride out at the south end of the Black Canyon Trail under an unbelievable blaze of Arizona January glory. This trail forms part of an extensive system linking Southern Arizona to Northern Arizona through a winding and wicked collection of technical climbs, exposures and switchbacks.

You’ll notice as you roll your rig over the nuclear-blasted moonstone the trail changes personality quickly, shifting from green to black and green again faster than you can say “derailleur”.

Our particular ride started at the Emery Henderson Trailhead just north of Phoenix.


Did I mention the mindbogglingly good weather? This trailhead, like many in the Phoenix area, offers little in the way of services other than a small pagoda for the summer months and not too many skeletons of past warriors.

Today was in the 50s F (13° C) so we weren’t too worried about imminent death.


Dodging the teddy bear cholla (which do not abide interlopers at all well) we dropped in.


Fred and I made our way North.


We practiced our bike handling skills at the top of golf-ball-hill, as we call it, owing to the rather strange occurrence of seemingly natural volcanic golf-balls strategically placed on the trail for maximum neck-snapping danger.



Later we stopped to admire the state tree.


I kid, the official Arizona state tree is the Palo Verde, which is Spanish for “green stick” but Saguaros ought to be, they are singularly unique desert creations I just adore.

Today was a short ride so we made a lollipop out of the east and west loops.


Finally stopping for an epic desert view before heading back.


All told today we put on a paltry 10mi (16 km) and 800ft (243 m) but the zen we enjoy out here isn’t about the distance. It’s about the solitude, incredible views and making thanks we can mountain bike here as a matter of routine!


In all seriousness this trail is a big deal. As with any adventure in Arizona, bring plenty of water (we have over 100oz (3 L) each), even in the winter, and take precautions to keep your fellow riders informed about your location in case you get separated. Fred and I use the iPhone Find my Friends feature after a few separation incidents.

This trail shifts personality quickly so we recommend it for experienced riders and plenty of grip on those tires. We both run Maxxis Minions to keep the rubber side down, tubeless for plenty of puncture tolerance and lower pressures (29 psi/2 bar) for the loose stuff that characterizes this trail.

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