So I asked my buddy (the Rockman) about South Mountain. Joe (that is his real name but I use his Rockman handle because I have the same name) told me he usually rides up the Mormon Trail and down the National Trail. Well, after taking an easy Javalina trail to meet the Mormon, I made my first mistake for the day. After riding a short part on the Mormon I took the first left off of Mormon instead of the second left … and ended up hike-a-biking a good portion of the National Trail … all the way to the top! If you go here … don’t do this! Stay on Mormon, take the second left onto National, and cut the amount of hike-a-biking in half! However, you will still have to hike up the Waterfall (the only thing I knew about before visiting South Mountain).
I was surprised to see a parking lot at the top of National. I was riding (and walking) through some of the most rugged territory ever imagined and BOOM! There was a parking lot on the next pinnacle. Full of cars. Dozens of hikers heading my way!
I made the parking lot as the hikers cleared out of my way (I always feel bad about this) and looked for the next part … Geronimo.
The Geronimo Trail drops off South Mountain from the north side of this parking lot … and just as “bugaroo” on MTBR had predicted, the Geronimo was the best part of the day. Yup, he had been correct (just like Rockman had been).
As I began my plunge down into the abyss below I felt like yelling, “Geronimo!” (like we used to when jumping off a high rock into a pond as kids!)
Loose rock, dozens of tricky one foot drops and staircases, a skinny trail snaking through a steep, narrow draw … with occasional views contrasting the high-rise buildings of downtown with the overall flatness of Phoenix, that was Geronimo. I love a challenge and Geronimo was perfect for me.
I guess I got off track at the bottom as I ended up in a Boy Scout Camp instead of at the Geronimo Trailhead (my second mistake). Once in the camp I could not get out … being surrounded by a 6 foot fence topped with barbs. As I rode around inside I decided the camp looked like a military training center. I finally found my way to the (open) front gate and escaped.
As I cruised down the road toward the Mormon trailhead I began to wonder if the fencing was intended to keep visitors out or … to keep the scouts from deserting. I was reminded of an old commercial, “Don’t Fence Me In!”
I ate a few snacks at the Mormon Trailhead while I studied the trail map on the sign. All I had to do next was to shoot to the top of this segment of the Morman Trail, then ride down to a cutoff trail called Pima Wash.
But … riding up this part of the Mormon is a terrible misuse of the word, “riding!” I rode maybe 50 yards of the trail … and hike-a-biked the other 4,174. Yes, I calculated it! By the time I reached the top I was anxious to see if I still remembered how to ride a bike!
The trip down the Mormon Loop was my second favorite part on South Mountain. The trail was steep and had both smooth and rough, rocky sections. But I wanted to cry when I reached the Pima Wash junction … all the elevation gained one step at a time, was given up in less than 5 minutes!
I decided to take the Pima Wash Trail even though I found myself riding on a sandy beach. I wanted to get to the desert Classic Trail and the Pima Wash Trail cuts across a bunch of other trails right to the trailhead.
The Desert Classic is a must ride for anyone on a mountain bike (there are a few drop-offs into washes that a beginner might want to walk). With just slight ups and downs (except the washes) I found myself pedaling hard to whole way to maximize my speed. The turns were very high radius so the only thing slowing me down was … me!
While taking a breather at a trail junction I was met by two bikers named Allen and Tracy. These two were out riding demo bikes. Tracy was looking for a bike with more fork and Allen was riding a bike he thought he might get for their son. I told them I was real proud of them … trying different bikes before buying. Many people ask me what kind of bike they should get and I tell them to go find what THEY like. Test them out.
I took a messy trail called Beverly Canyon back to the truck. Why … because it led directly back to the truck (except it climbed two mountains that lay between)!
So, in conclusion … I don’t think I will ever try to ride up the National Trail again. As a matter of fact, I think the Mormon Trail might be the only way to ride to the top of that mountain, at least with my skill set and strength! But any of the trails coming down will be fun … challenging, but fun.