First published 2018. Contributed by Dez Diamond; Arizona Bicycle Association (BikeAZ.org).
GREEN VALLEY, Arizona – Green Valley cyclists and roadies can leave their front doors for a wild western bike ride that will be as scenic as it is challenging. Perhaps the most unique ride in our state, the ride to Arivaca will give you the feeling of cycling in the true Old West.
(Note: ONLY do this ride on Saturday and Sunday mornings early. The traffic is sparse and you are likely to find other cyclists doing the route. Because of automobile traffic, this would be a dangerous ride during the week.)
Depending on the number of miles you want to ride, you can start in Green Valley and enjoy a 60 plus mile day, or you can park near the Cow Palace in Amado and do a 46 mile round trip. You will get some good climb on this ride as Amado starts at a hair over 3,000 feet and you will climb higher than 3600 feet before you descend into Arivaca.
The ride to Arivaca ranks as one of my favorite road bike rides in all of Arizona. If you start at the Cow Palace in Amado you will bike 23 miles west on this narrow, windy curvy road with some very healthy up and down hill climbing. Generally, you get a tailwind on the way back as you zoom back to Amado.
Bike to Arivaca, set your mind free, enjoy views of desert cactus, ranches and mountains off in the yonder. After you pass border patrol checkpoint, look for a Catholic shrine on the right several more miles up. It is very well-done and a worthy point of interest.
Border patrol and local ranchers will constitute the majority of the traffic on a weekend ride. Start at 6 or 6:30 AM. I bike this ride year round. The weekend traffic is pretty much the same. Generally, no more than eight cars will pass me – and most of the cars are law enforcement.
If you are making the drive from Tucson, you are looking at a 40 plus minute drive to get to Amado. It’s worth it.
Ready for a century ride? Head to Sasabe on the Border!
Finish your great breakfast in Arivaca, then head straight to Sasabe! This will be a 47 mile round trip. Go west until Arivaca Road stops at South Sasabe Road/Highway 286. Take a left, going south and you will see the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge on the left. Bike several miles here to get your century ride. There is no charge for entry.
The ride to Sasabe is a real gem. It is even more scenic than the ride to Arivaca. There is almost no traffic no matter what day you ride. There are no services until you reach the little convenience store in Sasabe. If you want to cross the border into Mexico, most border patrol guards will let you in without a passport. That is not true if you are a non-US resident. There really is not much to see, but a quaint, small Mexican village.
What makes the Arivaca ride special?
The ride to Arivaca offers some of the best and most varied desert scenery in the southern part of Arizona. The ride gives you some significant climb and doing a sub-50 mile ride will get the heart rate moving. There are three places to eat and drink that are very unique – and even historic. Cyclists tend to love coffee and if you do, Gadsden Coffee is the place to get your caffeine boost. Gadsden is one of the top roasters in our state.
Several miles before you get to Gadsden, you will reach the zenith of the ride. Enjoy the sweeping views of burnt yellow grass on rolling hills. You will be road cycling in an area with tremendous history.
Best Places to Eat and Drink When in Arivaca
There are indeed places to eat and drink in Arivaca, Arizona. On weekends there is a good taco stand that often shows up in the center of Arivaca.
Gadsden Coffee – Gadsden Coffee is the crown jewel of off-the-wall Arizona roasters. They roast their own coffee and serve a simple, yet incredible breakfast menu. I had four deuces, with coffee and two apple ciders for about $11. Gadsden is a motorcycle and townie hangout where you will meet ranchers toting guns, town carnival barkers and assorted local characters. Cyclists love this place. You will enjoy the view from the patio. They are open Thursdays through Sunday 8 am to 2pm.
La Gitana Cantina – Located on the main drag of Arivaca, La Gitana is a famous Arizona landmark dive bar that has a rich, vibrant history. Perhaps the oldest bar in our state, La Gitana is the town meeting point where you will mingle with some of the most eclectic people in our state. The tap beer is tasty and they do indeed serve good burgers. The same crowd that visits Gadsden will be here. To say this desert town has a few characters would be a grand understatement.
For more Biking ideas please refer to our Biking Tucson page here.
For bicycle rentals & guided tours, go to Tucson Bike. They deliver rental bikes to you.