READERS' RUNNER-UP: The Rillito River Park, Campbell Avenue to Oracle Highway. The main auto entrance to the park is a dirt lot off First Avenue, a half-block south of the Rillito Downs entrance. This paved, mixed-use trail follows the course of the dry riverbed for several miles west, affording a welcome view of some of the city's best public landscaping, both hard and soft. Among its treasures (which you'll have ample opportunity to see if you observe the speed limit) are a bridge embedded with found-object metal sculpture, painted concrete trail accents, a grassy park, maturing mesquite grove, stone amphitheater and of course,the open expanse of the sandy river itself. Lots of desert flowers, and even some curious equines greet cyclists, roller-bladers, joggers and dog walkers all along its two-lane course. There is street access at every major crossroads, but the path itself cuts under each overpass between Campbell and Oracle.
MORE MANIA: Old Spanish Trail to Colossal Cave. This 18-mile, out-and-back route has a shoulder between the road and the path for the first part of the ride. Further down the road (past Saguaro National Park East), wide streets with little car traffic offer a peaceful ride for the many cyclists and families looking for a safe, easy, relatively flat ride. There's free parking at the Visitor's Center for Saguaro East, so you can ride as far as you like and then turn around.
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