This is an amazing, all-day ride which will require a good amount of shuttling, ride organization and a GPS device to help you find your car at the end. You’ll start riding at the top of Mt. Lemmon, close to 9,000 feet in elevation and end near the Golder Ranch/50-Year Trail system at the base of the mountain. It is important that you are slightly familiar with the 50-year System and where you parked your car! Be sure to make plans to somehow get back up the mountain to get your vehicle, or leave your car at the bottom and use a shuttling service like Southwest Trekking.
You’ll begin riding Aspen Meadow Trail before coming to the Sutherland intersection, where you’ll hang a right. The trail will become a jeep road for short distance before you get to another intersection. Take another right (left will take you into a wilderness-designated area). Enjoy the views as you start descending, before coming to a signed intersection for Samaniego Ridge, where you’ll take a right.
You’re on your way! Be aware that this trail is rough at times and sometimes hard to find. There are some technical areas but for the most part it is a fantastic, flowing trail with numerous creek/water crossings. Right around the 9 mile mark you’ll come to the Red Ridge trail intersection, but push through the difficult, rock wash crossing until you come to Gap Road around the 10th mile.
On Gap Road, you’ll begin some strenuous climbing for about 4 miles or so. At the top of the climb, continue on Gap Road West until you’re ready to break off and head down to your vehicles parked in the Golder Ranch/50-Year area.
This area is filled with cow trails so this is where it’s important to use your GPS to guide you to the 50-Year system and to your car. Around the 15.5 mile mark, you can break off into Charouleau Gap and then Cherry Tank. CDO will also connect with Cherry Tank a bit further on, too. Eventually you’ll connect with Middlegate.
Photo by Vernie Aikins