Breaking Away: More Cities to Explore

Destination #6: Tucson

This city knows how to woo potential visitors whether they come to relax in the clement weather or to look for an exciting vacation. Bicycling Magazine lists Tucson as one of the top cycling cities in the US, mostly because of the mild climate and sunny skies. Almost every day turns out to be a great day to cycle! Tucson also contains over 500 miles of metro paths and 300 miles of mountain biking trails—from beginner to experienced riders.

Looking for a fast-paced ride full of different terrains? Catalina Highway is sure to appease your desires. This 26-mile one-way trip twists and turns through the desert to the ski valley of Mt. Lemmon. However, be prepared for the 30-degree climate change from desert floor to mountain top. With this being the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains, the view will be more than breathtaking. Besides a great workout, this uphill climb will reward you with an easy, breezy ride downhill that allows you to take in the amazing scenery.

Not everyone can jump into a full-blown biking expedition, which is why training routes are available all over the city. One, in particular, is on the north side of Tucson and stretches through the Oro valley with beautiful sights of mountains and even a few cacti. While there are steep climbs on the uphill one-way route, this course is easy for beginners as they turn around to coast back towards the city. 

Starting at the University of Arizona, the 34-mile McCain loop will take you over Gates Pass and through the sea of cacti located in Saguaro National Park. Cyclists will fly through downtown and mountain passes, followed by a fast, flat road located near Tucson Mountain Park.

Located within the Rincon Mountains, the Chiva Falls trail will take you on a seven-mile, fast-paced journey. This trail is great for beginners, but also contains technical challenges for novice cyclists. Full of steep climbs and rolling hills, this is a hot spot on the weekends for cyclists, 4WDs, and ATVs. Be prepared for a crowded area!

Cycling through the Santa Rita Mountains on the Elephant Head Trail leads you to an up-close look at the 1,000-foot Elephant Head rock formation. While this is considered an advanced trail, the view along the 17-mile ride is worth it. As you meander through the open desert, you’ll end your ride with a curvy and challenging descent into Chino Canyon.

In order to ride and park in most state parks, a $15 State Land Recreational Permit is needed, but is good for up to a year. 

Bike shops like Arizona Cyclist and Arizona Bicycle Experts are great resources for trail suggestions, advice, gear, and scheduled group rides.

Looking for other great routes? Mapmyride.com, bikegaba.org, and sdmb.org/trails will help find any trail a cyclist desires.

After a long day of biking, food is a necessity. Try local restaurants like Janos for gourmet Southwestern cuisine, or El Charro Café, an authentic Mexican restaurant that has been owned and operated by a single family since 1922. If pizza’s what you’re craving, Magpies Gourmet Pizza has been ranked as “Tucson’s Best Pizza” for the last 20 years. To be “initiated” to the Southwest, eat fry bread with honey found at Tohono O’odham food stands as you cycle throughout the city!

 

Destination #7: Trempealeau County, Wisconsin

Undoubtedly, one probably wouldn’t expect this dairyland to be on our list of one of the best biking destinations this summer. But, in fact, it is an escape that is sure to restore sanity back to the overwhelmed and peace to the weary. Both Bicycling magazine and The New York Times rave about this newfound cycling haven.

Trempeleau County is located on the west central side of Wisconsin, a scenic riverside site at the base of the Trempealeau bluffs on the east bank of the Mississippi River. There are more cows than cars in the county and less than 28,000 people live in the rural 734-square-mile area. Picturing gravel-covered roads and pothole-inflicted flat tires? Think again. Because this county played a big role in transporting glass bottles of milk to market during World War II, area dairy farmers refused to risk breaking milk bottles on bumpy paths. Because of this, Trempealeau Country boasts 382 miles of paved road by which today’s cyclists benefit.

There are nearly 140 miles of bike paths located within the interconnecting trails of Western Wisconsin and the Mississippi River Valley. This region of lovely valleys and wooded hills was known to some of the early settlers as “The Garden of Eden.” It truly reflects a peaceful, idyllic scene, and as the early explorer Zebulon Pike described it, the Mississippi River Valley is “altogether so variegated and romantic that a man may scarcely expect to enjoy such but twice or thrice in the course of his life!”

When planning your trip, keep in mind that the two closest major cities are Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Madison, Wisconsin. You can download local maps for both driving and biking from the Bicycle Club of Trempealeau County’s website, ridebctc.com. You can also ride with the BCTC on Tuesday nights from April to October as you test your off-road handling skills on the 24-mile Great River State Trail that winds through the Upper Mississippi Valley.

The only bike shop in Tremeapeau County is Brones (bronesbikeshop.com), but the area is famous for locals helping out in case of trouble on the road.

Get your grub on at Hanson’s Hold Up, which serves a variety of great food and has an amazing view of evening sunsets over the valley below. Whitehall’s Dodge Street Grill comes highly recommended. Both The Oak Park Inn and The Trempealeau Hotel are great places to stay, with the latter offering historic-themed rooms and bike rentals on site. The walnut balls and burgers are famous here and should be on the list to try.