Sedona, Arizona is a glorious place to go for a solid week (or more) of great mountain biking. Flights to Phoenix are direct from Calgary. From there you can take a shuttle to Sedona (make sure you make contact in advance and advise that you have a bike case) or rent a van for the 2 hour drive. I like to fly WestJet for a couple of reasons: They only charge $20 for a second checked bag (used to be free) and in over two dozen legs with my bike case, they have only charged me for “oversized” once. Just be sure your case weighs in under the 50 lb limit. The ladies who check you in have the ability to charge you at their discretion, so be nice!
You’ll come off a high desert plateau on hwy 179 into a landscape filled with stunning red rock and white limestone mesas. The first community is Oak Creek, home of The Bike and Bean (great coffee! rentals) bike shop. Keep moving and in about 5 miles you’ll enter Sedona, which is very spread out, wrapping itself all the way around the airport mesa. Once in Sedona, be sure to pick up a good map. I like the “Sedona Trails Map” from Emmit Barks Cartography, but there are a couple of other good ones. The bike shops were all out, so I picked mine up at The Hike House (great staff) on 179 right across from Tlaquepaque (Te-la-ke-pa-kay) just before Uptown Sedona.
If you’re doing the VRBO thing for accom, choose your location with care. We stayed just north of the Chapel area, right near Tlaquepaque, and it was perfect. We were able to ride right from the house 5 of 6 days. The Chapel area would be great as well. I’ve stayed in Oak Creek and in Uptown in the past, and while riding from those areas is fine, they’re just not as central.
As for bike shops, most riders will be aware of the Over The Edge group, who have shops in Fruita, CO., Hurricane, UT., Australia, and now Sedona. They are about to celebrate their 1 year anniversary in the old Mountain Bike Heaven location right on 89A in West Sedona. Go see Matt or Mike and they’ll do whatever it takes to see to it that your Sedona mtb experience is a good one. These guys are young and keen, eager to share trail beta, directions and a nice IPA. Oh yeah, and if you have an emergency repair two minutes before closing, it’s NOT a problem. They have a big rental fleet, a pump track and a ping pong table out back. Fun with a capital F.
Riding in the Sedona area is a fabulous mix of flowing desert singletrack, outstanding red slickrock, punchy technical climbing and/or rocky descending, and exposed sections where your attention to the trail is everything, where a fall would be really, really bad. Views are phenomenal everywhere, and if it’s hot, be sure to ride by oak creek for a refreshing dip. You may or may not want to wear shin guards to protect yourself from cactus.
The Broken Arrow Trailhead is easy to find at the top of Morgan Rd. and leads to flowy gems like Llama, Little Horse, and Templeton, or technical pearls like Chapel and Pig Tail. Broken Arrow itself is a mix of flow and technical rock, a nice intro on day one. Be sure to detour to Submarine rock, a huge red monolith where freeform rock riding is the order of the day. Stop at Chicken Point to take in the view and watch out for all the 4WD Jeep tours in this area. Be sure to stop for a quiet moment at the renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross. Also, FYI, there are a couple of fantastic, unmarked trails that require your technical attention above Pig Tail.
The Bell Rock Pathway is an excellent doubletrack connector, and a great way to make your way to Oak Creek from Sedona. Watch for hiker traffic. Drop by the Bike and Bean for coffee, some snacks and directions to the Highline. This amazing ride is only a few years old, and is a masterpiece of trail building. If you’re a builder, go there just to look. Anyway, not to be missed, but also not for the faint of heart as there are many technical rock sections as well as route finding skills required. The exit from the Highline down to the Baldwin loop is really poor and is hike-a-bike for many skilled riders. Having said that, the ride is worth it, no question, with panoramic views of the entire area and an amazing variety of tech, flow, slickrock and more. You can make your way back to Sedona via Templeton (over to the Broken Arrow network), which has a lot of fast, fun, flowing red slickrock and big, big views.
If you’re up for a mostly technical day, with some very demanding riding, head up Schnebly Hill Rd from Tlaquepaque to the Huckaby trail head. Hop onto Munds Wagon singletrack and climb rocky, technical singletrack up the valley to the Cow Pies, an open expanse of pick-your-own-adventure red slickrock. From here, use your route finding skills and the directions you got from the shop to make your way across to the Damifino saddle. This traverse is filled with technical rock, cactus and some exposure and is not for everyone, so Pay Attention! Once at the saddle, which is a spectacular place for views, a rest and a snack, you can choose either Hangover or Damifino. Both are very demanding physically and mentally, especially Hangover which will not forgive even a moment of inattention and where, in places, the consequences of a fall could be horrific. Once you drop into either of these trails, you’re committed, so be ready. Do not take either of these trails on without either a local rider or the certainty that you’ll be able to find your way back out. Route finding on the red slickrock can be a huge challenge. If you’re tired when you get up, this is not the day to do this ride.
Over in West Sedona, way up off Dry Creek Road, they have some really terrific cross country style singletrack, and I highly recommend you connect with the guys at Over the Edge for some local tips before you go. Worth hitting are Chuckwagon, Gunslinger, Mescal, Aerie, Cockscomb, Western Civilization and Last Frontier. Mescal in particular is a gem of flowing red slickrock with a huge basin on one side and towering rock cliff faces on the other. Photo-op!
Grocery stores are mostly off 89A in West Sedona, along with a wide variety of restaurant opportunities. We enjoyed the Javelina Cantina right near our place for great Mexican food, and if you’re a Margarita fan, this is the place! Also, the Elote Café at the King’s Ransom hotel (same neighbourhood) is a huge local fave. No reservations allowed, and the place is packed every night. Don’t be surprised if they tell you the wait is 90 minutes! Uptown Sedona is tourist central, and restaurants abound here as well. Galleries filled with SW art are hugely popular and the entire Tlaquepaque complex is specifically dedicated to artists and art galleries. Hiking is very popular in the area (no surprise) and Sedona is also very well known for its energy vortexes.
Whatever your adventure, Sedona has a lot to offer and is well worth the trip. I prefer to go spring and late fall when temps are milder and skies are blue and clear. Check it out!
Doug Topp is the President of the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance (BVMBA). Doug enjoys every minute he gets out on his bike and embraces the opportunity to travel with his bike to new and exciting trail destinations. To reach Doug, please send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: courtesy of Doug Topp
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