An Arizona Bike Overnight to Picacho Peak State Park

This was a pre-Christmas overnight trip just because. We enjoy traveling by bike and Picacho Peak is an easy trip for a weekend getaway.

Bicycle Adventurers: My wife and I ... we recently completed a 470-mile, self-contained bike tour from Crescent City, California to Half Moon Bay, California and loved every minute. Short overnight trips are just the thing to keep that love for bicycle travel alive and well.

When: We planned this trip a couple months ago when the weather in Tucson was unseasonably warm. However, our trip started the second day of winter on December 22 with lows in the 30s and 40s overnight.

Accommodations: We camped at an electric site at the Picacho Peak State Park campground in our tent. We were sure to bring two extension cords to reach the electric outlet over 50 feet away for our electric blanket to help keep us warm overnight. Picacho Peak is a beautiful place with the peak just behind our site.

Distance: Friday, we rode to Picacho Peak State Park, a 53-mile ride from our home. Saturday, we spent the day hiking Hunter Trail and Sunset Trail, and Sunday was our ride back home which came to 54 miles.

Bonus tip for this adventure?

  • Half of our route was on “The Loop,” Pima County's multi-use bike path
  • We also had minimal traffic on Interstate 10’s frontage road. 
  • Beautiful sunny days with low winds made for easy riding. 
  • The Travel Center across from Picacho Peak State Park had a Subway sandwich shop and hot chocolate for our Hydro Flasks. 
  • Picacho Peak State Park, is also the site for the most western Civil War battle. They have a reenactment every March.

Day One

We started our ride from our home and made our way to The Loop with no issues, until ...

At mile seven, my rear rack fell off with two loaded panniers, our tent, and my sleeping bag on it. The two bolts near the drop outs were still tight. However, the rack strut bolts came loose, causing the rack to fall backwards onto my rear fender ... it was a mess. I had to pull everything off the rack, find my tools, and resecure the struts to the rack. Luckily, my rear fender wasn't damaged. I just needed to make a few adjustments, then we were on our way again.

From The Loop we turned onto Twin Peaks Road to get to the frontage road for the remainder of our ride. At around mile 30, we stopped to eat our packed lunch at a tree alongside the frontage road near Tangerine Road. We even had a rock to sit on. At this point, the temperature was in the 60s. It was a beautiful sunny ride with Picacho Peak in the distance, becoming bigger and bigger as we got closer. 

We stopped at the Travel Center across the Interstate from Picacho Peak State park to use the restroom, and get dinner from Subway. We also got some Hot chocolate for later. 

Once at the campsite, we began setting up our tent, blowing up our sleeping mats, laying out our sleeping bags, and plugging in our extension cords for the electric blanket to warm the tent. We got into our site just before the sun went down, and the temperatures dropped with the sun. So we cleaned up a little then ate our dinner in the tent got into our sleeping bags and sipped our hot chocolate. last, we watched a cheesy Christmas movie on Netflix, snug as a bug in a rug.

Day Two

With temperatures in the low 30s, we didn't get out of our tent until about 8:00 AM, when it was a little warmer. We heated water in our Jetboil for coffee and prepared a Mountain House “Breakfast Skillet”  ... a very good breakfast. 

We did a hike up the Hunter Trail that went toward Picacho Peak, then turned onto Sunset Trail to hike the back half of the state park, coming to about a six-mile hike for the day. The hike had some fantastic views and challenging climbs. We got back about 3:00 PM so we decided to take showers with the sun still up for a warmer experience. it felt good to take a shower. 

Dinner that night was another backpacker meal from Mountain House, Turkey Tetrazzini, chocolate chip cookies, and hot tea, and another Christmas movie from Netflix.

Day Three

Christmas Eve! Today was our ride back home. We heated water in our Jetboil for our oatmeal and coffee, and ate breakfast sitting in the morning sun at the picnic table at our campsite. After breakfast, we began to pack our stuff back onto our bikes. It was a slow morning; we were rolling by 11:00 AM to head back the way we came. At the town of Marana, 18 miles into our ride, we stopped at the Circle K to use the restroom, get a sandwich for lunch, donut holes (yum) and a couple of bananas.

The ride between Marana Road and Tangerine Road on the eastbound side of Interstate 10 is a nice road with a slight downhill. It passes by cotton fields and i think it was the best section of road to ride during the whole trip. It parallels the Interstate, has low traffic, and Wendi and I had a couple cars from the Interstate honk at us and wave as they passed. Of course, we waved back. 

At mile 30, we stopped at Silverbell Cross Roads Park to eat our lunch and top off our water. We continued our ride along Silverbell Road to Sunset Road, then turned onto the Santa Cruz portion of The Loop. We rode The Loop all the way back to Craycroft Road where we exited the path. We made a quick stop at Natural Grocers for a head of lettuce to have with our dinner. Wendi finally got to use her extra cargo net as she strapped the head of lettuce to her front rack. It was very festive with the green lettuce and the red net. 

After another six miles of riding, we were home, again, just before the sun went down. It was a great trip! I don't think I would change much — maybe a shorter hike because our legs were spent for the ride home.

Your favorite local bike shop? Broadway Bikes, Tucson, Arizona

Bike overnight tips and tricks? 

  • Favorite must-have? Our Jetboil and electric blanket.
  • Wished we brought? A gadget to suspend the phone from the tent ceiling to watch movies.
  • Wept the food simple with the backpacker meals and stores nearby, so we didn't need to carry a lot of food.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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