Imagine a mountain bike trail system that combines the best -- and worst (depending on your point of view) -- of South Mountain: a good dose of National, add some Desert Classic, a dash of Mormon, a pinch of Javalina, and smidge of Alta.
Mash 'em all up and drop the results on the east end of the Valley in the shadow of Red Mountain and presto, there lay the Hawes Trail Loops. Sure, it's a vastly smaller network of singletrack than the big brother to the west, but it twists like rattlesnake ready to strike with climbs and drops that keep even the most technically capable riders on their toes.
Hawes and its accompanying trails were once under the threat of Mesa's residential sprawl, but now seems more than secure, taking riders up to mine shafts and through a forest of cactus leading to some of the best views in the East Valley.
Find more in Mesa, AZ The primary trailhead for the Hawes Loops is on the east side of Power Road, just on the north side of the canal (if you start heading downhill to the river valley, you're too far). There's a small parking area across Power that holds about ten cars, otherwise plan on parking at the Walgreen's at Power and Thomas Road, about 2 miles south.
The best loop to ride is a combination of Hawes, Saddle, Saguaro and Ridge Trails in a counterclockwise direction for a run of about seven miles. The trails are signed with some old wood carved placards sitting on posts whenever the tracks intersect.
Start following Hawes Trail south along a nice ledge section and up to the first plateau. Once up this climb, stop and turn around for a stunning view north at Red Mountain, Granite Reef Dam and the McDowells in the distance.
Another quick climb leads up to a meeting with Saguaro Trail. Keep on Hawes towards the residential development and hook left to climb again to meet up with Saddle Trail, and hang a left onto Saddle. Hawes will continue up a steep pitch and head south around the houses but not lead back to other trails.
Saddle Trail is a twisting, rolling, cactus and boulder lined track that never seems to lead where you think it will. This section is definitely better suited for rigs with 26 inch wheels, but 29ers can work through the corners without too much trouble. Some of the drops look more severe that they actually are, but caution is advised for first-timers.
Saddle runs northward for about a mile and a half before t'ing into Saguaro Trail, also sometimes referred to as Mine Trail or Mine Shaft Trail. For a quick return, head left and follow a sweet roll downhill. But for a sweet payoff, head right, get ready to work, and discover why the trail is has its alternate names.
Saguaro gets fairly technical with some rocky, steep drops but climbs well up to the saddle ridge where a sign points left to Mine Shaft or right to Twisted Sister. Stay left on Mine Shaft and continue climbing up to a good sized mine shaft cut into the south face of the hill. Views from this point look east to Four Peaks and the Superstitions, down to the trail you just came up, and west towards Phoenix.
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Saguaro/Mine Trail does continue around the north side of the hill and will take you back down, but it's better to drop back down the way you came up and enjoy the run back down Saguaro through a nice batch of Joshua trees and saguaros. This is the payoff stretch of loop.
Make a right on Ridge Trail for a nice ledgy return to the entry point as the trail wraps around a small, reddish bluff and connects back into Hawes near the trailhead.