Routes » Gila River Ramble
The Gila river runs between Kelvin and Florence, cutting through some of the most amazing country Arizona has to offer — from rhyolite cliffs to deep saguaro studded canyons, singletrack to freeride rock mesas and brutal roads. This loop has a little bit of everything, using an incredible stretch of the Arizona Trail as its backbone.
At less than 80 miles, this route is doable in a day, but don’t let the mileage fool you. There is over 10,000 feet of climbing and plenty of slow riding. It is best done as a two day bikepack. Maybe three to really take it in.
3D image from TopoFusion software – click to enlarge
Gila River Ramble 2013, recommended core loop, version 1 [updated 1/14/2013]
Gila River Ramble 2013, area Network, version 1 [updated 1/14/2013]
The AZT is all done in this amazing area. The time to get out there is NOW!
Fording the Gila River with a bicycle is not recommended, but is sometimes possible. November->January the river’s flow is very low, making crossing easy — this can seriously shorten the loop on the west side. Most times of the year, however, and especially in the spring, the flow is swift and deep. Crossing at the bridge and the diversion dam by Price is no longer possible due to construction and fencing. Instead you can cross the river’s flow on a gaging station catwalk some miles west of the dam, then continue west on roads to cross the Gila River (usually dry west of the diversion dam). See the GPX file.
Two reliable water sources are shown as waypoints. Others may exist in wetter times, such as a flow down Box Canyon.
Area 52 is a rock mesa that can be an adventure in itself, for those so inclined. There are no trails, however, and a guide is recommended. The track follows a moderate route through some of the lower lines, but Area 52 can also be bypassed completely by taking the 4×4 road just north of the mesa. Check the GPX file for this bypass, which is recommended if you do not have a guide that has ridden 52 before.
Spring (late March into early April) is the prime time to do this loop. This area typically has some of the best wildflowers in Arizona. But generally the season is October to April. The rest of the year is quite hot and these are low AZ elevations.