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The Golder Ranch area sits just northeast of the Tucson suburb of Oro Valley and offers a sometimes confusing myriad of trails, some of which are better than others.
This route provides a great way to link up the best bits into an entertaining 14-mile route.
This route brings together fast and flowy bits along with some fun rock areas to give an adventurous intermediate or any advanced rider a great few hours of fun in a gorgeous bit of remote-feeling desert—all easily-accessible from the city.
This area is a locals' favorite, and this route gives you maximum fun factor for your effort. This route includes the optional side loop on The Chutes, a way fun, flowy bit of rollercoaster 1.5-mile loop that's easy to add on.
The glory of The Chutes is that the climb out doesn't seem to be as hard as it should be given how fast and fun the drop in was.
In fact, most riders will do multiple laps on The Chutes, each one faster and flowier than the last.
Before The Chutes, it's a nice, mostly moderate climb up the 50-Year Trail, which has lots of small to moderate rock hopping opportunities, all with optional ride arounds for the less-technical rider.
After The Chutes, it's on to the upper reaches of the area on the Upper 50 Year Trail.
For a shorter ride, simply follow the Upper 50 Year loop around clockwise.
For the full ride, fork left off of Upper 50 Year onto Tank and bank it around to Rattlesnake and then again bank off, this time to the right, onto the totally unique and rad Cowboy Slickrock.
These upper reaches will provide even more—and bigger—opportunities for rock play, including drops in addition to rollers.
Again, most of these are easily walked if necessary.
Then, it's a merge back onto Upper 50 Year and onward to the also moderately-technical Middle Gate trail for more fast and furious fun before connecting back to your starting point.
While the trail is rideable year-round, the desert is relentless in its searing heat and there is no shelter or shade, so if riding in the summer, start very early and always bring more water than you think you'll need.
While adjacent to the city, this ride gets into isolated areas quickly.
It's easy to get kind of lost, but hard to get completely lost as the Santa Catalina Mountains form an ever-present backdrop to the east. There are a variety of cacti in the area, all of which want to stab you, so be sure to stay on the trail and hold your line.
The area is especially beautiful when the cacti are in bloom.
Wildlife viewing opportunities abound, especially for birds and reptiles.
Lucky riders may catch a glimpse of the elusive Road Runner who is every bit as fast as the cartoons would indicate. -Written by John Fisch