When people think of Arizona, they usually picture the majesty of the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and with good reason! There’s little more breathtaking than its vast vistas. But for those who love to cycle recreationally, Arizona holds another treat: one of the best-maintained biking trails in the country. It’s also the longest biking trail in Arizona. Read on to find out what it’s called, where it is, and how best to cycle it.
What is the Longest Biking Trail in Arizona?
The longest biking trail in Arizona is the Chuck Huckelberry Loop, also simply called the Loop. It runs for 136 miles, including all its various interconnected paths; as a simple loop, it runs for about 53 miles. However, construction on the Loop continues to expand its reach, meaning these numbers will increase in the future. This paved trail circles the city of Tucson and connects it with the Pima County communities of Marana, Oro Valley, and South Tucson.
Because it loops around Tucson, visitors can enter and exit the trail at numerous points. For this reason, it makes an ideal commute for walkers and cyclists, as well as for tourists looking for scenic local views.
The Chuck Huckelberry Loop
The Chuck Huckelberry Loop is smooth asphalt all the way, making for an easy cycling experience. In addition to this, elevation gains are moderate and gradual, with a total gain of approximately 1,000 feet. The Loop follows several watercourses, including the Santa Cruz, Rillito, Julian Wash, and Pantano. It has at least 15 restrooms along its length as well as access to over 20 parks with facilities, rendering it extremely user-friendly. In addition, bike shops in the area rent bicycles by the hour or day for visitors without their own transportation.
Expert and novice cyclists alike agree that the Chuck Huckelberry Loop is one of America’s best biking trails. In USA Today’s 2021 travel award contest for Best Recreational Trail, the Loop gained the top spot.
Below are some different paths the Loop connects, all in Pima County.
Santa Cruz River Park Trail
The Santa Cruz River Park Trail makes up a large portion of the Chuck Huckelberry Loop, running for 41.8 of its 136 miles. The trail ends lie at N. Sanders Road (Marana) and W. Valencia Road (Tucson). It follows the Santa Cruz River on both sides, though the river often runs dry. This section of the Loop tends to be friendly to equestrians and joggers, with a soft-surface pathway running parallel to the paved portion for much of the route. It connects to other parts of the trail, making it a vital and convenient part of the Loop.
Cañada del Oro River Park Trail
This section of the Loop runs for 11 miles along Tucson’s northern suburbs, beginning at Santa Cruz River Park Trail (Marana) and ending at E. Tangerine Road (Oro Valley). It follows the Cañada del Oro Waterway. It’s one of the more recently completed parts of the Loop and passes by a number of conveniences, including stores and 2 golf courses. Anytime it crosses a road, an underpass provides safe and easy passage.
This part of the Loop bears several other names: the Cañada del Oro (CDO) Shared Use Path, the CDO Linear Path, Big Wash Shared Use Path, and the Cañada del Oro Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park.
Rillito River Park Trail
The Rillito River Park Trail is a portion of the Loop running 21.8 miles. It begins at the Santa Cruz River Trail at I-10 and ends at N. Craycroft Road, following the Rillito River on both sides. As a concession to joggers and equestrians, this trail has a soft-surface pathway next to the paved portion for a good portion of the route.
The trail is also conveniently located near many shops, restaurants, and drinking fountains. Like the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail, the Rillito River Park Trail connects to the Santa Cruz River Park Trail.
Julian Wash Greenway
The Julian Wash Greenway runs for 17.9 miles with ends at Silverlake Road and Santa Cruz Line, and S. Rita Road. This section of the Loop runs along southeastern Tucson through the Sonoran Desert. It offers views of mountains in the distance as well as the arid beauty of the desert. Like some other sections of trail, the Julian Wash Greenway is friendly to equestrians and joggers, with a soft-surface pathway next to the paved portion.
A number of parks provide access to the trail as well as access to facilities, including the Augie Acuna Los Ninos Park and the Thomas Jay Regional Park.
The Harrison Greenway Trail is one of the shortest sections of the Loop, running only 5 miles. It extends from Pantano River Park Trail at S. Harrison Road to E. Sellarole Street, Nexus Road, and E. Rita Road. It connects the Julian Wash Greenway with the Pantano River Park Trail, following Harrison Road for a third of the route. Desert and mountain views are a welcome addition to this section of the Loop.
Pantano River Park Trail
The Pantano River Park Trail extends for 5.9 miles, making it just slightly longer than the Harrison Greenway. The trail ends lie at E. Tanque Verde Road and Harrison Greenway at S. Harrison Road and E. Sellarole Street. This section of the Loop follows the Pantano River and features underpasses at every crossroad. In the future, it will continue on to join the Rillito River Park Trail.
Navigating the Route
The Chuck Huckelberry Loop is an easygoing trail for the most part. It does not permit motorized vehicles, making it safe for slower traffic like cyclists, equestrians, joggers, and walkers. Some sections of the trail have soft-surface pathways as well as the main paved road in deference to equestrians and joggers. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash and their owners pick up after them.
Wildlife on the Chuck Huckelberry Loop
Because the Loop is so popular with walkers and cyclists, wildlife doesn’t usually infringe on it. However, Arizona is home to a wide array of habitats and species, and some of them may be visible from the road. Coyotes, skunks, mountain lions, foxes, javelinas, deer, raccoons, black bears, and coatimundi are all common animals in this state. Common reptiles include toads, rattlesnakes, and iguanas. Birdwatchers may spot a variety of birds, including the cactus wren, the hummingbird, the woodpecker, and the greater roadrunner.
If you love to cycle and find yourself in Tucson, check out the longest biking trail in Arizona. You won’t regret it!
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.