postheadericon Riding SoAZ Part II (SW Tucson)

In part II of this series, I will talk about riding in Tucson. Tucson is not exactly one of those large metropolitan city with lots of suburbs, however, there are a few. It is, though, large in terms of the land it occupies. For the purposes of this article, I will extend Tucson as far north as Oro Valley and as far south as Sahuarita. I will also discuss riding as far east as Vail and as far west as Picture Rocks. I will be including rides in Tucson Mountain Part, both Saguaro National Parks and the Sky Island Scenic By-Way, aka Catalina Highway, aka Mount Lemmon Highway.

This makes an area roughly 45 miles east-west and 30 miles north-south. That’s over 1300 square miles! For anyone reading this who is not familiar with ”the wild west,” space has never been an issue here, so we use a lot of it. As you can imagine, this provides for a lot of riding areas without even leaving the general Tucson area. I’ll bet that even some  folks from Tucson didn’t realize that the city was this big.

Obviously, there are lots of just ordinary city streets on which to ride. Residential streets are a great way to get to know your city, but for the most part, I am going to ignore them. I will, however, discuss those streets which are scenic, fun, or otherwise  noteworthy.

In order to discuss riding distances and times, we must have a common point of reference. I looked at the square created by my previously mentioned boundaries, and I believe that the University of Arizona, specifically, the intersection of Speedway Blvd and Campbell Avenue, (HERE) represents the approximate center.  Also, it is easy to find for anyone new to the area. Therefore, this is the point I will use as the starting location for all rides mentioned when discussing Tucson rides.

I’m going to start with the west side of town. Why? Because that’s where I most recently went riding and I’ve got some decent pics of the area. Once again, please allow me to create my own definition of “the west side.” I had originally thought about using just that part west of I-10, but I am, instead, going to move my dividing line eastward, to Oracle Road and then I-19 as you go south. Okay? Okay.

View Reference Point in a larger map
The west side is a little short on twisting, turning roads, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ANY twisties, nor does it mean that there aren’t some beautiful rides. There are some of each. There are also some very scooter friendly routes that are ideal for traversing the city from north to south and back again.

Let’s start in the southwest corner of our defined area. In that area is San Xavier del Bac.

The mission is a great destination. As you can see, it’s beautiful. If you enjoy history, it’s excellent as well. On the weekends, there are many vendors out in the parking lot selling everything from baskets to, my favorite, frybread. From Speedway and Campbell, the mission is just a 15 mile or 30 minute ride, making it perfect for a 2 hour outing where you can get some good food, shoot some nice pics and buy some great Christmas gifts.

As you can see by the map, you get to San Xavier using Mission Road. Mission is a great west side road with which to be familiar. South of San Xavier, it becomes a bit twisty and eventually ends in Green Valley. It’s a scenic way to get there and you avoid having to ride on I-19. North of the mission, you go into Tucson just west of downtown and, if you turn west onto Congress St, you end up on Silverbell Rd, which will take you all the way to our northern boundary along a path which parallels I-10. For those on smaller displacement bikes or those who just don’t like riding/driving the freeway through cities, Mission-Silverbell is a great way to cross Tucson when going north-south.

Near the spot where Congress and Silverbell merge is the entrance to a Tucson landmark, Sentinel Peak Park or “A” Mountain. Visible from much of the city, it has a large “A” on the side of it.  

The is a one-way road that wraps around it and, from there, you can get great views like this:

The next road of note is Valencia Rd. Valencia run east-west across much of the city, making it a good way to traverse Tucson on the south side. I have found much of it to be in need of repair, however, so be prepared to have your teeth rattle a bit. It has also been my experience that people tend to drive well over the speed limit on Valencia as well, so be prepared. I have used Valencia west of Mission on a couple of group rides as a way of avoiding the busier section of Ajo Way. Valencia intersects with Ajo at Ryan Airfield.

Ryan Airfield is on the western border of our Tucson “square.” Ryan Field is another good destination for those interested in a short outing. It is less than 20 miles and is about 30 minutes from our start point. (Map) While there you can observe small planes taking off and landing and you can enjoy some tasty food at Todd’s Restaurant located at the airport. Ajo Highway, aka Route 86, is the gateway to western AZ which will be covered in another segment.

** Please note that I don’t receive any compensation from any of the businesses/restaurants that I have mentioned or will mention in this piece. There are many great places that won’t get mentioned and I apologize to them. **

Another important road is Sandario Road. Sandario starts about 2 miles west of Ryan Field. It runs due north and ends at Marana Regional Airport. That’s 20 miles. Sandario is a great north-south road to use to cross the city and it’s a beautiful drive. It’s almost perfectly straight, but it has a lot of rolling hills and the desert scenery is beautiful. Another nice thing is that there isn’t a lot of traffic. There are a lot of horse properties out here as well, for those who have equestrian interests. There is gas available where Sandario intersects Picture Rocks Rd.

My word processor tells me I am at 1000 words. I think that’s a pretty good length for a single post. Stay tuned for the next installment which will cover Tucson Mountain Part and “Scooter Killer Curve.”
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One Response to “Riding SoAZ Part II (SW Tucson)”

  • karl utrecht:

    Howard, this is a neat thing you’re doing. I’ve printed it out and am starting a “Howard” file.

    Karl Utrecht

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