Bicycling Magazine

Tucson, AZ: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo 

Sinuous desert singletrack, cactus-lined climbs, and a slickrock drop option highlight the 16-mile course of 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo just north of Tucson.

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Author: Bicycling Magazine
Date: 20 Nov 2008 6:32:48 PM
Activity: Mountain Biking
State: Arizona (AZ)
Distance: 16.05 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 1422 ft
Total Loss: 1416 ft
Net Change: 6 ft
Difficulty: 7 / 10
Tags: Arizona, Florence, Tucson
Rating:   1 rating(s) Rate it

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.

-Mapped by Scott Morris,

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.

Position Format: Datum:

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

Distance: 16.05 mi Points: 2778
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.

Night Riding

Location: 32.703551, -110.918741
Bring lights for a night ride © Dennis Gray


Location: 32.702558, -110.921209
There is a 200-rider cap on soloists in the 24-hour race held each February. This solo rider heads out of the start area for another lap. © Dennis Gray


Location: 32.695191, -110.922883
Desert sunsets make the early-evening laps favorites among the riders. © Dennis Gray


Location: 32.701800, -110.944576
The "bitches" are seven nasty climbs along this gas-line road. © Scott Morris


Location: 32.700283, -110.965347
The dirt road trail passes through several gates at the corral, continuing along the same-name trail. © Scott Morris


Location: 32.687643, -110.958653
Cacti line the trail and can wreak havoc on tires. Watch out for these infamous "jumping" cholla. Ouch! © Scott Morris

Winding Trail

Location: 32.694866, -110.896511
Sinuous trail through prickly pear cactus and other sharp vegetation © Scott Morris

Sassy's Memorial

Location: 32.717544, -110.912905
A small cross marks a trail-side memorial for Sassy, the dog. © Scott Morris

Tight Trail

Location: 32.710990, -110.917711
The trail gets tighter approaching the loop's end and is increasingly lined with boulders. © Dennis Gray

The Drop

Location: 32.705231, -110.918291
Spectators gather below "The Drop," a 15-foot granite ramp near ride end. © Dennis Gray


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