Arizona Bike Tour, Trail of the Apaches, Lizard Head
107 Aurum St, Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 970.728.5891

Trail of the Apaches

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Trail of the Apaches: Arizona’s Sky Islands

Moving Like the Wind Across the Desert Southwest

Trace a route across the remote southern borderlands of Arizona. The Apache Indians, whose physical & mental endurance where legendary, once “moved like the wind across this landscape”. You’ll do the same on to wheels to discover a remote, wild and beautiful landscape of this sacred land.

The Trail of the Apaches Bike Tour explores Arizona’s empty roads rising to the impenetrable mountain strongholds of the Apache. It offers various challenging levels for differing abilities. In addition to the incredible cycling, you’ll also experience Arizona’s Sky Islands: which are mountainous biologic refuges surrounding by desert that rise thousands of feet above the surrounding desert.

The Trail of the Apaches was a joy to ride. The routes were challenging, but able to be conquered. The deserts of Arizona really have their own natural beauty, and this tour took us right through it. If I was to rate the riding and lodging alone I would give it an A, but add in the support, the lunches and the personality that both John and Steve brought and this trip was off the charts. – Dustin W.

Join us to experience southern Arizona’s finest and most remote biking, stay at unique desert lodges, and gain a first hand understanding of the land the Apaches called home and refuge.

Arizona Bike Tour, The road up Mt. Graham

The road up Mt. Graham

Arizona Bike Tour, Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

Arizona Bike Tour

Miles of empty roads…

Arizona Bike Tour, saguaro national park

Saguaro National Park

Trail of the Apaches: Dates

Potential tour dates are listed below and not all tour dates will run. Lock in your preferred tour date early as unopened tour dates will be closed. Please see the Spring/Autumn Tour Calendar and the Summer Tour Calendar for confirmed departures. Any unopened date can be a Custom Week (9 riders required). Please contact us via email or call 970.728.5891

2019 Late Autumn Tour Dates:

  • November 3 to 8, 2019 (Book Now!) – TOUR A GO!

2020 Spring Tour Dates:

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Trail of the Apaches: Overview

Reptile Rewards

Tour Length: 6-Days Cycling/5-Nights Lodging

Meeting & Ending Location: Tucson, Arizona at our meeting hotel, The Hyatt Airport Place.

Total Miles: 150 up to 380 mileage options. (Can I keep up on this tour?)

Group Size: 6 to 15 riders

Daily Mileage Range: 15-96

Ability Levels: Intermediate (2/3) , Upper Intermediate (3) , Advanced (3/4) – (Easily accommodates all levels)

Tour Cost: $2,700 per person.
Group discount of $200 per person for groups of 4 or more. Please see our Tour Discounts Policy.

Non-Riding Spouses & Partners on Tour: If a non-riding spouse or partner would like to join you on tour and they have their own transportation, they can stay in your room for the cost of the tour's single room supplement. Non-Riding spouses and partners can join a tour's meal plan of three meals a day for $85 per day.

2020 Early Bird Discount: Take $300 off any 6-day or longer road bike tour and $50 off bike rental for 2020 tours booked by September 30, 2019 (NOTE: Western US tours only; this discount is not stackable with other discounts.)

Single Room Supplement: Add $450 to the Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (5 nights).

Bike Rental

Road Bike Rental: Lizard Head Cycling Guides is proud to rent Scott CR-1 Pro and Scott Solace carbon road bikes with full Shimano Ultegra components for only $250/week, or $150 for 3 or 4 day tours. Both the CR-1 and Solace models are sub- 17 lb comfortable, high performance bicycles geared for climbing hills. In addition we also have electric bikes available for rental at $375/week. And finally we have a selection of straight bar road bikes and kids bikes in our rental fleet. Just let us know what you need and we can probably find it.

Please also see this blog post for more information on bike rentals.

Electric Bike Rental: We now have a limited selection of SCOTT electric bikes that can be reserved for our tours. These are road bikes with straight bars that make the slowest rider the fastest rider in the group. Rental Price is $375/week.

Couples Bike Rental Discount: Sign up as a couple and receive one free bike high performance rental per couple ($250 value. Ebikes excluded, pedal bikes only).

