Mountain Biking in Flagstaff
With 50 miles of urban bike trails and more than 30 miles of challenging forest and mountain trails a short ride from town, it was inevitable that one of Flagstaff's best-kept secrets would leak out. The mountain biking on Mount Elden is on par with that of more celebrated trails in Colorado and Utah. While there isn't a concise loop trail such as those in Moab, Utah, experienced bikers can create one by connecting Schultz Creek Trail, Sunset Trail, and Elden Lookout Road. Beginners (as well as those looking for rewarding scenery with less of an incline) may want to start with Lower Fort Valley and Campbell Mesa. Local bike shop staff can help with advice and planning.
Coconino National Forest. Some of the best mountain biking trails in the region are in the Coconino National Forest. Flagstaff, AZ. 928/527–3600 main office, North Flagstaff; 928/526–0866 East Flagstaff office. www.coconino.us. Lower Oldham Trail. Originating on the north end of Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, the Lower Oldham Trail is steep in some sections, but rewarding. The terrain rolls, climbing about 800 feet in 3 miles, and the trail is difficult in spots but easy enough to test your tolerance of the elevation. Many fun trails spur off this one; it's best to stop in at the local bike shop to get trail maps and discuss rides with staff who know the area. Trailhead: Cedar St., 86001. Schultz Creek Trail. The popular Schultz Creek Trail is fun and suitable for strong beginners, although seasoned experts will be thrilled as well. Most opt to start at the top of the 600-foot-high hill and swoop down the smooth, twisting path through groves of wildflowers and stands of ponderosa pines and aspens, ending at the trailhead 4 giddy miles later. Trailhead: Schultz Pass Rd., near intersection with U.S. 180. Sunset Trail. Near the summit of Mount Elden, Sunset Trail has amazing views off the ridge rendered barren by a 1977 fire. The trail narrows into the aptly nicknamed Catwalk, with precipitous drops a few feet on either side. Fear, either from the 9,000-foot elevation or the sheer exposure, is not an option. You need to be at least a moderately experienced mountain biker to attempt this trail. When combined with Elden Lookout Road and Schultz Creek Trail, the usual loop, the trail totals 15 miles and climbs almost 2,000 feet. You can avoid the slog up Mount Elden by parking one vehicle at the top of Elden Lookout Road, at the trailhead, and a friend's vehicle at the bottom. Trailhead: Elden Lookout Rd., 7 miles from intersection with Schultz Pass Rd.
Flagstaff Nordic Center. From mid-June through mid-October, the Flagstaff Nordic Center opens its cross-country trails—good for families and beginners, because they're scenic and not technically challenging. U.S. 180, 16 miles north of Flagstaff, North Flagstaff, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001. 928/220–0550. www.flagstaffnordiccenter.com.
Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS). A map of the Urban Trails System, available at the Flagstaff Visitor Center, details low and no-traffic bike routes around town. Flagstaff Visitor Center, 1 E. Route 66, Downtown, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001. 928/774–9541 or 800/842–7293. www.flagstaffarizona.org.
Equipment and Rentals
Absolute Bikes. You can rent mountain bikes, get good advice and gear, and purchase trail maps at Absolute Bikes. 202 E. Route 66, Downtown, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001. 928/779–5969. www.absolutebikes.net.
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