Black Canyon Trail


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The Black Canyon Trail is a 62 mile desert ride that stretches from the Carefree Highway up to the Prescott National Forest, skirting the base of the Bradshaw Mountains and running parallel to Interstate 17.

The Black Canyon Trail Coalition keeps the trails alive and well through trail building and maintenance activities. To lend a hand visit the trail work events page for info and dates. See the maps section for official topos and visit Dale’s website for really good topos (see below)

BCT Segments
Emery Henderson
Doe Springs
Table Mesa
Little Pan (east little pan loop)
Williams Mesa (west little pan loop)
Cheapshot
Skyline
Horseshoe Bend
K-mine South
K-mine North
Soap Creek
Stagecoach
Arrastri

Trailheads
Black Canyon City TH: plenty of parking, but no amenities
Little Pan TH: unknown (most likely not developed)
Table Mesa: underdeveloped TH but plenty of parking
Emory Henderson: developed facility with paved parking

Ride Reports
I finally rode a small portion of the BCT. Awesome!

Many others have given this system a run. Read about u2metoo’s ride on his blog Where the Streets Have No Name and watch his video below.

Read Mountain Bike Bill’s ride report and see pictures of Little Pan on his awesome website.

MTBR forums have great info and trip reports from waltaz

Amazing photos shot by Leslie from IMBA

voodoodaddyfx’s YouTube video of Little Pan.

Maps

Dale’s Map of North Section

Epicrider Dale Wiggins map of BCT (click for full size)

Raybum bikepacking BCT

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie Tree January 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I rode from the Black Canyon City TH to the top of the Little Pan Loop (and back). This is truly one of the undiscovered gems in Arizona. The skyline section of the trail was amazing. And crossing the Agua Fria River was just a treat. Many thanks to the Black Canyon Trail Coalition.

Aaron March 1, 2009 at 8:28 am

This is a great trail. I rode from Table Mesa Trailhead north, took the left hand fork (clockwise) of the little pan loop. However, I could not find the trail coming back south on the other side of the loop after it crosses the river. I followed the sign onto the dirt rode and followed it south down to the river, but could not find the trail across the river. I met two seperate groups of riders who couldn’t find the trail either.
A good route description for that segment or better signs would be great. Thanks again to the BCTC for an outstanding long distance trail network.

Brice May 31, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I don’t quite know what to think of this trail!!! It is, or seems to me to be way too rocky in alot of sections. Now, this is my first time riding this trail and I don’t know if I didn’t like it because I am out of shape or if it would have been the same if I were in shape. I found myself walking through alot, and i mean alot of the parts of the western part of the pan loop, and then once i got to the river I too could not pick up the trail again, either. I started riding Jeep trails hoping to pick it up somewhere, however, after peddling up those steep hills I decided to backtrack. I went back to the river and looked some more, but no luck. I realized at this point that I had left the map in the truck. (smoooooth mooove) So i started to think about the map in my head and remembered (or at least I thought) that if i took the river south it would meet back up with the trail, after about an hour or hike a bike, I came across some very friendly Mexicans who gave me a ride back to the “road with Hot Pink Ribbon” and told me (which they were correct) that it would take me back to the fork which would get me back to my truck.
I agree with Aaron on this one, better signage at the river would be great, not everyone will be as fortunate as myself to come across as friendly peeps to get you back on track. At that point I had started to “panic”, thoughts of spending the night out there were creeping into my head!!!! At that time it was 6 o’clock and only 1.5 hours of daylight left for the most part and I really had no idea where the He@# I was at.
Bottom line, if I wouldn’t have lost the trail and could have finished it, my outlook might be different.

Rae February 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Hey I will be working out there with a crew of 8 on this new trail and I am super excited to see the progress and results of this trail!!

Raggity April 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

This trail is a classic. Well designed with plenty of varity. Emily Henderson trailhead north to Table Mesa Trailhead is excellent overall like the rest of BCT. The only negative is the last few miles after crossing the second ridge. Trail becomes quite bumpy without many riders past this point until Table Mesa. Table Mesa to Rock Springs is well documented, only add that the uphill on Skyline heading north is fairly fast. Makes for a very fun ride.
Rock Springs to Stagecoach is excellent on the single track sections, classic BCT with a flowing contouring trail, but quite a few jeep road connections. Stagecoach to Bumble Bee Rd is incredibly scenic and fast all the way to 3 miles north of bumble bee RD trailhead. The trail makers know what they are doing, it is made for mountain biking.

Phil August 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I rode from Bumblebee south towards Rock Springs, man, THIS is a great new trail! I rode quad trails down to the river and back up for some climb-training, but should’ve made a day on the BCT. I will definitely be back for more! And by the way, I have officially spilled blood on the BCT–13 stitches from a bit of a wobble near the end of today’s ride, only about 5 minutes out from my truck. Was it worth it? Every stitch.

