McDowell Mountain Road
The longer the pandemic lingers globally, the more my husband Lou and I discover places to spin locally. In doing so in 2021, we came upon a favorite new route: McDowell Mountain Road, a super scenic, eight-mile stretch connecting Fountain Hills to Rio Verde, AZ. Mountainous southwestern landscapes teeming with wildlife make this route especially awe inspiring. McDowell Mountain Road unfolds majestic vistas along a wide and clean bike lane suitable for scooters and bikers of all levels.
Ready, Set, Roll
Here’s our recommended one-way route, provided you have someone to pick you up on the other end:
To maximize gentle downhill curves and mountain vistas, unload at Fountain Hills Middle School parking lot (when school is not in session). Turn left out of parking lot onto McDowell Mountain Road. Ride eight miles. End in Rio Verde at the intersection of McDowell Mountain Road and Forest Road. You’ll find a place to park on a dirt turnoff near a grove of pecan trees. Or, you can always rest or turn back midway at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
Many riders without pick-up, unload at McDowell Mountain Regional Park traveling four miles in either direction before turning back.
Add on two miles: From the intersection of McDowell Mountain Road and Forest Road, turn left onto Forest Road to spin another two miles along a straight, smooth bike lane going through the heart of Rio Verde.
Add on five miles: From the intersection of McDowell Mountain Road and Forest Road, turn left onto Forest Road to spin another two miles along a straight, smooth bike lane going through the heart of Rio Verde. Then, Forest Road will become Needle Rock Road. Keep going straight into Needle Rock Recreation Area for another three miles where the pavement ends. Read more about Spinning Scenic Needle Rock Road.
Watch for Animals
Be on the lookout for a wide assortment of wildlife. We have spotted wild horses, coyotes, snakes, javelinas, bald eagles and other birds of prey. In the summer, a kaleidoscope of butterflies have stormed our path.
Although McDowell Mountain Road has a wide, well-marked bike lane, it’s always a good idea to light up your scooter or bike. I also use a bike flag and brightly colored clothing to maximize vehicular visibility.
This is unadulterated Arizona countryside, so pack water and snacks.
Many thanks to Maya Holmberg, our photographer and pilot car driver.