Bicycle Culture

Arizona's Black Canyon Trail Named Among Best Mountain Bike Trails in U.S.

The Bureau of Land Management has a big job: It has to oversee 245 million acres of public land, track herds of wild horses, deal with forest fires, and patrol the wilderness for smugglers.

Last week, they added another checkbox to their task list: Map the sweetest mountain bike trails in the nation.

Okay, they didn’t say “sweetest,” but “Top 20 Mountain Bike Opportunities” is the Bureau’s way of saying “these are some clutch rides."

The BLM collaborated with the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) to create the map, which BLM director Neil Kornze unveiled at the Outerbike event in Moab, Utah. If you’ve never heard of Outerbike, organizers describe it as “the best bike demo event in the universe.” Here’s what generally happens there:

The new feature is available for all major devices, and it supplements digital maps with detailed descriptions of the trails, including length, fees, elevation gains, and the best months to visit.

“The BLM is proud to manage some of the world’s best mountain bike trails,” Kornze says in a release. “This new, mobile-friendly tool will help the public get a glimpse of these amazing places and plan their rides.”

Not surprisingly, the BLM’s map has a heavy Western bias, listing only one lonely park east of the Mississippi. Oregon alone boasts three of the best mountain biking trails in the nation, and Colorado (go figure) has five.

The map lists only one Arizona location, but luckily that location is Black Canyon Trail, the epic, 80-mile route just an hour north of downtown Phoenix.

There is no word yet whether the BLM will expand the map. After all, these may be 20 “best” trails, but there are hundreds of “still really awesome” trails that are worth mentioning. (Ahem, South Mountain). There are so many local trails, in fact, that you might just glance the BLM’s map for now and then visit MTBikeAZTrails.comArizona Trail Association, and Mountain Bike AZ.

There are countless other resources for area mountain biking as well, and nothing beats asking at your local bike shop.

As IMBA’s mapping manager Leslie Kehmeier put it: “BLM's willingness to connect with our product and share it with their communities shows the quality of our work and provides a model of what our organizations can accomplish together."

Let’s hope there’s more to come.
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Robert Isenberg