A wonderful, beautiful, technical, dangerous ride in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Steep climbs, sharp descents, 1-3 foot drops, plenty of rocks, all single track, beautiful – beautiful – beautiful. This is a technical riders dream and a place for the rest of us to exercise caution. Sweeping views of the Tucson valley coupled with some of the most challenging riding in the area make this an excellent 3-4 hour ride for the “adverturesome.” Strap on your armor and have a ball.
Most riders shuttle this ride by leaving a car near the bottom and driving up to Molino Basin. Shuttling is highly recommended, because after coming down La Milagrosa, you do NOT want to have to climb back up! Some folks park at the bottom of La Milagrosa and ride the 7-miles up Catalina Highway to Molino Basin. We wouldn’t recommend that on a 40lb full-squishy, DH rig, though. For an even longer epic experience, many shuttle up to Aspen Draw, Green Mountain, Bug Springs and Molino Basin trails first, and then tie in to the Molino AZTrail to Milagrosa. This combined, all-day suffer-fest is lovingly called “The Lemon Drop.” Be warned, the Lemmon Drop is a serious, epic ride. If you’re not ready for it, you will suffer, period.
So, we’re assuming you’re starting from Molino Basin. The climb up the AZ Trail to the saddle is very steep and only rideable by the very best. On the other side of the pass, without exercising caution, the descent to West Spring in Bellota could end with an endo in many spots. Many bones have been broken on this descent, and you haven’t even gotten to La Milagrosa yet! At the bottom, you’ll be at a large water tank. After reaching the tank go left up the hill and then down (fun!) to a gate. About 1/4-mile past the gate you’ll come to a “Y” with AZ Trail/jeep road heading left and singletrack heading right. Take the right fork and you’re on La Milagrosa! Have fun. It will take days before the smile leaves your face.
Directions to Shuttle from Molino: Take East Tanque Verde road northeast, and make a left on Catalina Highway. You’ll be driving 6 or so miles, and pass a fee-station. You WILL have to pay a $5/day fee unless you have a pass. Some folks park at the pullout just below the fee station, and ride the last mile or so to Molino Basin.
One of our great sponsors, Southwest Trekking, offers a shuttle service for those interested. You need to have at least six riders, and the cost is usually around $15/person. Contact John at SWTrekking and tell him you found this on the SDMB site. They can drop you off anywhere you want on the mountain, and can even pick you up to take you to other trails if needed. Shuttling, you can do Aspen Draw, Green Mountain, Bug Springs, Prison Camp, AZTrail-Molino Basin trail and La Milagrosa for a technical-lovers dream day-ride.