Bicycling Arizona's Sonoran Desert (TourzPlus™)
Enjoy a diverse selection of routes through Saguaro cactus forests and expansive grasslands framed by rugged mountains. Enjoy a park ranger led walk, a private winery tour and luncheon, and a visit to one of the oldest Spanish missions in the Southwest offer insight into the regions history and natural world. Relax by the pool in the warm sunshine, hike, play golf, bird watch, and soak in the colorful Southwestern culture. Cycling routes include options for both intermediate and avid cyclists alike as the terrain is generally rolling with plenty of longer and more challenging options, including the famed 27-mile ascent of Mount Lemmon which towers above Tucson at 9157.
Learn more about our TourzPlus™ partner tours and how they differ from regular ExperiencePlus! bicycle tours.
Tour Dates & Prices
Feb 10-16, 2019
Feb 17-23, 2019
Feb 24-Mar 2, 2019
Mar 3-9, 2019
Mar 10-16, 2019
Mar 17-23, 2019
Oct 20-26, 2019
Oct 27-Nov 2, 2019
* We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the private room charge. This charge will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available it will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.
- Length / 7 Days
- Total Distance / 54 - 240
- Avg. Distance / 25 - 45 per riding day
- Tour Level / 3.0
- Countries / USA
- Begin/End / Tucson
- Price / From USD$3195
Sonoran Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Tubac, Hike in Sabino Canyon, Horseback riding
Keep in Mind: We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.
Great winter getaway! Pack your shorts and ride with us in February and March.
Use of a quality 30-27 speed bicycle; 6 nights lodging; all meals except two lunches; Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum; horseback riding; shuttle to and from the airport in Tucson
Arrive / Depart
Tucson Int'l Airport (TUS) (Shuttle provided to and from the airport)
Overall Tour Level
Daily Ride Summary
Tour Level Note: his vacation is well suited to leisure recreational riders as well as more seasoned cyclists. The terrain is rolling terrain with a mix of longer hills. Average daily mileage ranges from 25-65 with opportunity for additional miles on most days.
**We use Ride With GPS (ridewithgps.com) to calculate elevation and mileage information. Due to variance between mapping technologies, totals may differ slightly across devices and applications
DAY 1: Welcome to Tucson
Highlights: Bike fitting, welcome dinner
Your bicycle trip begins with an early afternoon airport pick-up at the Tucson Airport. Enjoy a warm-up ride before settling into your room and enjoy the pool and grounds. Daytime temperatures are typically in the mid 60's to low 70's and the weather is wonderful for outdoor activities. Following an introductory meeting, get acquainted with your fellow travelers during a private welcome reception and Sonoran dinner.
- Distance: 24 km (15 mi)
- Meals: Dinner
DAY 2: Saguaro National Park - East
Highlights: Saguaro National Park
This morning you'll have a spectacular introduction to the Sonoran Desert. The giant saguaro along with dozens of other types of cacti, are ever-present along our quiet route through the Park. During the afternoon you can choose between a 2 to 8-mile walk through a gorgeous nearby canyon, relax by the pool or indulge in a spa treatment. The canyon walk follows a creek that provides an oasis for wildlife. Dinner is together.
- Distance: 69 km (43 mi)
- Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 3: Tuscon Mountain Park and Arizona Desert Museum
Highlights: Gates Pass, Desert Museum
Visit Saguaro National Park's western expanse on a ride that winds through Tucson Mountain Park and impressive Gates Pass before descending into sweeping stands of cactus. The desert landscapes are particularly striking during today's rides and the "forests" of giant Saguaro cactus - the iconic symbols of the Southwest - stretch for miles. Opt for an extended ride or visit the amazing Arizona Sonora Desert Museum housing more than 300 animal species and 1200 varieties of plants in a beautiful natural setting. Join a docent-led tour along the two miles of walking trails or explore on your own. This stunning outdoor museum is a must-see and features its own aviary and raptor free flight demonstrations. Hikers might enjoy a nearby trek that takes you high above the desert floor and offers a great opportunity for some off bike exercise. Following your visit to the Desert Museum, those up for a challenge can tackle the steeper climb back over Gates Pass and follow a section of Tucson's bike path system to visit a local microbrewery en route back to our hotel. Relax by the pool or soak in the hot tub following your ride.
