Black Canyon Trail – Emery Henderson to Little Pan Loop

It’s been a while since I’ve visited my pops in Peoria, AZ.  Last time I was here for Thanksgiving in 2012, I got introduced to the Black Canyon Trail (see my original blog post).  I had a blast and knew I had to ride more of it next time I was in town.  So here I am.  We are on the way out to Santa Fe to start Season 3 of Longmire.  This is my third time making the pilgrimage.  In 2012, I rode the Cowboy Trails in Las Vegas and the Whiskey course in Prescott, AZ.  In 2013, I rode Gooseberry and the Sedona Big Friggin Loop.  This year, it’s the Black Canyon Trail and soon, the High Desert Trails in Gallup, NM (next blog).  My last chance to get some good riding in before standing on my feet 12 hours a day saps the life from my legs and I’m widdled down to one stale ride on the weekend… That sounds kind of negative, huh?  No, it’s not that bad.  I love my job, and it affords me tons of down time, so I’ll take the 4 months of hard work and minimal riding (at least I bike commute on my stage days) knowing that when I’m done, I’ll get back in shape pretty quickly.

My friends were lining the hallway into the fun zone.

My friends were lining the hallway into the fun zone.

Anyhoo, I missed the cacti and the grunting of javelinas.  The high 70’s temps are also a far departure from the 30’s I’ve been riding in at home on the fat bike.  Breaking a sweat ten minutes in to a ride actually felt pretty good.  It’s been a while since I’ve gotten sunblock “sweated into my eyes”.

Cacti and singletrack.  What more does one need in life?

Cacti and singletrack. What more does one need in life?

The Black Canyon Trail is remarkable.  So far, I’ve been impressed with all of it.  Hard to talk about favorite spots.  It’s quintessential “Arizona Riding”.  Perfectly manicured ribbons of singletrack through the desert.  It’s not too technical, but you must keep your wits and stay on trail, or else have an impromptu acupuncture session.  The climbing is tough at times, but never too tough.  Even for a ss’er, it’s rarely too steep or too sustained to ride.  The ups are usually followed quickly by downs, allowing for the lungs to settle before the next effort.  There are so many twists and turns and contours that you can rarely open it up and go blazing fast.  But that’s ok.  You’re loving it, and it’s like a video game.



For this ride, I decided to do the southern portion of the BCT as an out and back (13 miles each way).  I started at Emery Henderson trailhead off of New River Rd.  The segments I rode were called: Bob Bentley, Boy Scout Loop, Doe Spring, Windmill Valley, and Table Mesa.  I turned around at the bottom tip of the Little Pan Loop. All in all, it was 26 miles and a little over 2k of climbing.  A wonderful way to experience this section of the trail.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat (and if I had more time, include the Little Pan Loop to make a 35 mile ride).  On this ride, I rode up the east side of Boy Scout (the singletrack / “fun” side) and down the west side (doubletrack “so-so” side).  Next time, I’d climb the doubletrack and descend the singletrack.  Either way, it’s still great.  If you want a shorter ride, I’d recommend riding out to the Boy Scout Loop and heading back for a roughly 10 mile lollipop.  Still a nice ride.  Everything is signed very well, so it’s tough to get lost.

Trail sign at the Boy Scout Loop.  Next time, I'll ride up the west side doubletrack and down the east side singletrack

Trail sign at the Boy Scout Loop. Next time, I’ll ride up the west side doubletrack and down the east side singletrack

The best thing about the BCT and just about all the riding I’ve done in AZ is that out and backs feel like loops.  The trails are designed so well and they ride completely differently in each direction.  It doesn’t feel like you’re “riding back the way you came”.  I felt this way last time I was here, and it was the same this time.  To truly ride the BCT, I think you need to do it both ways – it’s a totally different vibe each way.

Anyhoo, yeah.   This was a great day.  No punctures.  No people.  Just a couple javelina grunts and gunfire off in the distance.  It was a little annoying passing through shotgun shell junkyards in a couple spots from the rednecks that don’t clean up.  But other than that, 100% peace.  Next time I’m here, I’m gonna tackle the northern sections, and I’ve yet to do the Little Pan Loop… so until then…

The trail is marked very well, so it's hard to get lost

The trail is marked very well, so it’s hard to get lost

If you’re around the Phoenix area, you should do this ride.  I’m attaching a PDF of a great IMBA map (a few years old, so doesn’t include the most recently completed northern section, but a great reference nonetheless) and a couple links I found useful for the BCT.  Dale’s maps are detailed and cover the entire route as well.  I also have some killer GPX files, if you want – email me.

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