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otb club member
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Thanks to all who gave advice regarding a "step up" from Desert Classic. It was over a year ago, and I finally got back up there from Tucson and got around to doing the route recommended below (thanks to Gnarlene). I've inserted my own clarifications after figuring out a couple of confusing parts of the route and also just some commentary on what I liked, etc. The original recommendation is in italics, and the commentary is in bold:

(1) I ride up Mormon trail to the intersection with National. OK,finding the starting point is just a little confusing because of the way the trails are marked. Take the main dirt entry road by the bath rooms (extention of Pima Canyon Rd from the golf course side of the park). When you get to the bench and stone houses, you'll see a large sign with maps to the right of the bench, with an arrow pointing to National. This actually leads to Mormon Loop and to National, as well as Javaline, Ridgeline, etc. Take it a short way and you will get to where you will have a clear choice between National and Mormon Loop. Take the climb up Mormon Loop. This gives me a somewhat techie climb, so that's both fun and humbling (for me at least). Yeah, definitely very humbling.It's a very sustained climb with some tough sections to clear, especially when your lungs and legs are burning. Had to stop and catch my breath in one spot... You will pass a branch to the right, which is Mormon Trail. Don't take it. Stay on Mormon Loop and you will soon come to marker to take National Trail back down.

(2) I ride down National. This gives me a short techie-ish downhill. It is not as extreme as Holbert, Telegraph, etc. But it is "the classic" of SoMo. Getting onto National here provides a nice taste of the rocks and drops, but it is short enough that walking some stretches wouldn't be too terribly frustrating. "Techi-ish" she said? Yeah. On a CC hardtail, it's more than techie-ISH. BUT IT ROCKED! I had to (chose to) walk three or four sections, but the rest was very fun. This trail took lots of concentration, line picking, and was filled with drops just big enough to thrill but not require wheelie drops or other techniques beyond my level. This was the funnest part of the ride.

Even better, you can also decide very easily, after having ridden up Mormon, that you'd prefer to ride down that trail, and LOTS of people make that decision. It is less technical than National, but is more technical than DC. My wife might have preferred this route, but she went down National with me. She walked quite a bit of it, but still enjoyed it (National, that is).

(3) At the bottom of Mormon/National, head over to Javalina and hook back up to the parking lot on the Loop Trails. I like having this thrown in because it is more swoopy XC like (though there are a few smallish drops to look out for). There are some, um, aerobic climbs thrown in for good measure. The trails are less-frequently used and are narrower, and they are just plain less crowded, which at SoMo is a very nice feature. For the first time, finding Javalina is easier said than done. It is not marked at all where it meets Mormon Loop. To complete this ride, when you come down National, you will come back to the original marker where you took Mormon Loop. Start back up Mormon Loop and look for an unmarked "pull-out" to the right a short way up. If you take this, you will see that another trail starts a little way from this open area. This is Javalina. The discription given was very accurate as far as more CC with some smallish drops and rocks to keep an eye open for. Also very true about a few climbs thrown in, though I would term them anaerobic rather than aerobic. You'll see a the top of a huge water tank, climb up a large hill, and drop down the other side, ending up at a trailhead parking lot (completely different location than the main ramada). This is where Javalina ends. Go to the opposite end of the lot and pick up the "Beverly Canyon" Trail. We took this all the way back to the main dirt road coming from Pima Canyon Drive. Beverly Canyon is pretty much the same as Javalina, with fairly smooth sailing interspersed with some fairly challenging climbs (loose terrain, step ups, fairly good pitch, etc.).

All in all we were very pleased with the ride. It was a great mix of terrain and a good work out. I still keep thinking about the rocky descent on National. We will be back for more!
This recommendation from Paul B would have also been good, in retrospect: Okay, two hours and the next step up from DC? Up Javelina, up Mormon Loop, down lower National, back up and down Javelina. Challenging but you're never too far away to walk if you get in over your head. There are some lovely loops within the park as well (east loop/west loop trails) that you can string together for another 1/2 hour or so.
 

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EDR
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Glad you enjoyed the ride. SM is a lot of fun, those of us who live nearby forget that sometimes. National is more than just techie, its a biotch but fun...
 
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