A 16-mile hourglass loop in the Willow Springs Ranch Area, the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo takes Tucson by storm each February. This Sonoran Desert course is suited to intermediate and expert riders, offering plenty of passing space in addition to nimble descents and tight turns—all the same, cactus-avoidance techniques are invaluable here.
Non-racers usually begin this loop along its southern edge, but the race itself begins with a Le Mans-style start on the north side. Groovy singletrack leads downhill to Gas Line Road and a series of thigh-burning hills. At the northwest corner of the circuit, a short downhill loops around to give racers a sneak-peek at their competition before the course continues through an old corral. You'll turn east on singletrack at Rattlesnake Trail: passing through sandy washes and a few cactus-lined turns.
The route rejoins the Gas Line Road again before climbing the newest section of singletrack and a pre-ride worthy downhill along His & Hers Trail to the Willow Springs Arch. You'll hit the Junebug Trail before the only sustained climb begins at mile 12.5. A 7- to 10-minute effort, it tops out just above 4,100 feet. The final mile is a fun, fast downhill that ends with an option to drop off a 15-foot rock ramp, or follow an easier winding trail back to the starting line.
TO TRAILHEAD: From Tucson, take AZ-77 north for 22 miles, bearing right toward Oracle at major junctions. Turn left onto Willow Springs Road just past mile post 96 and drive 9.3 miles, cutting right then left toward the power lines. Turn left again and drive 1.6 miles to the start/Finish area.
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo
Distance: 16.05 mi
Total Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
Pace: 0:00 / mi
Points of Interest
Location: 32.703263, -110.916960
The race-day start and finish point is in an area suitable for large car-camping crowds. If you ride this loop on any other day, avoid the extra drive and pre-ride the course starting from waypoint OLD008 at mile 11 on this route.
Location: 32.693855, -110.925264
After a right turn onto the Gas Line Road, you'll begin a series of hills known as "The Bitches." Drainage pipes across the road make for a bumpy ride. Pace yourself on this early stretch of the trail and use caution to avoid crunched tires--and collarbones.
Location: 32.708228, -110.965261
The wide doubletrack drops down and the actual race course does a short loop here, allowing competitors to see who's behind them. If you're not racing, simply turn left to avoid the 0.4-mile add-on.
Location: 32.685801, -110.965047
A 2-mile southbound bee-line ends here with a left turn onto the rough singletrack of the Rattlesnake Trail. The loop's southwest corner is also its lowest point, so be prepared for an often imperceptible, low-grade climb for the next 3.8 miles.
Location: 32.686035, -110.951207
Turn left when the Rattlesnake Trail hits this wider doubletrack section. Up ahead, you'll have to pass through a gate to continue riding.
Location: 32.691977, -110.921316
The race-day route rejoins the Gas Line briefly at this point. A short climb leads to a gate and a left turn onto more desert singletrack.
Location: 32.701656, -110.914815
Less than a quarter-mile from the start point, expect to see plenty of race-day spectators at this bend just before mile 9.5. <p> To pre-ride the latter half of the course, follow a short (and signed) trail from the start area to this spot. Knowing how to approach the tight turns and when and where to shed--or build--speed can mean the difference between a great time on this stretch of singletrack, or an up-close encounter with a barrel cactus.
Location: 32.687715, -110.897970
The Willow Springs Arch marks the parking area and trailhead for riders of this loop during most of the year. The race-day start point requires a much longer drive on bumpy dirt roads, but offers plenty of space for the thousands of racers and spectators.
Location: 32.710683, -110.895309
Cross a minor dirt road and continue northwest on the Junebug Trail. This section of singletrack was named for June Johnson, one of the volunteers who helps maintain these trails and rode solo in all 9 of the first 24 hour races held here.
Location: 32.715341, -110.913988
The loop's only sustained climb tops out here, and turns downhill after a small pass for a fast, tight, winding final mile to the finish.
Location: 32.705312, -110.918500
The trail forks near loop's end: head right for a slightly longer and gentle ride to the finish. Go left to put on a show at the 15-foot ramp. It's a dangerous stunt for all but the best riders. During race day, there are sure to spectators watching for mishaps.
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