Phil August 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I rode Rock Springs to Table Mesa this morning, absolutely beautiful weather, and HATS OFF to the IMBA trails crews and volunteers–BCT is absolutely a “must ride,” and the finest, funnest singletrack I have ridden in years. I had a big old smile on my face for 16 miles, and my arrival at today’s planned take-out seemed way too soon.

Phil September 7, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Please forgive my omission of the Black Canyon Trail Coalition in my previous post. This awesome trail system would not exist were it not for their dedication and vision.

bob December 31, 2010 at 6:11 pm

hey this sounds great – up in Sedona and trails now muddy from snow melt… think this trail will be good on New Year’s Day, 2011 ? thanks in advance

Mike January 1, 2011 at 12:51 am

Bob. Word is that BCT was muddy and cold today, but still rideable. There is a lot of trail in there and some of it has to still be good. Surly better than Sedona. Head a little further south and hit up South Mountain!

bob January 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

thanks – is BCT really as hard to navigate as the others are saying above? I’d like to go out there this morning (Jan. 3rd, 2011) or tomorrow or even Wednesday if I’m still in town – I’m just here to ride and have been on South Mountain for 2 great daze. (I humbly realize whenever I come to South Mountain that I’m just an average intermediate AM rider -back home in NH, the “Granite State”, it’s quite technical and hundreds of miles of great singletrack with drops and roots, etc., but nothing quite like National!)

Anyone interested in riding? email: rshalit@keene.edu

Mike January 3, 2011 at 9:10 am

Bob. I posted your ride request on the MTBikeAZ facebook page. Maybe you’ll get some takers. I’d show you around myself but my vacation is over and it’s back to work!

National is the great humbler. Just when we think we are good… National shows us our weaknesses. Glad you are having a good time.

bob January 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I’m going to ride Black Canyon tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 5th, 2011 – anyone want to ride with? email: rshalit@keene.edu

bob January 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Mike – thanks for posting on FB – I think I found at least one interested taker for Wed. Indeed, I think of myself as an advanced-intermediate back home in the Granite State, XC/AM speaking, but National is humbling in the sweetest kind of way..

bob January 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm

This is among the finest trails anywhere I’ve ridden, and I’ve been on quite a few around the country (from Santa Barbara, Sierra Nevada incl. Downieville, Tahoe, Hole-in-the-Ground), Moab, Sedona, National, New Hampshire, Vermont, Guanajuato, all of which I love, but BCT is up there with my top 2 or 3…..) – thank you so much IMBA and local trailbuilders – it boggles my mind thinking how much time went into this, and how did all those people get together for so long?! Anyway, I figured out why and where folks above stating they got confused, and here’s how it goes:
I started at BCT trailhead just off Exit 242. I went right at the loop fork (obvious.) The problem was at where on “Dale’s Map” the “F” appears – that F is about a mile past the river crossing at around 11 miles from trailhead. After crossing the river (rideable today) head south on sand for 100 ft and then head left – find the BCT sign and head up, still heading South. After a mile or so, come to the intersection, where sharp left heads back North on the loop, and right goes to Table Mesa Rd. (another 1.5 miles), which I took, then turned around and finished the loop and back to BCT trailhead. The other slightly confusing place came at the “G” on Dale’s Map – after coming down singletrack to jeep road, go right on sand and then find the bike tracks to left in about 50 ft., and cross the river, head left (West) until finding the BCT sign again. Otherwise, no problems. I couldn’t get Dale’s Map to print properly, so that didn’t help much – it came out about 2″ x 3″…. My GPS logged 4 hours of movement time, 2 hours of pause time. About 3100 ft. of climbing total. This is an incredibly gorgeous place, and relatively wild – following a river through the desert mountains and canyon, and after 3 daze of thrashing around National Trail, what a sweet, barely technical, perfectly built to IMBA specs trail!
I’ve met so many great folks riding here, and this website is the best I’ve seen. Thank you Arizona – I shall return as often as possible!

daniel January 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

How much of the trail is done? Is it done at carefree
highway? Is it possible to do the 62 miles or does the trail still
need work?

Paul January 7, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I just rode the same route as Bob’s comment above. Nice 25 mile ride! It is a bit slower than you might expect based on distance and modest elevation changes, but the winding/up & down nature of the landscape makes for a bit slower riding. I finished in 5 hours with about 60 minutes of stopping to talk to other bikers to gain information on the BCT trails. BOB’S COMMENTS ON THE RIVER CROSSINGS WERE VERY HELPFUL. I think I would have been lost for some time on my way back at the river crossing if I did not have Bob’s comments printed out to reference. I’m ready to head back to try another segment of the BCT.

