Julian Wash Bike Path

Living in Vail, we often feel far from all of the excitement of downtown. Concerts, new restaurants, and fun festivals seem a world away.

Most of the time, we welcome that distance. But sometimes, it’d be nice to get on the back of a bicycle and pedal our way to downtown.

It’s always been a possibility to ride from Vail to downtown by bike, but until recently, that trek required that you battled traffic along some of Tucson’s major roads. Now, with the recent openings along the Julian Wash bike path, you have the chance to journey to the middle of Tucson and back with very little time alongside motor vehicles.

Starting your Journey

The Julian Wash bike path is part of the loop that circles Tucson. Our portion starts on Rita near the railroad tracks. Three miles down, you’ll hit Kolb. The path continues under Kolb, across Wilmot, under I-10, and on around Tucson.

If you’re looking to rack up the mileage on your bike, start from your house and head toward the path on Rita. If you’re more in the mood to get “smiles, not miles,” drive to Kolb with your bike and start your journey there. Either way, you’re in for a minimum of a 15 mile bike ride one way.

The Tricky Parts

Signage is fantastic on the path for the most part. Blue signs give you mile markers, directions, and guidance. Most of the time, it’s easy to find your way along the path.

There are a few tricky spots where you’ll need to know where you’re going so that you don’t get too lost.

  • Drexel – Once you hit Drexel, you’ll cycle underneath I-10. From there, the signage is very poor. Continue on the surface street after the path appears to end. Make a right onto Catalina Ave and follow the street around the corner. Soon you’ll see where the path picks back up.
  • Kino – When you get to Kino you can either make a left or a right.
    • Turning right will take you on a bike path around a park, up a bridge, and over to Palo Verde. Then, you’ll come back down along Aviation Highway (on a side street). Soon, you’ll ride over a few bridges. One of those bridges is the Rattlesnake bridge. When you come off of that one, you’ll be on 4th Avenue.
    • Turning left or going straight will take you through the VA hospital, under I-19, along I-10, and then into downtown from the west. You’ll get to ride along A Mountain, which is a fun sight.

Once you’re in downtown, have a bite to eat, sip on a beer, and enjoy your accomplishment. But not for too long. Riding home will probably take a little bit longer than your journey down.

Heading Home

Going back will feel a little bit shorter since you already know the bike path. However, there are more uphill sections so plan a little extra time to make it back.

A few pro tips to keep you safe and happy along your ride:

  • There are limited water stations. Take enough water to keep you hydrated on your ride.
  • Enjoy the scenery. You might be riding along the Interstate, but there are a few fun things to see, such as planes, large solar panels, and A Mountain.
  • Take a light if you plan to ride in the afternoon. Even if you’re not planning on riding after dark, it’s good to have a light as soon as the sun starts to set so that you’re more visible to others.

Here are two maps from Strava of the routes you can take to reach downtown from Vail along the Julian Wash bike path.




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Lucretia Free