Saguaro National Park East / Old Spanish Trail / Colossal Cave
In many ways, biking Saguaro National Park East is similar to Sabino Canyon. The sweet marrow is at the park, but there’s plenty of meat on the bone to make it a spectacular ride. There’s no water, but the pavement is nicer, and it’s a true Tucson bike loop. The road riding along Old Spanish Trail features more open desert views and less high-end homes and shopping than riding Sunrise-Skyline-Ina, but it’s every bit as nice.
Another critical difference between Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park is that you can ride SNP at any time. During the day, a few cars might share the road with you. However, after dark, a rear reflector and headlight are required (they will check). A night loop during a full moon is something to behold…over and over and over.
Be wary of the midday heat and some traffic issues I’ll point out along the way with Camino Loma Alta and Pistol Hill. If you’re going in the morning, ride the 8-mile Cactus Forest Loop first. If you’re going in the evening, save it for last or ride it twice, once during the day and once at night.
When you’re ready to ride Old Spanish Trail, head southeast towards Colossal Cave (aka Colossal Cave Pistol Hill Bike Ride). On Saturday mornings, there’s a farmer’s market in the Rincon Valley. Otherwise, enjoy the desert views and nearly 10-miles of bike lanes out to the junction with Pistol Hill. Here, you have a choice to make. If Colossal Cave is open, you can ride a 3-mile out and back through the park to the cave entrance that’s very scenic with mature saguaros. If the cave is closed, there will be a gate blocking the most scenic portion of the ride.
If you’re on an early morning ride, you can form a loop down Pistol Hill to Camino Loma Alta, but there are no bike lanes along either section. I would definitely think twice before attempting this at dusk, where the cars will have difficulty seeing you over the rolling terrain. It’s also not a bad option to just flip it at Pistol Hill and head back in the bike lanes. If you decide to do the Camino Loma Alta loop and one lap on Cactus Forest, this is a 31-mile ride with about 1,500′ gain.