WHAT ARE EVERYONE’S FAVORITE SEGMENTS OF THE BCT? Your comments will help me decide where to ride next and in what direct if I can arrange a shuttle.

Jerome January 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Ride this trail! I live in Flagstaff and am thankful for some of the best trails in the world. Yet found this over the 2010 Holiday and I am hooked, the best desert scene, great people, and perfect setup for 29′er single-speed. Thank you all who helped in building these.

Jerome January 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Did Bob’s route yesterday, beautiful 70 degree skies, and from up north in Flagstaff it was hot. Great ride, though have to say on a busy saturday a lot of people out especially on the east side of the Agua Fria, with guns, quads, jeeps and horses, other than the scary gun shot echos it is a lot of fun, I highly recommend this area and would love to help with some trail building days.

Mike January 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I was lucky enough to come down to Arizona from Boulder, Colorado last week for a week of mountain biking in the desert. I spent two days on the Black Canyon Trail and it was a BLAST! I first rode from Rock Springs, exit 242 south to the littlepan lollipop loop and back north along the loop. At the 2nd crossing of the Agua Fria on the loop it was a little hard finding the track out but in the end we spun up the road and found the link back to the singletrack. This entire section took around 4 hours total with breaks.

The following day I headed back and rode from the Emeryville Trail Head north to the Table Mesa TH and further north to the little pan loop and back. This was also a great day in the saddle. I was solo on this day and was able to knock this ride out in 3 and 1/2 hours. Just a few miles south of the Table Mesa Trailhead the navigation was a little tricky as a sign was placed in the wrong direction on a jeep road. After a little hunting, I was able to regain the BCT single track and proceed further to the north. As mentioned in the previous posts, be prepared for the occasional gunshot. I wouldn’t recommend strapping a set on antlers to your helmet!

The BCT has some of the best, flowie, somewhat exposed, singletrack that I’ve pedaled. I’m an avid rider and have pedaled all over the country. I can’t wait to come back and ride more of the BCT. It’s going to be awesome when it connects from north Phoenix all the way to Prescott! This is a must do and is right up there with the Kokopelli that connects Fruita to Moab. THANK YOU BCT TRAILBUILDERS! JOB WELL DONE!

Andrew Rounseville March 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I rode the far north section on 3/3/11. Here is a link to the GPX of that section. http://www.mtbguru.com/trip/show/16295-69-cortits-station

This take the trail all the way to 69 between Mayer and Spring Valley.

Most of the trail is single track, but there is still some jeep road for short sections. I hope those get bypassed in the future with pure trail.

Steve Wolf March 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thanks, I used this site to plan a BCT ride recently. Great trail!
Photos here: http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=694923
And here: http://stevewolf.smugmug.com/Place/Black-Canyon-Trail

Blair Sullenger March 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm

This is a great trail but it was really hot today. I had a 100oz camelback and still ran out of water with 7 miles left. I rode from exit 242, took the west loop of little pan, went to table mesa, then back on the east loop. I was solo so it was a little sketchy but I couldnt believe how well this trail is designed. After getting lost a couple times my ride totalled 28.5 miles with 3250ft of climbing. This was the most technical “non-technical” trail I have done. Meaning its not technical like National but has plenty of things that wouldnt feel to good to fall on. Bob’s tips helped but signage could be better.

brad olson April 12, 2011 at 12:06 am

I rode from emery henderson to black canyon trail head and back, about 49 miles RT, and 4,800 feet of vert, took about 6.5 hours RT. Ran out of food and water, should have stopped in black canyon to refuel. Can’t wait to do the northern sections next. Perfect trail for 29er single speed. Also can’t wait to get some shuttles going and to all 80 miles.
Anybody game?

jane April 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Greetings!
I enjoyed riding from the BCC TH to the top of Little Pan Loop today. (Had planned on more but just down road trippin’-ridin’ from home in still snowy NorCal, not heat hardened enough.) Very impressive use of the terrain by the builder(s) and many thanks for this fun and meaty xc trail!

Just on that little bit, obviously no major route finding issues. But there is what seems to be a ?spur? off to the right not far from the trailhead before you drop down to the river. It’s also labeled “Black Canyon Trail”. A hiker lady I met later said it was a steep and rocky deadend into the river upstream of the crossing and that you could hike down the river from there to the crossing if you wanted to. Is that true?

Will see if I can get through Little Pan Loop without getting too turned around tomorrow. Thanks for all the great info here!

TALL PAUL December 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I will be riding the BCT over the holidays and I’m looking for someone to ride with! Last Christmas I got myself all turned around at the end of the lollypop loop. I’d like to explore the other segments of the trail hopefully not solo. Looking at December 28 and then also early January 2012.