Distance: 19, 28, 40 or 65 miles.
- Distance: 105 km (65 mi)
- Meals: Breakfast
DAY 4: Patagonia
Highlights: Grasslands and Grapes
The morning begins with a short shuttle out of town and the scenery quickly changes as cacti give way to sprawling grasslands. This is ranch country, the region where cows and horses vastly outnumber people. The high plains are punctuated by distant peaks and the wheat-colored fields lie in stark contrast to the mountains rusty hues. Roads are lightly traveled and the open vistas inspire a sense of freedom and "get away from it all" rejuvenation. And, while Arizona is not widely known for its wines, winemakers on this plateau have been producing them for nearly 30 years. Enjoy a private luncheon winery tour, and tasting at the winery that planted the first vines in the region. After lunch, continue to the tiny frontier town of Patagonia. A mix between old west and artists enclave, Patagonia's main street includes a bookstore, restaurants, saloon, and artisan shops. The area around the town is part of a highly regarded bird watching region and you might want to arrange for a guided tour with a local expert. Your lodging is the aptly named Stage Stop Inn as it was built to house cast members of John Wayne movies filmed nearby. Following dinner in town, you can venture over to the saloon for some local flavor!
- Distance: 108 km (67 mi)
- Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 5: Patagonia to Tubac
Highlights: Scenery Abounds
Today's ride heads west and then north to Tubac. Visit the remains of one of the oldest Spanish missions in the region at Tumac?cori. The site is a National Historic Park and offers guided and self-guided tours through what was once a stop on the historic Camino Real. Tubac is the site of a former Presidio that was created to protect the nearby mission from continuous Apache attacks. Those who want extended miles on their bike will enjoy a beautiful ride to a remote lake. The winding route dips and climbs through unusual rock formations until it reaches the lake. Your lodging for the next two evenings is at the Tubac Golf and Spa Resort at Otero Ranch. This peaceful oasis features an outdoor pool, spa, golf course (Tin Cup was filmed here), shops and restaurants. Arrive early and hit the links or unwind in your luxurious hacienda before dinner. The fireplace in your room will take the chill off your evening - ok, it might add a little romance to it as well!
- Distance: 97 km (60 mi)
- Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
DAY 6: Arivaca and Tubac
Highlights: Arivaca, Tubac, golf, bike or walking options
Choices abound today! Get some more miles under your belt while riding to the tiny hamlet of Arivaca, spend the day exploring the sites around Tubac - one of the Southwests foremost towns for the arts, indulge in a spa treatment (appointments must be made several weeks in advance) at the resort, or play a round of golf. You might also enjoy walking the historic de Anza Trail that runs along the river. This section of the trail is part of a historic trek undertaken by 30 Spanish families in 1775 that concluded with the building of a mission and presidio in San Francisco. Tubac is full of interesting shops and galleries where you might find an antique Native American made bracelet or a pair of cowboy boots. The golf course is nestled among cottonwood and mesquite groves, and traverses the banks of the Santa Cruz River. If you missed the Tumac´cori National Historic Park or the Tubac Presidio on your ride into town yesterday, a visit to one or both might be of interest. Todays ride is a favorite for its rural roads and sweeping views where red rock mountains form an impressive backdrop to the north. Golfers can spend the day on the Resorts 18-hole course -- one of the best in the area. This evening, gather for your final dinner together in a private dining room at the resort.
Distance: 9, 30, or 60 miles.
- Distance: 97 km (60 mi)
- Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
DAY 7: Tucson
Sleep in this morning and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, get in a few more miles, enjoy a massage at the resort's spa, a round of golf, or some last-minute shopping in Tubac's renowned artist colony. For those who choose to ride, an exhilarating climb to the visitor center of the Smithsonian's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in the Coronado National Forest caps off your cycling for the trip. The views from the top are sweeping and on a clear day extend into Mexico. Return to the Resort for showers before your leaders transfer you to the airport in Tucson.
Your partner tour company holds the same standards in guidance and experience that I have come to expect from ExperiencePlus!. Thanks for the great trip!!!!
Terry G., Annapolis, MD
Biking in the Sonoran Desert is phenomenal. What we liked most - everything!
Ellen & Al B.
My favoirte ride was on Day 5 and I loved hiking the hills at the ranch.
