MTR*-2018 – Maricopa Trail
Maricopa County (PHX) – Arizona
(gpx link is at the bottom of page)
The Maricopa Trail is my unicorn…and I found it.
The idea of the regional trail that connects major regional and municipal parks in and around the Phoenix metropolitan area was envisioned by Maricopa County in very early 2000’s. I’m sure the idea was in several peoples heads since the late 1990’s. Locals started seeing the Maricopa Trails signs bloom in the North West Valley between White Tank Mountains and Lake Pleasant as this was the pilot area and the first phase of the plan to be implemented. Immediately the signs attracted my curiosity and I knew I wanted to ride the entire route…once it was finished.
It took Maricopa County and their many partnerships almost 18 years to complete the trail. As of this writing, the trail is still not 100% complete (99% in my opinion). With a major portion of the MT from Spur Cross in the NE Valley to to the Tonto Ranger Station on Bartlett Road being completed in December of 2017, I was excited to get my wheels down and complete the entire trail in one continuous thru-bike in the spring of 2018 before the weather started getting warm.
I have since learned after completeing the MTR* that I am most likely the first known person to ever complete the entire Maricopa Trail in one continuous thru-travel of any mode, or even in sections. Talking to my Krazy buddy, he said “congratulations, you have the record”. I paused and thought, and commented, “no, I have the benchmark time…and it’s not a race*”. It’s hard to set a “record” if no one is riding behind you trying to beat your time or accomplishment.
Krazy also said “well, you’re the first to complete it”, as many others have also commented to me with congratulations. I spent many days thinking about being the “first”. I didn’t decide to ride the MTR* to be ‘the first’, I rode the trail because I kept seeing the signs on my daily rides teasing me, and I grew tired of …just talking about the trail. What does appeal to me for being the first to complete the route, is that I get to ride my OWN RIDE. Often times when I am going to ride a big route, I spend days (weeks, months, years…if you ask my hot wife), and I study all the information from those that came before me. In the end, I ride someone else’s ride, not my ride. I don’t have the will power to not do recon on long routes, it’s just who I am. So I thought long and hard about the information I was willing to share about the Maricopa Trail in order to NOT dilute someone else’s experience.
Below is all the information that someone should need to navigate the MTR* that I completed. It should give some everyone the basic information without turning their ride…into my ride.
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Annual Pass– there is a entrance fee for every Maricopa County Park, it is advised to purchase an annual pass. There is also a $30 annual pass for bike, foot, horse entrance new for 2018 if you don’t desire to purcahse an annual pass ($95)
Arizona State Land Trust Permit – according to Maricopa County “NOTE: You do not need a permit from state land to hike on those segments of the Maricopa Trail that reside on state land. Please stay on the trail.” – however I recommend you support AZ by purchasing an AZ State Land Trust Permit which will also permit you to leave the trail legally.
Tonto National Forest – a Tonto Pass is not required unless you plan on parking your vehicle in the Tonto National Forest – according to a Tonto Ranger I spoke with.
Parks and Preserve Hours – Please observe and be aware of all the opening and closing times of each Park and/or Preserve. Starting locations and times will be important as to not be in violation of the various parks and preserve open/closed times.
Miles: – +/-250
Elevation gain: +/-16,026
Time: Mad Rhino 43hrs 28 minutes – 2018-04-20 Clockwise
Water / Food: there is plenty of water and food refueling locations along the route if you plan accordingly.
Camping: follow the rules, camp where permitted.
Maricopa Trail Notes: (as of 2018-05-19):
- Spur Cross / Cahava Springs – There is a known detour near Spur Cross because of a new housing development Cahava Springs. The official signed route is unrideable, but may change after the housing development is finalized. The detour may change as construction continues. The detours may not be signed.
- West Valley – Jackrabbit Trail and I-10 – The official trail will go under I-10 at the Tuthill Road alignment. The tunnel is functionable, but there is no legal access to get from Tuthill Rd to Jackrabbit Trail because of the Flood Control District. Advise to use the detour on Jackrabbit Rd to McDowell Road, and west to Tuthill Rd alignment to avoid jail time and fines for stepping over (yes, you can step over if you have a 30″ inseam) the fence at the Flood Control District. This is the last 1% that needs to be completed (IMO).
- NW Valley – It’s the wild west in the northwest valley. The trail is officially signed but the track is braided among other user groups – horse, motos, quads, trucks, etc. The MTR* gpx will get you to where you need to be, but the actual route could vary from month to month depending on the moto traffic at the given time.
- Happy Valley Road – the trail along HVR is obscure, hard to find at night, and rough just east of the 303. Just know the trail turns north under HVR in the Aqua Fria Wash on the east side and comes up out of the wash north of HVR along the west side of Tierra del Rio development .
- Irrigation Canals – The trail follows a recreation corridor along several irrigation canals. It is my understanding through research, that this land is owned by the United States Federal Government and is operated and maintained by SRP. During my ride, I encountered signs that stated that recreation access along the canal would be temporarily closed due to construction at certain times of the year. I was told by a Maricopa County Official that there should not be any closures that prevent recreational access as the Maricopa Trail has an easement. This is inter-governmental agreements and you may find yourself on a section of canal that is closed. I was informed that all closures are posted on the Maricopa County Parks and Rec website. Do your homework or you may find a huge detour in East Mesa.
- trail/road/dirt/? – The MT may follow right along side an existing dirt road, quad track, or public road. You might wonder why they built a trail right next to an existing dirt road and it all comes down to legal public access and easements. Choose your ride as you see honorable, but sticking to the actual designed trail is ideal.
in no particular order
MTR*-2018 GPX File
Download the above file and rename the .doc extension to .gpx extension.
Disclaimer: I choose not to post the gpx file on a public website for several reasons. The main reason is the Maricopa Trail is not 100% complete and I didn’t want the above track to be assumed by anyone that is was the Official GPX file for the Maricopa Trail. The track provided above is very accurate and traverseable by bike or foot and has actually been ridden. Follow all the local rules, statues, ordinances, leave not trace principles, local bikepacking ethics, and most importantly use common sense and don’t die because your hot wife will be pissed…maybe.
START / FINISH – the beauty of this ride is it’s a loop around Phoenix. Start and Finish where ever you logistically want or desire. I started where I wanted to for various reasons, you should evaluate where YOU want to Start/Finish. This location is not an official start/finish location.
Direction – I choose to ride clockwise. YOU should choose what ever direction you feel is most ideal for your ride.