This is a tough ride with lots of climbing. Most of the riding is on jeep roads, but don't let that fool you into thinking that makes this easy. Be prepared for some great views.
Park at the visitor center for Wipple Observatory at the bottom of Mt Hopkins. This ride starts to climb immediately up Mt Hopkins Rd. After 1 mile on the road there will be a sign on the left that says Elephant Head Trail
. Take the left and follow the track which turns into jeep road. The rocky road climbs for a bit before a fun fast rocky jeep road descent. The road comes to a T. Turn right and follow climbing that road for another 2 miles. There is a trailhead sign on the left and this is where it turns to singletrack. There is a little bit of hike-a-bike on the climb, but the climb only lasts for 3/4 of a mile.
The descent is tricky if the trail is overgrown, as it makes it hard to see what rocks lurk beneath the long grass. The descent on singletrack lasts for only 1/2 mile before you take a left back on to a jeep road. The steep rocky jeep road is technical and bounces you around a bit. At the bottom of the steep descent you'll see the back of a sign that if you take a look at the other side, will point you to the rest of the Elephant Head singletrack that takes you out to Madera Canyon.
From here it is all singletrack heading uphill to Madera Canyon at Proctor Way. This section is an out and back. The trail is rocky and uphill to the gate with only a couple sections that are considered more technical. Depending on the time of year, this trail can be riddled with cat claw. Wearing long sleeves and something to protect your legs will greatly reduce the amount of scratches you have at the end of the ride. The other option is to bring a pair of clippers with you. At the gate, turn around and head downhill back out to the jeep road. Make sure to stop and see the metates on your way back. They can be tricky to find. Get off your bike as you parallel the wash, about 1/3 way back. You'll need to get off your bike and walk up to the rocky area across the wash to find them.
Once back out on the jeep road take a right and follow it out to the parking area at the end of Hawk Way. The jeep road is downhill to the parking area. Once you are at Hawk Way follow the uphill,l paved road back to the cars for the next 11 miles.
There are a few variations on this ride. It can be done as an out an back from Hawk Way. This variation incorporats the jeep road and the second half of the Elephant Head Trail
(the out and back section) and then back to Hawk Way on the Jeep road. It can also be done as a shuttle ride from Mt Hopkins Rd to Hawk Way, eliminating the paved riding.
History & Background
The Elephant Head trail is reported to be the very first trail that the Forest Service built in the US.