Arizona Trail - Gila 100

With just shy of 100 miles of world-class desert singletrack, the Gila 100 is one of the absolute highlights of the Arizona Trail. Traversing broad desert expanses, canyons, mountains, the riding and scenery is as good as it gets, all thanks to the tireless work of the Arizona Trail Association and all its volunteers.

oracle / Superior, AZ

Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Akimel O'odham (Upper Pima), O'odham Jewed, and Ndee/Nnēē (Western Apache) lands

10,300'

ELEVATION GAIN

Fall to Spring

riding season

1-3

days out

8

PHYSICAL challenge (1-10*)

16:35

women's FKT -
eszter Horanyi
(2014, southbound)

94

miles

7

TECHNICAL challenge (1-10*)

10:54 / 11:13

men's FKTs - north / south
Taylor Lideen / Kurt Refsnider

Stewarded by the Arizona Trail Association

Managed by Bureau of Land Management Tuscon Field Office

* Following the bikepacking Roots rating scale

route map and download

Disclaimer: This route and associated information is just a starting point for your preparation, and your safety is your own responsibility. Although this route, its GPS track and waypoints, route data, and the route guide were prepared after extensive research, their accuracy and reliability are not guaranteed. Check for current conditions, route updates, detours, use common sense, obey local laws and regulations, and travel with alternative means of navigation. The Backcountry Bike Challenge and its creators and contributors will in no way be responsible for personal injury or damage to personal property arising in conjunction with following this route or utilizing any of the route resources provided on this website or via RWGPS.

General route description

This stretch of Arizona Trail offers world-class desert singletrack in a remarkably remote environment. Heading south, the trail contours around Picketpost Nountain up to a pass before plunging along some of the best constructed trail imaginable down to the Gila River. At the river, the trail turns east, hugging the canyon wall as while weaving in and out of steep drainages. At Kelvin, the trail climbs into the Ripsy Segment (which will be rerouted in the coming years due to mining) and Tortilla Mountains. South of these little mountains, you’ll enter a broad, desolate upper Sonoran Desert scrub environment with views for a hundred miles or more. The Santa Catalina sky islands to the south beckon you through the steeply banked washes that scour the landscape of the Black Hills. End the challenge at Tiger Mine Road, or if the Arizona Trail calls, continue south to Mexico.

Photos by Kurt Refsnider

additional route information

  • This is the desert. Water is scarce, and the heat can be far more of a challenge than anticipated.
  • Carry far more than you’ll need, and never count on the next water source being 100% reliable – just because there is a waypoint for a possible water source does not mean that there will actually be water at that source!
  • The Gila River offers the only natural water source, is often muddy/murky and should be treated. Mining operation exists upstream.
  • Because of the lack of water, the Arizona Trail Association has installed water cache boxes and one rainwater collector tank. Cache boxes are located at the Tigermine Road Trailhead and the Freeman Road Trailhead. These should not be relied upon, and do not empty a water cache.
  • There are no additional services along the route.
  • The mobile app for the Arizona Trail often includes updates on water sources from other trail users.
  • Virtually the entirety of this route is on public lands. Camping is permitted throughout.
  • This passage crosses State Trust Land, but a permit is not required as long as you are on or near the Arizona Trail.
  • This segment is incredibly devoid of water sources and lacks any shade to speak of. Riders should be prepared to carry 6-8 liters of water, depending on camping plans.
  • Freeman Road and Kelvin offer the closest options for accessing a highway or town.
  • Do not underestimate the time that riding between Kelvin and the Picketpost Trailhead will take you. These are very slow miles, even when descending.
  • Water caches depend on considerate users to sustain them. Do not drain a water cache, pack out any bottles you empty, do not leave trash or food in them, and please pay forward the service by stocking a water cache either before or after your ride. 

  • This route can be raced either northbound or southbound. The traditional Arizona Endurance Series Gila 100 event has been run southbound since 2013.
  • Do not rely on water caches, and you may not cache water (or anything else) for your own personal use.
  • Have a sound hydration and nutrition plan to keep yourself hydrated and with electrolytes on board.
  • Prioritize self-care over pace in order to prevent needing search and rescue from heat and exertion related illness. Many riders trying to move fast on the AZT have required rescues!
  • Be especially courteous to all the other trail users – the AZT is becoming a very popular route.
  • You must ride 100% of the route in accordance with the FKT rules.

history and stewardship of the arizona trail

The Arizona Trail is one of the premier long-distance trails in the country. For a history of the trail by each passage, see the passages links in the additional resources above. Dale Shewalter envisioned the trail in the 1970s, and in the subsequent decades, pursued his vision until the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) formed as a non-profit in 1994 to be a steward for the trail. The trail continues to be constructed and maintained to fulfill the mission of the organization and provide a lasting trail for non-motorized users across Arizona, and it’s important to recognize that the ATA has been welcoming to mountain bikers since the beginning. 

your rides on this route

Ride with GPS FKT Leaderboards – Southbound & Northbound