Weekend Wheeling in Sedona

Off-Road Rides
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Schnebly Hill

My favorite fat-tire ride in the region (when I've started out early enough to avoid the traffic, although no time on weekends is early enough) is Schnebly Hill, a moderately difficult 23-mile (total mileage) out-and-back pedal that climbs a whopping 2,200 feet of elevation. With temperatures often reaching the century mark in Sedona between June and late September, you will appreciate the cooler temps up high. But this is another reason to begin your ride early.

The red-rock scenery of Mitten Ridge (with the wonderfully named formations of Teapot Rock, Thumb Butte, Cow Pies, and Technicolor Corner) and Bear Wallow Canyon is superb, and worth another look during the blissful descent.

Should you prefer a pavement ride on your return, there is a way to single-track yourself from the Schnebly Hill Lookout down Casner Canyon to US Route 89A. I hiked this single-track trail once during a tour-company photo shoot, so I didn't cover all of it and thus suggest you get specifics from a bike shop or guidebook.

Loy Butte

Another personal favorite ride is north and west of town: Loy Butte, a 20-mile (total distance) out-and-back that's great when you are up for fast pedaling over hard-packed (and sometimes sandy) dirt roads. I rode this route with a tour company, and photographing the smiling faces as they sped through the amazingly colorful countryside was a real treat (I hadn't gotten so many smiles two days before on the climb to Jerome). Elevation gain here is almost nil, and since this is true and open desert pedaling, it's best done early or late in spring or fall, or midday during winter.

Head west on US Route 89A a few miles and turn north on Dry Creek Road. A left onto Forest Service 152C will mark the beginning of your dirt riding toward Boynton Pass. A Coconino National Forest map (available from the national forest office in Sedona) will put many options for fast riding before you, including visits to Red Canyon Ruins and to the oddly shaped rock formations called Cockscomb Spires. Be sure you're pedaling with good rubber out here, plus a spare tube or two and patch kit and pump; this is the land of prickly pear cactus.

Other Rides

Sterling Canyon and Robber's Roost are two more of the many other dirt routes in this region, and you'll learn of them and Red Rock State Park and more in any of the guidebooks you pick up.

If you're willing to go farther afield and camp in the wilds there's always the Mogollon (MUGGY-own) Rim (a dirt-road trail) southeast of Sedona. I rode this in 1984 on one of my annual solo fall tours, camping each night on this southern lip of the huge Colorado Plateau and waking up each day to the sight of "lower Arizona" spreading south thousands of feet below me. You will love it in any season. Well, unless the snow gets too deep. I got nailed here in November and had to move to pavement, and even there the huge dry flakes fell so fast that my section of the highway was closed—behind me. A gloriously quiet two days ensued.

There are other great mountain bike trails around Flagstaff, and road rides north of there to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments) and on to the Grand Canyon.

Whatever happens, remember that trying to cram in too much riding while you are based in Sedona will cause you to miss out on much that this unique place has to offer. I like to kid about the culture there—the metaphysical claims of energy fields and pyramids—but I continue to return. Yes, the major reasons are the great riding, the photography, the amazing and numerous art galleries, the friendly (Yuppie or funky) people, and the you're-in-the-best-of-Mexico-now experience of walking to Tlaquepaque (t'lah-kay-PAH-kay), a veritable village of south-of-the-border craft shops, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. But, in truth, perhaps it's something more. Perhaps, when all is said and done and I am able finally to dispense with my natural skepticism, the real reason that I return becomes clear: I like the omelettes.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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