When it’s not been ridden, Elephant Head can get overgrown quite easily. Thankfully, a local mountain bike race has taken place there the last few years, so it’s popularity is gaining, while the trail growth is kept to a minimum. Elephant Head offers scenic desert riding on jeep trails and singletrack. You’ll get a good look at Elephant Head itself as you ride by its western face (although it won’t look much like its namesake that close). You can adjust the length of the ride to your riding fitness and degree of insanity. Take plenty of water! The trail crosses open desert with little cover. The ride back down Chino Canyon is one of the best downhills around. Lots of curves, whoop-dee-doos, and places to crash unexpectedly.
This trail will occasionally challenge you technically but for the most part it offers excellent riding for all. It’s a good ride for building endurance and enjoying a fast trail through the desert. If you turn around before you start to wear out you’ll love it. If you push yourself and make the climb to the TV towers your love may take on a deeper meaning. The 6-mile and 4000-ft elevation climb to the towers should not be attempted without plenty of water, snacks, and aerobic fitness.
Directions to the Northern Trailhead: Take I-19 south to Green Valley, approximately 30-miles south of Tucson. Watch for Exit 63, Continental Road, on the south side of town. Turn left (east) on Continental Road when you get off the highway. Go 1.1 miles and turn right on Whitehouse Canyon Road to Madera Canyon. Follow the pavement 11.2 miles to Proctor Road (dirt road on the right), just past the combination Proctor parking area and fee station. If there are no cones set up channeling you into the parking area, you’ll get in free. If not, you’ll be redirected past the fee station for a donation. Follow Proctor Road and stay left whenever the road splits. Park in the pullout on your right, or you can drive up the jeep trail (FR 781) yourself, though not all vehicles will do well.
Directions to the Southern Trailhead: Drive south from Tucson on I-19 like the above, but instead of getting off at Continental Road, continue another 17-miles (or so) and get off the Interstate at Exit 56. Go West under I-19, and take the Frontage Road South to Elephant Head Road. Take a left there, and then a right on Mt. Hopkins Rd. Drive about 6.7-miles and you can park in the few spots available. Then ride your bike about 1.5 miles up the dirt road, and hand a left onto another dirt road. Congrats, you’re there!
A special thanks to www.cherba.com and Oscar Corona at xtremebicycling for the description and GPS.