Arrived in Tucson two weeks before the 34th El Tour de Tucson (early November 2016). I stayed at the Candlewood Suites on River Road. The parking lot adjoins the Rillito River Trail which is part of the Loop system. I used to ride my bicycle where the hotel now sits.
My trip was particularly nostalgic because I grew up within a mile of the hotel in the late 50s and early 60s. I was enjoying riding as well as being on home turf. It's changed a bit, indeed, but it was home to me. I hadn't had a serious visit in nearly thirty years.
The morning I rode the Santa Cruz Trail was cool, sunny and clear warming into the low 80s F. I rode NW via the Rillito, crossing over to the south side at N Camino de la Tierra (public street, fast traffic, dump trucks, rough pavement). Coming back up onto the trail there are restrooms and water. Continuing on NW I crossed under I-10 and connected with the Santa Cruz Trail heading back SE. The trail is paved and you will parallel I-10, passing businesses (trucking, sand/gravel, construction) until you reach Camino del Cerro where you cross (you hop into the median to cross, watch the traffic) and now parallel the river (east side). The views down into the river are majestic.
Side note: I find that people either love the desert or hate it. Maybe it's because I grew up here that sand runs in my veins and cacti permeate my dreams, but I love the Sonoran Desert. Seeing the giant Saguaro and other cacti, lizards, Gambel Quail, the Santa Catalina Mountains... Sigh..... Hey, I'm retired now and I'm moving here in time to catch the spring flowers. I don't mind the summer heat and I tell people that the frogs wear headbands and carry canteens. Some get it and some don't. 8-]
Back to the trail now. I continued on south along the river passing an impressive solar farm and a water treatment plant (didn't have to hold my nose). I passed under Grant Road, Speedway and St. Mary's all the way to Congress where I would have to cross Congress itself (near downtown) if I continued SE. At that point I crossed, in a bike lane, to the west side of the river and headed back NW.
The ride back north took me along the river in places and through some picturesque open spaces until I crossed again at Camino del Cerro. From there I backtracked to the hotel. It was a an enjoyable ride covering 26.5 miles at an average of 7.8 mph on my Catrike 559, according to Strava. When I return I'll be riding a Catrike Dumont. I'm counting the days.
There were no challenging climbs and the views were spacious. I enjoyed the ride and traffic on the trail was light since it was Monday. I recommend this trail for the views and the wide open spaces. In another several days I would be riding 37 miles in El Tour de Tucson. That's another story.