If you haven’t ridden in the Southwest desert, be prepared for a different experience. In general, riding in Southern Arizona is more challenging than most parts of the country thanks to a combination of rocky, loose soils and severe penalties for errors. You will find spectacular views on this ride, from the imposing Santa Rita Mountain peaks to the west to the grasslands and Whetstone and Mustang ranges on the west and further ranges north and south. You will see a part of more recent history preserved at Kentucky Camp, an ill-fated gold mining venture just after the turn of the century. Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service and the Friends of Kentucky Camp, the adobe structures and the fascinating story of the ascendency and sudden end to this chapter of resource extraction are being preserved for future generations.
Back on the dirt, the Epic has some technical challenging sections, but just enough to make it fun. There’s plenty of smooth riding that will allow you to look around and take in the views. It also will challenge your climbing skills. The full ride has approximately 4,500 feet of elevation gain, with several thigh-burning, lung-searing ascents. Altitude of the ride is from around 4,500 feet to nearly 6,000 feet.
Directions: Take I-10 east out of Tucson to exit 281, the Sonoita Highway / State Highway 83 exit. Heading south on 83, 11.5 miles from I-10, look for a picnic table/rest area on the right side of the road, turn right down the dirt road just after it, signed for Rosemont Junction (FR 231). 1.41 miles in, a cairned singletrack crosses the road. This is the start/finish for racing. Parking lot is on the left of the road, 1 mile from the highway, just before the singletrack. There is a 1/2 mile ride from the parking lot to the singletrack.