Tandems and Recumbents: Lizard Head Cycling Guides happily accommodates both tandem and recumbent bikes on its tours.

Read more on our Road Bike Rental FAQs page.

Lodging for 5-Nights: (subject to change)

  • Nights 1 & 2: Starr Pass Suites  Tucson, AZ (2,389′ altitude)
  • Night 3: Sonoita Inn, Sonoita, AZ (4,885′ altitude)
  • Night 4: Copper Queen Hotel, Bisbee, AZ (5,540′ altitude)
  • Night 5: Painted Pony Resort, Rodeo, NM (4,124′ altitude)

Included: all meals (except for 1 dinner), guide service, taxes, entrance fees, lunch en route, energy food, liquid refreshments, shuttles and mechanical support.

Semi Self Supported Arizona Tour Package

Lizard Head Cycling Guides can offer a lower priced touring option for groups of five or more that  includes the following: 5 nights of lodging, van/trailer/luggage support, daily packed lunch, most breakfasts, 2 dinners, Q-Sheets/GPS route coordinates, and mechanical support.

The cost for this semi-self-supported Arizona package would be for $1,800 per person.
No discounts are available for this version of the tour. Please see our Tour Discounts Policy.

Meals On Tour

Lunches: Lizard Head Cycling Guides prepares healthy lunches to keep you going. We will serve you fresh organic fruits and veggies, salads, hummus, sandwich fixings, nuts, gourmet cheeses and of course plenty of salty/sweet snacks such as chips and cookies. We pride ourselves on being able to cater to specific dietary requests, so rest assured that you will be able to get the nutrition that works for you during the week. Gluten Free, Dairy Free or a someone who loves it all – we will keep you well fed during the tour!

Dinners: Lizard Head Cycling sources our favorite restaurants in each town that we visit. Our guides focus on establishments that offer fresh and local ingredients. Guests choose whatever they desire to eat off the menu: including appetizer, salad, entree and of course dessert... yum! :) Also, while on tour if a guest wants to dine early before the group and go to bed, this is fine. We understand that on some days sleep is the most important post-ride element.

Riding on the Trail of the Apaches Bike Tour

Ability Level: Intermediate-Advanced

The details: Our Trail of the Apaches Bike Tour traces a route across the borderlands of southern Arizona across the New Mexican border.

AZ Bird

This region features broad outwash valleys flanked by towering mountain ranges, which dominate this basin-and-range topography. The rocky, forested peaks loom like giant monuments above the desert floors.

All in all, this Arizona bike tour makes for an exceptionally remote and wild cycling route, far from our modern, hectic civilization.

Each fall and spring, you’ll enjoy warm temperatures and few cars in this remote region. Lower and higher mileage options are available each day.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “birder,” you’ll appreciate the variety of the bird life on this tour. You’ll notice an abundance of cactus wren, large birds of prey, various species of quail and hummingbird, and course roadrunners (not like the ones Wile E. Coyote chased).

The weather: Southern Arizona offers near-perfect fall and early spring weather for bike touring. In October and early November, the cottonwoods shine yellow along the river corridors, and the days are short and crisp. During spring, while the rest of North America is still cold and wet, the desert blooms and provides ideal cycling temperatures to start the season.

Arizona Bike Tour, Aravaipa Canyon Hiking

Why choose this tour? Serious climbing options abound on the Trail of Apaches, from the Kitt Peak Observatory’s 11-miles at a 7% grade, to the finishing climbs to Bisbee and Portal, Arizona.

You’ll bike to Geronimo’s surrender site near Skeleton Canyon, The Chiricahua Desert Museum, and possibly the highest climb in Arizona of 9,000-feet, to the Mt Graham observatory (when free of snow).  This Arizona bike tour is like no other.

Non-Riding Activities

The Trail of the Apaches is an Arizona bike tour that can accommodate adventurous non-cyclists. Here are non-riding options for each day:

Arizona Bike Tour, Hiking on Day 2

Hiking on Day 2

Arizona Bike Tour, Day 4: Walk along the San Pedro River

The San Pedro River

Route Map

Arizona Bike Tour

Ability Level: Can I Ride This Tour?

