Route Overview





Days Out


Recommended Tire Size

2.4 to 3.0``


Mid-October to

Elevation Gain



8/10 Physical
8/10 Technical

Primary Surface(s)

~80% dirt
~40% single track

Route Map

Route Details

The Queen’s Ransom is a 227-mile bikepacking route around the greater East Valley of metro Phoenix, Arizona. It weaves together many of the area’s popular singletrack trail systems, regional parks, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail amid stunning topography, rolling dirt roads, and challenging terrain.

This route is a great test route for anyone wanting to attempt the AZT300.

The Queen’s Ransom route immerses riders into the Sonoran Desert. While this route begins and ends in the big city, that is soon forgotten. The route traverses through a series of popular day-ride destinations and gradually becomes more rugged and remote as the miles tick by. The views are enormous and immersive as the route hugs the Superstition Mountains. This is mining country and tales of legendary gold mines lure treasure hunters to this day. Be prepared for slow miles as many are along technical singletrack, there may be hike-a-bike. The Queen’s Ransom utilizes arguably the most stunning section of the entire 800 mile long Arizona Trail between Picketpost trailhead and Kelvin.

This route is best done on a mountain bike with some form of suspension and no less than 2.4″ tires. Riding season is generally from mid-October to mid-April or when daytime temps are in the low-80’s or less.

Most of this route is on public lands, either State Trust Land (Recreation permit is needed) or National Forest Land. There are a few established campgrounds, fee & reservations required, either on route or nearby if more facilities are desired.

Water is life in the desert and thankfully there are plenty of opportunities to stay hydrated along the route. A water filter is recommended for use when getting water from the ATA rain collector along the Arizona Trail. Food resupply is plentiful as well, the longest stretch between towns is 107 miles. (Superior to Florence) However, Old Time Pizza in Kearny will deliver to the Kelvin ADOT yard for a fee.

Route Description:
The Queen’s Ransom begins at the Gateway Airport in SE Mesa. Hotels, shopping are nearby for any last minute needs. Flat canals begin the route, be sure to zoom in on your GPS as it is important to stay on the correct side of the canal, it does vary. The Hawes trail system is the first bit of singletrack and it is generally non-technical. The route moves across the road to Usery Regional Park, $2 cash fee, for more fast flowy trails. It then transitions over to the Goldfield Mtns and becomes noticeably more rugged and slow. Crossing AZ88 the route follows the base of the Superstition Mtns. along the infamous Jacob Crosscut trail. Rugged!! Resupply in Gold Canyon then head out on more singletrack. Dirt roads lead to the next resupply in Queen Valley followed by more dirt roads to Superior.

Load up on calories here, then get ready for some spectacular canyon riding. First up is Arnett Canyon which connects to the Arizona Trail. This is the most remote section of the entire route. Stunning views are the reward for the pedaling work. The singletrack ends 2 miles beyond Kelvin for some graded dirt road riding. Some fast miles of jeep road follow as the route skirts by a rock formation known as Area 52. More dirt/sand follows as the route brings riders in to Florence. Flat fast miles are next leading to the south entry into San Tan Regional Park, $2 entry fee. A short bit of sand greets you, then fun singletrack leads you through the park. The final bit is a fun almost 2 mile descent with views of the returning big city. Flat paved miles finish the loop back to Gateway Airport.

  • Paved: 18%
  • Smooth Gravel: 20%
  • Rough Gravel: 15%
  • 4×4 Road: 5%
  • Singletrack: 42%

Please reference the Ride with GPS route page for POIs with camping, re-supply and other logistical information.

Recreational Permits can be found here:

John Schilling created and stewards this route. Here is a little about John and his experience route making in his own words:

I created this route in 2013 and have ridden it every year since. I am currently the Arizona Trail Race Director and have submitted & scouted many of the recent changes to that route. I also create routes for local grassroots endurance events in the 8-12 hour range. In general, I’ve been creating routes for over 10 years.

The route starts and ends at my house!! (*The public route does not). There’s a regional airport two miles north of where I live, so that’s a great starting/finishing location for those coming from out of town. I host an annual group ride on the route each spring, so not only do I ride the full route each year, another 25+ riders do as well. Many of the trail sections of the route are also popular local trails, so there’s always plenty of feedback and maintenance going on, when needed.

Be sure to check out John’s blog to read more about his bikepacking and other outdoor adventures.

John has offered to be available to answer questions if you are planning a trip on this route. We encourage you to be respectful of Route Stewards time though and to review publicly available materials first before reaching out with questions.

Please also get in touch with any updates on route conditions that may be relevant to other riders.

Please submit your questions and comments on the route using the contact form below.

    This route traverses the traditional lands of the Hohokam.