Summary: What type of cyclist am I? I am a Cyclist period. I ride 5-6 days a week, and I am one of the really strange ones who splits their time between road and MTB. I am also AOGWB, or Another Old Guy With Bike...
I have only been riding MTB since Dec 2011, Pemberton was 1st time on MTB in many, many years, way back then it was a stretch for my Cardio, and a couple (what I thought) were tough section, fast forward now I am turning laps at Pemberton (PB) in about 1:10 last time out, think I might be able to break 1 hour, and that's what makes Pemberton a fun ride, it's fast, you can go screaming fast counter clockwise as others have indicated. Don't go to Pemberton to do tech, go to Pemberton to go fast. Pemberton hosts all kinds of races, "Dawn to Dusk" is a great one, their are organized night rides of Pemberton every summer, and lots more. Permberton is about going out, having some fun, and going fast. If you like that, you will love Pemberton.
Recommended Route: Clockwise...
Other recommended trails in the same area: There are miles and miles on interconnecting trails in the McDowells, over this last weekend (last in Jan 2013) they held the 7th Annual Quadruple Bypass, and really, really tough 33 miler over four passes with 6,500 ft of climbing, and enough tech stuff to keep everyone happy.
If you include other trails in PHX Metro, as in area, I love Black Canyon Trail (BCT) top ranked trail in AZ, and top ten in nation. Local hangouts inlcude Deems Rec area, Sonoran Mtn Preserve, just opened and really well groomed North Sonoran, Trail 100 and over course South Mountain (SoMo).
Review Date October 1, 2012
Overall Rating 2 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 2 of 5
Technical Difficulty 1 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: King of Britain
Summary: For beginners & aerobic workout dorks only.
I was up from Tucson for the weekend doing some stuff in Scottsdale and Tempe, so I figured McDowell would give me some good trail choices. I had ridden the old NORBA tracks there before and came away a little disappointed by how easy that was (especially the Long Loop). Reading the other reviews here it sounded like maybe Pemberton had some potential, and the distance was right so I gave it a try. Not being a beginner, nor having the terrible bike handling skills of the tri-athlete set that seems to infest the PHX area I was really disappointed.
I rode it clockwise which made the climbing at least a little interesting, the rolling middle section was ok, but I ended up having to go down the northern access road section. That was total murder. Soooooo boring. Don't ride it this way.
Overall, the trail is not technical in any way what so ever. It's 98% buffed out double track/access road. The long initial climb might wear out some people, especially in the heat. As others have mentioned, there are waaaayyy too many water bars. The trail would be just as sustainable without all the buried wood in the trail. All the water bars are ridable and non-technical, they just get annoying after about the 50th one.
Recommended Route: Actually if you insist on riding this trail, your best bet is probably to start out riding the loop clockwise, doing the rolling middle section, then when you get to the clearing with the jumps & dried up cattle watering hole (this is where the access road section would begin in this direction) turn around and head back. That way you get a more entertaining climb, you end up doubling up on the more fun rolling section, then end up with a much better descent back to the parking area.
Other recommended trails in the same area: South Mountain is the only place I've ridden in the greater PHX area so far that offers enough variable terrain to appeal to the most people.
Also, 2 technical sections on the the "Technical Loop" part of the Competitive Track a "technical" ride does not make.
Summary: Has a tendency to get sandy, and is a high use trail with the rare hiker and equestrian, but overall a great ride. No technical sections, but plenty of fun to appeal to a cross section of riders. The trail can easily be completed in 90 minutes, but there are many reasons to take your time, enjoy the scenery, capture some great photos and meet other folks on the trail.
Recommended Route: Counter Clock wise and to include any of the off shoot trails including the newly opened Dixie Mine Trail.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Sport Loops, Dixie Mine, Windgate pass, Golden Eagle.
