Hikers and horseback riders soon will be joined on a popular path by another breed of trail traveler: mountain bikers.
The Hope Camp Trail at Saguaro National Park East - long off-limits to cyclists - will be opened to pedalers Friday.
The change comes after extensive study by park planners followed by a process of public comment, approval and inclusion in the Federal Register.
"The public comments were overwhelmingly in favor of making this a multiple-use trail" - effectively opening the 2.8-mile route to mountain bikers, said Darla Sidles, superintendent of Saguaro National Park. "It is one more way we can connect with our Tucson community and encourage a healthy activity in their national park."
Sidles said the trail, which is not in designated wilderness, is ideal for multiple use because it follows an old roadbed. The road was part of a privately owned ranch before the land was acquired by the park in the early 1990s.
"It's wide enough to accommodate bikes as well as horseback riders and hikers," Sidles said. "The various trail users in Tucson are respectful of each other, and I think they'll work well together on the trail."
She said the Hope Camp Trail will be one of only two trails in the park that are open to cyclists.
"The only other one that's open to bikes is the Cactus Forest Trail," which is also in the park's east unit, Sidles said.
CYCLISTS ARE PLEASED
"I was riding the Hope Camp Trail from 1987 until the Park Service bought it in 1993" - and subsequently put the route off-limits to bikes, said Steve Anderson, an avid mountain biker and a planning manager with Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation. "So it's great to have it open again."
Mark Flint, a trail designer and cyclist, called the mountain-bike access "most welcome and long overdue."
if you go
Here's how to reach the Hope Camp Trail: Follow Old Spanish Trail southeast of East 22nd Street, past the main entrance to Saguaro National Park and into the Rincon Valley. Turn left, north, on Camino Loma Alta and drive two miles on pavement and another half-mile on an unpaved road to the trailhead.
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at email@example.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz