Singletrack Mountain Biking in Sedona Region

This page is from Roger McGehee's Favorite Singletrack Mountain Bike Rides

sedona trail map

I received this map from Susan who runs Sedona MTB Adventures. She says that they are the only mountain bike tour company that has access to the entire trail system. This free map is approved by the Red Rock Ranger District and is a great overview of the trail system. For more details, and to ride yourself without prior knowledge or a guide, you'll need a map and guidebook.

Roger used Fat Tire Tales And Trails by Cosmic Ray for his trip. It's a highly recommended and playful guide to Arizona mountain biking. The maps are drawn with more attention to witticism than scale, and some people don't like that, but most do!

Please realize that Roger is an older, strong, intermediate mountain biker with a passion for singletracks and is suggesting these trails to others such as himself. Please do not rely totally on these descriptions -- get detailed maps and trail guides.

Suggestions for minimizing trail damage:

I hadn't expected Sedona to have single-tracks, as jeeps travel so much of it, few singletracks were mentioned in Sarah's book, and since most of the National Forest Service Land above Sedona is within wilderness areas. But I was proven wrong! Not only does Sedona have LOTS of singletracks, but they are all close to town, pass through what feels like wilderness, and all seem to go downhill! One seldom has to climb more than a few hundred feet... I was there in June -- which is probably the off season -- and found very few people using the trails. I could easily ride for 2-3 hours without seeing ANYONE! "Mountain Bike Heaven" has hand drawn maps of some of the trails. Sedona has some slickrock -- mostly slickrock slabs on which many of the trails are built. Trail surfaces are either slickrock or hard packed clay. Sand does not seem to exist in Sedona! It can get REALLY hot in June!! Camping is simple -- just drive up Dry Creek Road until it becomes dirt and camp ANYWHERE! WARNING: NO WATER & NO OUTHOUSES!!

Jim Thompson Trail

I stopped at the bridge above Oak Creek (Midgley Bridge) on Highway 89, and then I saw it from my car -- a trail sign -- "Wilson Canyon (Trail #49). It was the size of a dirt road, but I took it anyway, just to see where it went. And it became a real, but slightly wide, singletrack that dead ended (for bikes) at the beginning of the Red Rock Wilderness Area. BUT another trail took off to the left, the Jim Thompson Trail, so I took it. I looks like it USE to be a jeep trail, but it has degenerated/been revived into a singletrack. Lots of bike tracks were laid out before me, but no motorcycle or horse tracks. It climbed up as a sometimes rocky sometimes hard packed clay trail. For the most part, the rocks were secure or were bedrocks of slickrock. It traversed through a Pinion Pine/Juniper Forest with some Manzanita toward the end. Most of it was flat, passing the base of slickrock cliffs and views of red slickrock formations in the distance. Several moderate and short technical regions of rocks and slickrock slabs were encountered. After about 3 miles I ended up at a gravel road -- presumably coming up from Sedona. I definitely suggest doing this as a out & back trail, as it seems to go downhill in both directions, and it so much fun to ride! I ran across two mountain bikers on the trail who said that Sedona has LOTS of singletracks like this one.

Back at the car, I noticed another trail -- a REALLY narrow one -- switch backing up the ridge. This is the beginning of the Wilson Mountain Trail, and bikes are allowed on the first one mile of it. Now I know that one mile is not very long, but this is a REAL singletrack -- very narrow and perched on the edge of a moderate cliff and challenging rocky sections. I mean, since you are there already...

Submarine Rock Loop/Twin Buttes Loop

This morning I toured the singletracks in the Submarine Rock area. Sarah calls it the Twin Buttes Loop, the locals (and Cosmic Ray) call it Submarine Rock Loop. This route differs a bit from both descriptions. Instead of taking the jeep road from the parking area at the end of Morgan Road, take the Broken Arrow Hiking Trail instead. This challenging singletrack leads over hard packed clay and slickrock surfaced trails to Submarine Rock. Compared to Moab, the slickrock is sort of meager, but the singletrack is choice! One may then join the jeep road and ride to Chicken Point. A small singletrack (Little Horse Trail) then leads down into a canyon and to Highway 179. This is a SUPERIOR singletrack. It is only 2 miles long, but is fun and challenging and scenic!! Both singletracks are well marked with cairns. It took about 3 hours to ride this trail.

Important advice: At the present time (June, '97), the Powerline Trail alternative to the Highway is torn up horribly by heavy equipment. You are stuck with the Highway until you can see a singletrack running along side of it. The parking area for this ride is just 100 yards from the end of a paved subdivision road, but is shaded by trees and is quite secluded. It is nice to come back from a ride and be able to relax in the shade in a quiet place...

In '98 I brought some of my students on this ride, but we turned back when we hit Highway 179 and rode the singletrack in the opposite direction. Although it is a bit of a climb back up to Chicken Point, the singletrack back down to the car was delicious!! I highly recommend doing this ride as an out and back!

Cathedral Rock Loop/Bell Rock Loop

These two loops share a common leg and can easily be done together. On a hot day the swimming hole is GREAT and will give you a chance to cool off before the vertical assault up the side of the mountain toward Cathedral Rock. (I found it easiest to cross the creek below the swimming hole and then recross it above the swimming hole to get back on the trail. You will understand what I mean when you get there!) Once the trail reaches the shoulder below Cathedral Rock, it begins to contour around on slickrock slabs. This was the best section of the trail in terms of riding quality and views and wilderness feeling. There were some really tricky spots to ride and I felt as though I were in the middle of the wilderness, but I was probably no more than a couple of miles from a road at any one time... That's the way it seems to be around Sedona. After crossing the highway and beginning to head back toward the car on the Bell Rock Bike Path (more like a dirt road!) look for an unsigned trail heading off to the left at the base of Bell Rock. The Bell Rock Loop is nothing but fast, smooth, narrow, hard packed singletrack. One just has to be careful to avoid getting stabbed by Yuccas and Cactus! Warning: A subdivision is encroaching upon this area and trails that used to "go through'" now dead-end in the subdivision. Getting back to the car can be interesting...

And FINALLY,

if you do a ride and enjoy it, please let the land manager know that you did enjoy it and that the existence of single-track trails is important to you! A small donation for trail maintenance and development might also be helpful! I will slowly add email and snail mail addresses and phone numbers of land managers of the trails that I have described so that you may more easily contact them.

THANKS!

Coconino National Forest
Sedona Ranger District
Box 300
Sedona, Arizona 86336
(602)282-4119

Minimizing Trail Conflicts On Singletrack Trails

Minimizing Trail Impact On Singletrack Trails

Hints For Beginning Singletrackers

Back to Roger's Favorite Singletrack Mountain Bike Rides

Good Mountain Bikers Do It Without Sliding!