© Jeff Kida
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Travel Warning: Mountain biking can be hazardous, so be aware of trail and weather conditions. Carry plenty of water. Never cycle alone and let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return.
by Keridwen Cornelius
Rainbow Rim Trail,
North Rim of Grand Canyon
The Rainbow Rim Trail, which squiggles 18 miles along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, is one of the only places to mountain bike on the edge of the "Big Ditch." Pedal between the cool shelter of a ponderosa forest and jaw-dropping vistas of rock formations like Powell Plateau and Great Thumb Mesas. The merciful ranger who mapped out the trail in the late 1990s ensured that it never climbs or descends more than nine degrees. Your thighs will thank him.Information:
.Directions: From Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center, drive 26.5 miles south on State Route 67, then turn right on FR 22 and proceed 10.5 miles. Turn left at FR 206, continue for 3.5 miles and turn right on FR 214. After 8 miles, you'll reach Parissawampitts Viewpoint.
Buck Ridge Viewpoint Trail, North Rim of Grand Canyon
Who says you have to work hard for great rewards? Starting near the Kaibab Visitors Center, this trail meanders a mere 5 miles over hard-packed sand to an overlook. There, the vast, remote Arizona Strip spreads out below you, stretching into the Vermilion Cliffs and all the way to Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah. The ride ends at a stand of junipers and an abandoned mine, where you can picnic. Information:
. Directions: From Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center, Follow Highway 67 south from the visitor center 0.3 miles to FR 461. Turn right on FR 461 and drive about 4 miles to FR 264, Buck Ridge Point Road.
Chicken Point (along Broken Arrow Trail), Sedona
This easy 1.5-mile trail undulates through a juniper and cypress forest, coasts over slick rock with a five o'clock shadow of desert varnish, and ends on a bread dough-like outcropping with commanding canyon views. There, keep an eye out for the chicken-shaped rock that gives the site its name. You'll be sharing the ride at times with Jeeps, but you'll be too enthralled by the cinematic red rock views to mind.Information:
. Directions: From Sedona, drive south on State Route 179 1.4 miles to Morgan Road. Turn left and follow the road to the 2.0 mile point and the dirt parking lot.
Terry Flat Loop, Alpine
Mountain biking through wildflower-strewn meadows perched beneath a spruce-fringed mountain may be the closest you'll get to singing "The hills are alive" in Arizona. Come fall, when the aspens blaze with gold, this wildlife-filled Alpine area ride is even more scenic. If the name Terry Flat sounds reassuring, you're right. The 6-mile ride is beginner-friendly, though don't underestimate the exhaustive power of the 9,900-foot elevation. Information:
Alpine Ranger District: 520-339-4384. Directions: From Alpine, Drive 5.5 miles north on State Route 191 to Forest Road 56. Turn right and continue 4.5 miles to Terry Flat. Take the left fork past Tool Box Draw for .5 miles to a parking area at the Escudilla National Recreation Trail.
South Mountain Park, Phoenix
South Mountain Park is practically synonymous with mountain biking in Phoenix, and with 50 miles of trails, it's easy to see why. The largest municipal park in the world, South Mountain may not feel remote, but it's accessible and chockablock with Sonoran Desert flora. Pedal out from the Pima Canyon Trailhead on the 9.6-mile Desert Classic Trail, a great technical introduction for beginners. If some of the descents get a little hairy, there's no shame in hiking your bike. Information: www.phoenix.gov/PARKS/hikesoth.html
. Directions: 9904 S. 48th Street and Guadalupe Road; From Guadalupe and 48th Street, drive south 0.2 miles and turn right. After 100 yards, turn west on Pima Canyon Road into the park entrance.
Fantasy Island, Tucson
Created by local mountain bikers, the ironically named Fantasy Island trails loop and roller coaster through 19 miles of Tucson desert. The irony continues throughout the paths, which are festooned with funky "bike art" and tongue-in-cheek signs. Wildly popular due to its close proximity to downtown, the area was recently saved from encroaching development by cycling activists. Because of its twisting trails that slalom between cholla cacti, Fantasy Island is not recommended for novices.
Directions: From Tucson, drive south on Kolb Road to Irvington, turn left at Harrison and park at the signed entrance.
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