Saguaro National Park Welcomes Bicycles to the Hope Camp Trail
Tucson, AZ – After years of hard work and patience, the Arizona Trail Association is pleased to announce that the National Park Service has passed a special regulation allowing bicycles to use the Hope Camp Trail, connecting the Arizona Trail to Saguaro National Park’s Loma Alta Trailhead. The final rule was passed in October, and after being published in the Federal Register, went into effect on November 2, 2012.
“The public comments were overwhelmingly in favor of making this a multiple-use trail,” according to Darla Sidles, Superintendent of Saguaro National Park. “It is one more way we can connect with our Tucson community and encourage a healthy activity in their national park.”
For years, mountain bikers on their way north of Rincon Creek met a fence prohibiting them from going any further. This was in compliance with NPS rules of “no bicycles outside of developed areas.” Saguaro National Park made national news when they opened the Cactus Forest Loop to bicycles a decade ago, and is one of only two National Parks in the country that has worked to incorporate bicycles into their trail management plans. The announcement of opening the Hope Camp Trail to bicycles will make history once again.
The Hope Camp Trail is a 2.8-mile-long hiking and equestrian trail that originates at the Loma Alta Trailhead and travels east through the southwestern portion of the Park’s Rincon Mountain District to the Arizona State Trust Lands boundary beyond Hope Camp. The trail traverses relatively even terrain and rolling hills, and is lined with an abundance of desert trees and shrubs. The trail is not within eligible, proposed, recommended, or designated wilderness.
“We are excited to see the new set of regulations announced by the Park Service to provide a better process to allow bikes on trails by allowing more local control from NPS superintendents and their staff who know the conditions on the ground,” said Zach MacDonald, President of the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists. “The Hope Camp Trail provides a key singletrack connection for bikepackers and other user groups traveling the Arizona Trail, and is a great option for day riders to experience some of the wild places within Saguaro National Park. SDMB is grateful for the ATA’s mission to include all non-motorized users on the AZT and connecting trails,” he said.
Prior to the National Park Service acquisition in the mid-1990s, the land was part of a privately-owned ranch, and the trail route was a graded dirt road used to support ranching operations. The former owner also allowed the route to be used for recreational purposes, including hiking, equestrian, and bicycle use. Shortly after acquiring the land, the NPS closed the route to motor vehicles and bicycles. Although closed to vehicular traffic, the route remains approximately 14 feet wide, allowing adequate room for two-way passage of diverse user groups.
Scott Morris, trail builder, bikepacker and organizer of the AZT 300 commented that, “Opening Hope Camp to mountain bikers provides a key connection for bikepackers traveling the Arizona Trail. The number of paved miles with high speed traffic on Old Spanish Trail can be significantly reduced, and mountain bikers can enjoy more of what they came for: a quiet, non-motorized and wild experience – the essence of our beautiful Arizona Trail.”
Celebratory bike rides along the Arizona Trail are planned throughout the month of November from the Loma Alta Trailhead to Colossal Cave Mountain Park along Passage 8 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail.
“This is great news for Saguaro National Park, the ATA, and the entire mountain bike community,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “Mountain bikers were instrumental in restoring this trail, and allowing them to ride here opens up a network of connectivity that will encourage more folks to ride to the Arizona Trail, not just on the Arizona Trail,” he said.