Biking Arizona's National Forests
Biking Arizona's National Forests
52 GREAT Mountain Bike Trails
Forget Moab. Yes, forget the overexposed, and pay attention to the overlooked. When you do, you'll probably want to head south into Arizona's national forests. What'll you find? How about canyon views, from the Grand to the obscure. Wildlife, including the biggest muledeer, wetland loving birds, and a unique squirrel that evolved in isolation on the Kaibab plateau. Amazing countryside: deserts, grasslands, mountain ponderosa pine forests, alpine heights. And the rides -- short and gentle, long and grueling, everything in between. (Read more, or go ahead and pick a forest to explore. . .)
The North Kaibab provides some of the most spectacular mountain biking to be found anywhere. That should come as no surprise considering that the district is neighbor to the Grand Canyon. A number of forest roads lead to little known overlooks of that World Heritage Site. Most of those roads are sparsely traveled, so there's not much in the way of some great biking.
For the most part, the terrain of this high plateau is gently rolling, with an occasional short, steep climb. The scenery is varied, ranging from tall stands of old growth ponderosas, to grassy canyon bottoms and alpine meadows dotted with aspens. At road's end there are the unmatched panoramas of the Grand Canyon. The ridge tops that lead there offer clear views as far away as Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah. Throw in the fact that this area is almost totally undiscovered as a mountain biking haven and it all adds up to unmatched riding enjoyment.
South of the Grand Canyon , the terrain is gently rolling, but a number of dramatic geologic features provide impressive scenery to go with the easy riding. Kendrick, Bill Williams Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks stand high on the horizon, painting an impressive backdrop for broad upland meadows surrounded by tall ponderosa pines. One route takes you right to the edge of Sycamore Canyon, home of the oldest wilderness areas in the state. Another leads you through ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests up to Eagle Rock Pass . Two routes even retrace abandoned sections of historic Route 66, the road canonized in song as the place to get your kicks.
In Tonto National Forest , high country routes afford beautiful views and escape from summer heat. Desert routes provide scenic variety and an alternative to the cold of the Rim Country during the winter months.
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest has some of the most varied biking of all. All of the logging roads are open to biking, though you gotta be careful about running into logging trucks chugging in from around the bend. (You won't even have a chance to say"Oops, didn't see that one!)
If you don't mind sharing the trail with hikers and the occasional horse, biking becomes a more relaxing proposition. Perhaps some of the best runs are the several excellent trails available in the Alpine Ranger District. The White Mountain Trail System also offers scores of possibilities. Indian Springs and West Fork trails are no slouchers either. If you want to sneak in some wildlife viewing, check out Willow Springs Horsetrap Wildlife Habitat Area in the Heber Ranger District.
So grab your steel steed. See you in Arizona!
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication