Eons of time have lapsed burying age-old mountains beneath silt. Their skyward presence could have once rivalled the height of the Alps, but now only the rocky protrusions of the peaks are visible. These mostly submerged giants create an unexpected, yet amazing mountain biking mecca in the heart of Arizona's most dominant, metropolitan desert city.
Even though nature moulded this portion of the planet into a harsh landscape, ancestors indigenous to the area were privy to the wonders of the desert long before modern man encroached upon the solitude of a Saguaro-lined horizon with his new age ways and building.
Now, amidst modern times and innovations, in the heart of the concrete jungle of Phoenix, Arizona, rugged and rocky ground still reigns in South Mountain Park. It is this haven of challenging and grin-provoking trails which lure mountain bikers into the city's vicinity.
Living a life centered around traveling, we find ourselves in Phoenix from time to time for one reason or another and exploring the South Mountain trails has always been a rewarding reprieve in an area where motorized travel dominates.
Ten different trails carve their signatures into the 16,000 acre desert preserve, which is also coined as the largest municipal park in the country. The spike-laden environment provides options for numerous disciplines from undulating and flowing cross-country trails to technical, chunky gnar that gives the bike's suspension a good workout.
Innumerable geological obstacles blanket the trails, creating a multitude of line choices, keeping us entertained with fresh routes of attack. Be advised, though, that bail out options can be tricky. I've yet to meet an individual that thinks cactus butt or being kissed by rocks is a comfortable experience.
Being able to take a step out of the buzzing chaos and immerse ourselves in a setting of single track and cacti for a jaunt on two wheels is probably nothing short of the euphoria an addict feels getting a fix. Especially if we're seeking out the adrenaline surge of blazing down a boulder strewn path at high speeds.
Another fortunate occurrence we generally experience while hanging out in this southwestern state is that radiating globe of scorching energy and heat known as the sun always seems to be shining here.
The ever present sun aloft in the azure-hued sky heralds Phoenix as a prime winter getaway, but the emanating heat can make daytime summer riding intolerable. We do find it to be an exceptional cold weather escape when that frosty white stuff has buried the higher elevation trails.
Similar to many high alpine trails, South Mountain can emit that same calm, tranquil energy as you traverse across the open desert, lost in your own world with only the sounds of the hum of your tires and occasional call of the rock wren to serenade you.
The erosion of time and weather have taken a magnificent toll on shaping the multitudes of granite and volcanic rock formations that comprise the meat of the topography that shapes the park's land. I think it's safe to say that any true mountain biker would be hard pressed not to achieve some sort of enjoyment and satisfaction riding here.
Akin to the city that encompasses it, South Mountain Park is as diverse in trail as the culture is around it. Nature and people have worked together to make one unique and worthy playground in this desert terrain.
Projekt Roam was founded by husband and wife, Colt and Jessee Maule in 2010. It has been their mission to travel North America in search of places that celebrate the unparalleled beauty and freedom of not only the bike, but the terrain we ride as well. Plan your own trip to Phoenix, AZ and check out more photos, film, and riding locations throughout North America at www.projektroam.com.
Thanks to our sponsors for some great product and to all of our new friends who have helped us out along the way, ride on.
Words: Jessee Maule Photos/Film: Colt & Jessee Maule (Filmed February 2014) Riders: Colt Maule, Michael Mahowald, Jessee Maule