Definition of Ability Levels
= Intermediate (2/3) Rides and/or takes spin classes 1 to 3 times a week for a total of 50 or more miles.
= Upper Intermediate (3) Rides and/or takes spin classes 2 to 4 times a week for a total of 75 or more miles.
= Advanced (3/4) Rides and/or takes spin classes 3 to 5 times a week for a total of 100 or more miles. Has ridden multi-day tours and done a century ride.
= Expert (4) Rides 4 or more times per week totaling 150 or more miles. Rides E.F.I. with regularity. Has done numerous multi-day tours, century rides and races.

How Fit do I Have to Be?
If one month prior to the tour, you can ride 2 to 3 times a week equalling a total of 75 or more miles a week, you'll do just fine. We like to jokingly say that "one is ready for a Lizard Head Cycling Tour when they are finished with tour" and this is true! The only way to simulate a week long bike tour is to go on a week long tour.

Our average rider age is 55 years. These are bike tours, not races so we take our time to stop, take pictures and see the sights. We have all day to reach our destination and most riders take "bumps" at some points. We offer reduced mileage options for each day. Of course if someone wants to ride E.F.I. (Every Freaking Inch), we love to show them all the extra climbs, loops and hidden canyons that can be included!

Do the Bump!
Daily mileage options allow cyclists of varying abilities to enjoy this tour. One of our favorite options is to give cyclists a "bump" via the support vehicle, or a 10 to 20 mile lift down the road representing an hour of pedal time. After the bump the rider is "off the front" and riding at his or her own pace without feeling they are being left behind the group. They'll then have time to linger and take in the spectacular scenery. All cyclists come together in time for lunch. Afterwards, cyclists can take another bump and/or continue riding.

Seamless Mileage Options
Lizard Head Cycling Guides designs multiple mileage options for each tour – something we're well known for in our business. This technique is similar to heliskiing in that one does not ski everything, they ski the best. :-)

Slow or Fast?
Many cyclists who sign up for our tours have worried themselves silly about not being able to keep up, but then they're surprised to find that all the worrying was about nothing. They do just fine! Slow and Fast only exist relative to other cyclists. Speed does not matter as long as one is moving on the bike. As long as one is moving, they are truly going fast enough.

If you have questions about your ability to ride this tour, please contact our office via email or call us at 970.728.5891 - we'll more than happy to guide you!

Please also see this blog post for more information.

Trail of the Apaches: Itinerary*

*Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Please view this itinerary as an outline as to what to expect on this tour.

Day 1: Saguaro National Park
20-mile warm up ride & optional 3 to 10-mile hike through Giant Saguaros

After the meet and greet at the Hyatt Place Tucson Airport we’ll shuttle 15 minutes towards Saguaro National Park and ride 10-miles to the Sonora Desert Museum. The museum features a botanical garden and fascinating displays of the Sonora Desert’s flora and fauna. After the museum we’ll take an energizing 3 to 10-mile hike through the picturesque desert jewel of Saguaro National Park. Post hike guests can shuttle or ride to this evening’s lodging.

Arizona Bike Tour, Sonoran Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Arizona Bike Tour, Hiking in Aravaipa Canyon

Saguaro National Park

Arizona Bike Tour, Marriot Starr Pass Resort

Day 2: Ascent of Kitt Peak Astronomical Telescope
60-miles (*E.F.I.) or 35-mile option
*E.F.I. = every freaking inch 😉

After a 10-15-mile approach on level to rolling desert roads, climb Kitt Peak’s 11-miles and 4,000-feet at a 7% grade. This is a fabulous climb on a road that has no traffic whatsoever and it is a big tour highlight. Cyclists enjoy lunch and a tour of the telescopes at the summit.

After the descending Kitt Peak, we’ll shuttle briefly to the western unit of Saguaro National Park. From here, you’ll have the option of riding over Starr Pass back to the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort. Giant saguaros are a universal symbol of the American West, yet these majestic plants are only found in a relatively small portion of Arizona. Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants, on the edge of the Tucson city limits.

