Phoenix is a notoriously demanding place to mountain bike. Rocky terrain, rugged mountains, and jumping cholla are just a few of the challenges that riders face. Luckily, in addition to all the “advanced” rides out there, there are some fantastic trails suited perfectly to families. Here are a few of our favorite places in the Phoenix area to mountain bike with kids.
For each of the rides listed here, the route and distance can be modified based on the age and the ability level of your child. Very young kids might be happy with a mile out-and-back from the trailhead. Older, capable riders will be able to ride significant distances at each of these parks. I’ve included links to maps, so that you can pick an appropriate route ahead of time.
Best Family-Friendly Mountain Bike Trails in Phoenix
McDowell Mountain Park
The trails at McDowell Mountain Park are relatively smooth and feature manageable climbs. Don’t let the park’s trail map fool you–the black diamond Pemberton trail, and the trails that bisect it, are our favorite for biking with kiddos. My guess is the rating is based on the 15 mile distance. While 15 miles is probably too much for all but the strongest kids, the long-distance can be shortened by a number of different shortcuts, or by doing an out-and-back.
Back at the entrance of the park, there’s a pump track in the parking lot for the competitive loops. This is a great place to let kids play and work on their skills.
Get a trail map, directions, fee info, and more at Maricopa County Parks: McDowell Mountain Park.
Usery Mountain Park
With views of the Usery and Superstition mountains, there isn’t a prettier place in the valley to ride your bike. While the park is home to the black diamond Pass Mountain trail, down in the flats the trails are fun, gentle, and swoopy. These trails are appropriate for even the most beginner of riders.
Park at the trailhead staging area, and ride the very easy NoSo trail. Moonrock and Blevins are other kid-favorites.
One of our favorite family outings is to come out here on a Friday night after work, get in a ride, and then roast some hotdogs over a fire and stargaze.
Get a trail map, directions, fee info, and more at Maricopa County Parks: Usery Mountain Park.
San Tan Regional Park
This is yet another Maricopa county park that has great mountain biking for families. Do a short out-and back on the Moonlight Trail, or do any combination of trails to make a fun loop. Just make sure to stay away from the washes and from the advanced Goldmine Trail.
Get a trail map, directions, fee info, and more at Maricopa County Parks: San Tan Park.
For beginner riders, Phoenix’s large system of canal paths can be the perfect introduction to off-road riding. They are also perfect for riding with kids in bike seats or trailers. When my little boy was a year-old, we spent a lot of time riding the canal paths with him in the iBert.
Check out the online map from MAG bikeways to map out a route close to you. The yellow lines are canal paths.
Tips for Mountain Biking with Kids in Phoenix
Here a few things to keep in mind when mountain biking with kids in Phoenix:
- Take the heat seriously. During the summer months, if you are going to ride you need to go early. Like really early—5 or 6am.
- At any time of year, take plenty of water with you. Don’t ever underestimate how much water little riders need, or how dehydrating the desert can be. For kids who are big enough, having their own hydration pack can be really helpful.
- With cactus around every turn, you need to be prepared in the event that you or your kids have a run-in with one. Kids are notorious for wandering around with little awareness of their surroundings. Carry tweezers with you just in case.
- Similarly, be prepared for a crash. In some places, a fall might be cushioned by grass or bushes. In the desert, you are most likely going to fall on rock. Make sure you have a first aid kit along.
- Most of the rides listed here are locating within the Maricopa Regional Parks. If you anticipate doing a lot of riding, buy an annual pass to get admission to all of the parks and to save yourself some money.
- All of these trails see a lot of horse traffic. When approaching from behind, make your presence known in advance and ask the equestrian if it is safe to pass. If you approach the equestrian head on, pull to side of the trail and wait for them to come by.
Phoenix mountain biking can be intimidating, but if you know where to go, there are plenty of suitable trails for kids and families. Whether you are visiting the area for a winter respite, or you live in the area and are looking for new activities to do with the kids, any one of the rides listed here will be fun for the whole family.
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