Terance J., Royal Oak, MD
Mostly Flat Terrain
Mostly flat terrain has just a few rolling hills that rarely require you to change gears. It might contain a bit of climbing, but those climbs will be short and at a very gentle slope with little need for increased pedaling or downhill breaking.
Rolling hills refers to multiple gentle slopes (3-4% grade) with minimal need for changing gears or increasing in pedal power. Elevation gain should be less than 100m per hill and braking may not be necessary to control speed on downhills.
Hilly terrain has repeated hills and some of them may be require more pedal power as it has steeper inclines (up to 5%). You will change gears throughout the day and braking may be necessary to control speed on descents.
Very hilly terrain includes multiple hills on your ride, some of which can be steep or long climbs. You will change gears and need to use your brakes to control speed on your descent.
Mountainous terrain includes one or more sustained (more than 5km) climbs with frequent steep grades (over 7%). Mountainous rides may also feature multiple steep grades (greater than 6%) for extended periods of more than 5km. You will need to shift gears and brake on descents to control your speed.
Level 1 - 1.5 Rating
Based on today's distance and elevation gain (or lack thereof), it will be a very comfortable ride for beginner cyclists, those traveling by bicycle for the first time, or multi-generational groups with a desire for a nice and easy bike tour with plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Level 2 - 2.5 Rating
Based on today's distance and elevation gain, this day is ideal for riders newer to bicycle touring looking for a bit of a challenge, or for individuals who desire shorter days on the bike. You will likely be riding on rolling terrain.
Level 3 - 3.5 Rating
Based on today's distance and elevation gain, we suggest riders spend some time in the bicycle saddle before joining this tour so they you can enjoy the views at the top of some of the climbs you'll face.
Level 4 - 4.5 Rating
Based on today's distance and elevation gain, this day is best described as a great day on the bike for passionate cyclists or very active individuals.
Level 5 Rating
This day is not for a casual cyclist but for riders looking to push their limits. Suffice it to say your delicious meal at the end of the day will be well earned!
These are the definitions...
Level 1 - 1.5
- Average Daily Mileage: 15-30km (10-20 miles)
- Gain: 0-400m (0-1200ft)
- Terrain: Mostly flat with occasional gentle climbs at a grade of less than 3%, that are sustained for a maximum of 3km. There might be a steeper but short climb.
Level 1 tours will be mostly flat and daily distances will rarely exceed 30 km. Level 1 tours are suitable for beginner cyclists, those traveling by bicycle for the first time, or multi-generational groups with a desire for a nice and easy bike tour with plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Level 2 - 2.5
- Average Daily Mileage: 30-50km (20-30 miles)
- Gain: 400-600m (1200-2000ft)
- Terrain: Mostly rolling terrain around 3%. Presents multiple 3% to 4% climbs. May present an occasional steeper climb.
Level 2 tours are a great option for those new to bicycle touring looking for a bit of a challenge, or for individuals who desire shorter days on the bike. The average mileage on level 2 bike tours is 30-50 km on mostly rolling terrain. There will be multiple climbs at 3-4% grade throughout the tour, but only an occasional steep climb.
Level 3 - 3.5
- Average Daily Mileage: 50-70km (30-45 miles)
- Gain: 600-900m (2000-2800ft)
- Terrain: Multiple Climbs with grades of 4 - 6%. li>
Level 3 tours are for active individuals (who run, bike, swim etc. on a regular basis) with the desire to cover longer daily distances on the bicycle. These tours are a great workout when you’re riding as you will average 50-70 km daily with total gain of 2,000-2,800 ft. There will be multiple 4-6% climbs throughout the tour.
Level 4 - 4.5
- Average Daily Mileage: 70-90km (45-55 miles)
- Gain: 900-1000m (2800-3600ft)
- Terrain: Presents multiple steep climbs (6% to 8% grades), 1 to 3km long. Alternatively, 4 – 6% grades for 6 kilometers or more. li>
Level 4 tours are for passionate cyclists or very active individuals. This level tour is great for cyclists looking to stay in shape and pedal hard they travel across regions or countries. Level 4 tours cover 70-90km daily with 2,800-3,600 ft of gain. Cyclists on a level 4 bicycle tour can expect multiple climbs, some climbs might be short and steep (6-8% for 1-3 km) while others may be sustained (6+ Km) at a 4-6% grade.