Arizona Bike Tour, Climbing Kitt Peak

Climbing Kitt Peak

Arizona Bike Tour

Relaxing in Arizona

Arizona Bike Tour Sunset


Elevation Gain: 4493 ft Elevation Loss: 3800 ft

Elevation Gain: 4493 ft
Elevation Loss: 3800 ft

Day 3: Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge to Sonoita, Arizona
47-miles or 77-miles E.F.I. with 1,700-feet of climbing

After a relaxing stay at the JW Marriott Resort, we ride along the Altar Valley on quiet and beautiful desert roads through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, over the Los Guijas Mountains and then end the ride in Amado, AZ for a 47 mile day. For riders looking for more distance, on the shuttle from Amado riders start riding along South River Road to Sonoita, AZ for an additional 20-30 miles.

Once everyone has arrived in Sonoita, we will check into the Sonoita Inn and after refreshing from the day’s activities, hit the town for a well deserved meal.

Arizona Bike Tour, Day 3: Patagonia, AZ

Day 3: Patagonia, AZ

Day 3: The San Rafael Valley from Patagonia Mtns

Day 3: The San Rafael Valley from Patagonia Mtns

Elevation Profile: +1660 ft / -1745 ft

47-Mile Elevation Profile: +1660 ft / -1745 ft

Day 4: Patagonia, Arizona to Parker Canyon Lake
4,835-feet of climbing

The ride from Patagonia climbs to the sky island of Parker Canyon and Parker Lake.  To start the day cyclists ride a route through the Canelo Hills and upward through Parker Canyon to a lunch stop at the Parker Canyon Lake. After a well deserved break, we reverse course and head downhill towards Elgin traversing Arizona’s wide open wine growing region where we’ll be sure to pick up a couple of bottles. We end the ride at Sonoita Vineyards followed by a short shuttle to Bisbee, Arizona.

Incorporated in 1902, Bisbee was a booming copper, silver and gold mining town that went completely bust in the 1970s. Today, “Old Bisbee” is a booming artists’ colony and a popular destination for folks looking to literally take a step back in time. Steep staircases to residences line its tight, hilly, European-style streets, including the Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb. Rest up at the historic Copper Queen Hotel which has maintained the ambiance of the Victorian Era Old West, but has been renovated with modern day conveniences to make your stay more comfortable.

Arizona Bike Tour, On route to Bisbee

On route to Bisbee

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Arizona Bike Tour, Bisbee Artisan shops

Quirky Artisan Shops line main street

Elevation Profile: +4835 ft / -4000 ft

Elevation Profile: +4835 ft / -4000 ft

Day 5: Bisbee, Arizona to Rodeo, New Mexico
87-miles E.F.I or 55-mile option
1,646-feet of climbing E.F.I

From the airy perch of Bisbee, descend to the base of the mighty Chiricahua Mountains. We’ll round the southern flanks of the Chiricahuans and follow a route heading northeast into the mysterious San Simion Valley. In this remotest of regions on the edge of New Mexico, the terrain is wild, rugged and beautiful.

En route, you’ll visit the Geronimo Surrender Site near Skeleton Canyon. Geronimo surrendered here for the third and final time to the US. Army. After arriving in Portal, visit the fascinating live reptile collection at the Chiricahua Desert Museum.

After crossing the border into New Mexico, we’ll take it easy at the one-of-kind Painted Pony Resort in Rodeo, NM.

Fun Fact: The night sky from the Painted Pony Resort is one of the darkest in the lower 48 states.

Along the way on Day 5

Along the way on Day 5

View from the Painted Pony Resort

View from the Painted Pony Resort

Painted Pony Resort

Painted Pony Resort

DAY 5: BISBEE, ARIZONA TO RODEO, NEW MEXICO Elevation Gain: 1869 ft Elevation Loss: 2029 ft

DAY 5: Bisbee, Arizona to Rodeo, New Mexico
Elevation Gain: 1646 ft
Elevation Loss: 3191 ft

Day 6: Mt. Graham Climb
E.F.I. of 59-miles: Option of shortening the climb by 10 to 15-miles

The final day of the Trail of the Apaches tour (if it’s snow-free) offers one of the most unique climbs in the American West to the Sky Island of Mt. Graham. The 29-mile Swift Trail up Pinaleno Mountains to the Mt. Graham observatory is a journey to remember. The 10,717-foot Mt. Graham soars almost a mile and a half above the town Safford and the desert below – the single greatest vertical rise of any Arizona mountain.