Bob December 25, 2011 at 9:51 pm

will be riding BCT again – possibly 12/28/11, but more likely 12/29 or /30 – will be in Sedona before that, but itinerary not clear yet..

Bob December 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

thinking about riding BCT from Rock Springs to Table Mesa Rd. & back Dec. 31st starting around 10 AM- I’m a bit under the weather, so slow to moderate pace. Email me if interested in riding. thanks, Bob (rshalit@keene.edu)

Jeff February 17, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Hi,

I am still somewhat of a newbie. 2nd year on my bike and have mostly been sticking to desert classic, trail 100 and McDowell mountain (pemberton and sport loop). Was looking to go out here this weekend because I heard it was beautiful, and am itching to see a new trail. I’m alright at climbing if it is not too technical/steep. My question is based on the limited description of muself that I am able to provide, would I be able to handle this or should I save myself the 100 mile round trip commute from Scottsdale? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Mike February 18, 2012 at 12:03 am

Jeff. Based on your description I’m pretty sure you can handle BCT. A good loop to start is the little pan loop from Black Canyon City TH. you’ll love the flow of BCT. Have fun.

Jeff February 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Based on your advice I headed out to BCT today and let me say, That. Was. AWESOME. It was a perfect day to be out there, and what great views! There certainly were a lot of times that I had to dismount, but guess what? I enjoy hiking too! I ended up doing about 16 miles, was a little winded and needed to head back home. All in all it was a great time and I will certainly be heading back soon (hopefully I’ll do better with the climbing).

On a side note: I really appreciate everything you do with the site Mike. When I first gained interest in mountain biking in October of 2010 this was one of the first sites I stumbled across and has been my go to for credible info ever since. If I ever need a kick in the pants to get out on the trails I come here and it does the trick.

Anyhow, thanks again.

Michael February 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

Road there 2/18. Gorgeous and warm. Rock Springs – Table Mesa and back. Had been awhile since i’d been on this trail since last weekend in the afternoon when I went out there were people with automatic weapons firing pretty carelessly down in the first river bed off rock springs so had to go north for the first time. Def best to go out early on weekend days with the crowds. Anyone know how the stuff is to the north, I have gone north from rock springs about 4 miles, its a mix of singletrack and jeep roads but the singletrack its real rocky and I hate jeep roads, beyond that I have no idea… the stretch from rock springs to the head of the little pan loop has to be the best singletrack in AZ, well done builders.

jerry February 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Where is the trailhead for the new section from carefree hey North?

Don March 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Is there a trail that leads from the new river road trail head north to black canyon city. The trail head from new river is fairly fun, wanting to try the rest of the bct.

Steve August 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm

This really is a fantastic trail. Thanks all for the hard work that went into it. I was wondering if there would be any interest or possibility of a trail that heads West from the Emory Henderson trailhead up the hills to a lookout over Lake Pleasant? I see some trails heading up that way, but have never tried them yet.

MB December 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

Rode out from the Rock Springs trailhead for an absolutely amazing 4 hour trip.
Best trail in AZ, hands down – great mix of climbs and rollers, some great creek crossings, and fabulous scenery.

Best of all, it’s so quiet – not packed with people like many of the other good trails here.

Tom February 28, 2013 at 7:53 am

My and a friend are wanting to ride black canyon for the first time the week of march 3rd. Preferably Sunday the 3rd but there is some flexibility. Any riders or groups going out that have room for a couple more riders?

Our riding level: I thought we were advanced riders (that was until I rode national south mountain!). Now I think we are just advanced intermediates in AZ!

Richard December 9, 2013 at 10:34 am

Hey all!
I’m heading out to Phoenix on Dec 19-28th and I’m looking to ride this trail. I’m training for the upcoming XC season in Texas and would like to get some good mileage in with someone who is familiar with the surroundings.
I’ll be based in Chandler and plan in hitting South Mtn quite a bit with my brother, but I would love to hit any and all trails available.
Thanks in advance!

Richard Drew

Doug April 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm

My friend Bill and I went K Mine south to Horseshoe Bend from the Exit 242 trailhead in Black Canyon City. I was surprised at how much water was in the Agua Fria River at the Bend….

Al, Bug and Yukon Jan April 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

started at the Black Canyon City trail head and took the trail south. this is an outstanding trail with some of the best IMBA/volunteer trail building I have seen anywhere. Spectacular views and enough flow and challenge to keep you enjoying every crank turn. Our ride was an out and back of about 3 hours and we only saw three other riders so extra tubes, water and a bar or two would be a good idea.

If we could make a recommendation it would be to inform the visitor center about the trails and perhaps create a gps map with the trails, distances and trail heads.

These trails are absolutely fabulous and well worth the adventure. (4/5)

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