Summary: The Pemberton trail at McDowell Mountain Park is a 15.4 mile loop through the Sonoran desert. It is technically easy, but this makes it an excellent trail upon which to get a good aerobic workout. Once you get accustomed to the trail, it's possible to pedal hard throughout the entire loop. The trail is mellow enough that it's possible to do multiple laps without getting overly beaten up. That said, it's also quite accessible to novice riders, with several "bail out" options along the way.
This trail may be ridden in either direction, though the clockwise direction is somewhat more popular. Either way you do it, it's mostly uphill for the first third, rolling hills for the middle third, and mostly downhill for the final third. None of the hills are very steep, though the early hills are quite sustained. If you ride clockwise, there's a moderately rocky hill near the beginning. Beginners riding clockwise may wish to avoid this rocky hill by turning right on the Tonto Tank trail at roughly 1 mile along the Pemberton. The Tonto Tank rejoins the Pemberton well after the rocky hill.
If ridden clockwise, there's a long downhill sandy section of doubletrack starting at around mile 8. This doubletrack lasts until around mile 13 at which time a fun twisty section of singletrack starts. The clockwise direction is undoubtedly more popular for this reason: The sandy singletrack is easier to ride downhile than slogging uphill. Plus the singletrack is mostly downhill too and is more fun at high speeds than the reverse.
As noted in other reviews, the park did indeed put in an excessive number of waterbars. These were terrible when first installed, but several of the most egregious ones of have been removed. The trail has become beaten in enough around the remaining water bars so they're not as much of a problem as they used to be. These water bars seem to have done a decent job of preventing erosion during the summer monsoons of 2005 and the winter rains of 2004-2005. By way of contrast, many of the other trails in the area suffered huge ruts, whereas the Pemberton is still in pretty good shape.
The southernmost portion of the Pemberton should be avoided after heavy rains. This portion of the trail is composed of clay, sections of which drain quite poorly. When wet, this clay will make a mess of your bike. (And the trail itself will become quite rutted for a time.) Consider, instead, riding the Granite and Bluff trails along with the northern sections of the Pemberton.
Recommended Route: Ride either clockwise or counterclockwise on the Pemberton trail. The trail is well marked; you won't get lost. Trail maps are available at the trailhead.
Other recommended trails in the same area: For a slightly longer variation (approximately 21 miles): Ride the Pemberton trail clockwise until the Bluff trail. Turn right on Bluff and follow Bluff until it terminates at the Granite. Turn left on the Granite trail and ride until it terminates at Bluff. (You will have passed this junction on your earlier descent of the Bluff trail.) Turn right on Bluff and ride back up to the Pemberton. Finally, turn right on Pemberton and ride back to the trailhead.
For an even longer ride (approximately 28 miles): Ride the Pemberton counterclockwise until the Bluff. Descend the Bluff until the first intersection with the Granite trail. Turn left at this intersection. Ride the Granite trail until it terminates at the Pemberton. Turn right on the Pemberton and follow it back (this time going clockwise) to the trailhead.
Riders wanting to incorporate a slightly more technical trail into an outing involving the Pemberton should consider riding the Scenic trail. This trail is significantly narrower, hillier, and rockier than any of the Pemberton. The 3+ miles of the Scenic trail can be substituted for around 1 mile of the Pemberton, or a 4.2 mile loop involving a small part of the Pemberton and all of the Scenic may be ridden instead.
The competitive tracks near the entrance to the park are also well worth doing.
Review Date October 3, 2003
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 5 of 5
Technical Difficulty 0 of 5
Ridden Trail: 1 Year
Reviewed by: bulldog2
Favorite Trail: pemberton
Summary: Yes I wish I could have road the trail before the "SPEED BUMPS" were put in. Pemberton is a good trail to hit when you cant decide what you want to ride or you need a good lung burner to remind you to not hang around smokers. Its a good trail that can be road by all level of riders intermids to pros. I have been in the valley not long and enjoy all the trails that the valley has to offer, though this trail can be boaring by yourself, bring a gaggle of newbies with you and see who lurches first after the climb.Ride the whloe 16 mile trail you'll enjoy it!!!!!!!!!
Strengths: builds good endurance for the intermid rider