Before we left Phoenix, we had the opportunity to start the new year with a great mountain bike ride on the Pemberton Trail in McDowell Mountain Park. A few weeks ago we were asked for advice on where a beginner-intermediate rider from out of town should ride. When I asked Jay and his dad, Morgan, they both agreed that Pemberton Trail would be the best bet. “Pemberton Trail? Where’s that? Why have I never ridden it?” Well, it turns out that it’s about an hour out of Phoenix, but having heard about this trail I really wanted to check it out.
Pemberton is a great ride for a bicyclist like me. It is a 15 mile loop, so it is a good workout with some variety. However, except for a tiny pitch it is not technical, so it is a good confidence builder for a rider who is moving from beginner to intermediate.
Most people access the trail from the parking lot. You can ride it in either direction, but either way you ride it you will start with an easy flowing section and then a long steady ascent.
This video clip shows the climb. You are rewarded for climbing by getting better and better views of the mountains and being surrounded by more Saguaros.
My favorite part of the trail was the middle section where we got to pick up speed for some gentle wash crossings and rolling hills. The video below shows a little section of the more flowing area of trail.
What goes up must come down. In either direction you get to end the ride with a long steady descent. I think the direction we chose was good because the trail was very smooth and wide and we could carry a lot of speed on the way down.
I did start to bonk on the ride about 3/4 of the way through. We were riding in the early afternoon and it was unusually hot for January 1st. There is no shade along this trail (like most in Phoenix) so I started to get dehydrated and low blood sugar. Even with an easier trail it’s always important to remember to take care of yourself out there and bring plenty of water and snacks. Luckily we had both and after sipping a gu in the shade of a creosote bush I was ready to finish the ride.
McDowell Mountain Park is a great biking destination. They’ve been adding more trail lately and now they also have a pump track. You could spend days exploring all the different trails available.