The Swift Trail bike ride itself serves up to 9,000-feet of climbing over 29-miles to a high point of 9,300-feet (see profile below). This route passes landscapes of cactus, creosote, and ocotillo-clad hillsides to forests of aspen, spruce, and fir. On the climb cyclists pass through five of North America’s seven life zones, encompassing a wide diversity of plant communities and climates equal to traveling from Mexico to Canada..

Because of the dramatic elevation gain, temperatures drop about 30 degrees from mountain base to mountaintop. Bring warm clothing. Heavy snow on the Mt. Graham’s upper elevations can close the road in winter.

Ladybug Saddle, at 8,508 feet, is reached after seventeen miles of steady climbing. Southern Arizona unfolds below this lofty viewpoint. Range upon range of sky island mountains – the Chirichuas, Galiuros, Dragoons, Santa Ritas, Rincons, and Catalinas – punctuate wide, windswept basins to the south.

The Pinaleno Mountains are home to a variety of wildlife. Javelinas, black-tailed jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes are found in the dry lower elevations. Both mule and whitetail deer are often seen browsing in roadside meadows. Coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, turkey, and four species of skunk roam the area’s wilderness.

After descending from Mt. Graham cyclists recover and relax at the Kachina Mineral Springs while enjoying a post ride meal.

Post Apaches Tour: After departing the Kachina Mineral Springs cyclists are shuttled back to Tucson meeting hotel, The Hyatt Place Tucson Airport

Chiricahua Mountains

Chiricahua Mountains

Arizona Bike Tour, Sky Island Scenic Byway

Sky Island Scenic Byway

Observatory on Mt. Graham

Observatory on Mt. Graham

Elevation Gain: 1961 ft Elevation Loss: 1880 ft

Elevation Gain: 1,961 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,880 ft

DAY 6: MT. GRAHAM CLIMB (OPTIONAL) Elevation Gain: 8950 Elevation Loss: 8950

Elevation Gain: 8,950
Elevation Loss: 8,950

Trail of the Apaches: Logistics & FAQs

Bike Shipping

Lizard Head Cycling recommends shipping with Bikes can be shipped either to our partner bike shop in each meeting town for professional assembly or directly to the meeting hotel for self-assembly. Bike boxes can generally be left at the meeting hotel during the tour. Bikes shipped across the continental US should be shipped 8 days prior to your tour.

Tour Support
A 15-passenger van and trailer that carries luggage, food and equipment supports Lizard Head Cycling’s tours. Cyclists keep a day bag that is accessible within the support vehicle.

The vehicle will sag and then pass riders to set up aid stations every 20 to 25 miles. This allows cyclists to linger at the back and then take a ten-mile, fifteen-mile or whatever mile “bump” forward to catch-up or get ahead of the group. Energy food, drink mixes, and fresh fruit are available throughout each stage.

The Daily Schedule
Cyclists ride their own pace. Lizard Head Cycling does its best to support riders in their varying desires and efforts. Cyclists can either use our tours to simply support their tour experience or to engage in a guided experience along the route.

Cue sheets with directions, profiles and locations of aid stations are given out for each stage.

General Tour & Cancellation Policies

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with all of our tour and cancellation policies, which can be found by clicking here.

Travel Insurance

Lizard Head Cycling Guides highly recommends clients purchase Travel Insurance through MH Ross Travel Insurance. A policy can be purchased individually through the sales link below or Lizard Head Cycling Guides can also set-up a policy for its clients.

The estimated cost for a 50-year old buying insurance for a $2,500 tour ranges from $100 (standard plan) to about $200 (cancel for any reason plan).

Lizard Head Cycling Guides Custom Sales Portal Link is:

  • The best options for our clients are either the Asset or Bridge plans.
  • The Asset-Plus & Complete plans both include a Cancel-For-Any-Reason option.
    • As a result these plans cost more.
    • The Cancel-for-Any-Reason option is only available when insurance is purchased within two weeks of initial deposit.

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