With much of the country blanketed in snow and cold temperatures, it’s only natural our collective cabin fever has us dreaming of sunshine, warm temps and dry singletrack.
Fortunately for all of us, the Sedona MTB Festival looks to be just the excuse to make the journey to the southwest for a long weekend of red rock riding March 6-8, 2015.
Over the Edge Sports Sedona and Hermosa Tours, two well-established players in the Sedona area, are jointly promoting the Sedona MTB Festival. The three-day festival will include an expo area with bike demos, shuttled rides, a beer garden and live bands Friday and Saturday evenings. Additionally, the Festival has partnered with the VIDA MTB Series to offer two days of women’s instruction over the course of the weekend. Women who sign up for the $310 Signature Clinic receive free admission to the Sedona MTB Festival.
We’ll will be making the trip out to the Sedona MTB Festival and we certainly hope to see you there!
Of course, all this talk of Sedona reminds me of the Dirt Rag Spring Break trip back in 2012. Here’s the excerpt from issue #169 of Dirt Rag to whet your appetite.
– Justin Steiner
There’s Something Strange About Sedona: Chasing Sweet Singletrack Aura and UFOs
By Shannon Mominee. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
Driving across the desert with Sedona on the horizon, it’s obvious this area is special. Red rock formations jutting from the arid landscape are set against a deep blue that fills the sky as far as the eye can see. Suddenly, the world seems dreamy and enormous, and I’m near a state of bliss thinking of the singletrack to come.
Along the road, signs offer UFO sightseeing and vortex tours, aura photography, psy- chic readings and past-life regressions, while New Age believers descend into shops selling crystals, trinkets, spiritual music, and books.
We were tired from traveling and relieved that we would soon be riding on solid terrain as our own muddy home trails repaired themselves from the rainy season. Marveling and laughing, we pulled into the Red Agave Resort; a bike and pet-friendly establishment consisting of nine chalets, a handful of studio rooms, and a spacious courtyard which delivers a panoramic view of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock.
This was Dirt Rag’s spring break, and we were ready to ride, drink, sleep, repeat.
According to the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, hunter-gatherers likely were active in the area from 11,500 B.C. to 9,000 B.C. The Sinagua moved into the area around A.D. 650 and lived there until about A.D. 1400. They built cliff houses and pueblos and farmed the land. Later, the Yavapai and Apache hunted and had seasonal settlements in the area, until the U.S. Army forcibly removed them. As in across the rest of the United States, white set- tlers plowed through, first on horseback, and then with trains. These days, pink jeeps drive tourists across the revered terrain and the golden arches of McDonald’s are colored teal to better blend into the native backdrop.
Four million visitors, earthlings or otherwise, are drawn to Sedona annually. Situated 4,500 feet above sea level in the high desert of central Arizona, the city is believed by some to be built on top of a mythical Lemurian crystal city, hence the New Age convergence. With a population of about 10,000 people and an area of 19 square miles, the geography and topography of Sedona are a mountain biker’s dream. Fifty-one percent of the city area is privately owned; the remaining parcel is part of the Coconino National Forest.
Driving in from the south, Bell Rock beacons like the North Star, and State Route 179 heads straight for it, pulling drivers to the epicenter. The equally impressive Castle Rock looms to the east, and Cathedral Rock to the west. Not much of a surprise, Bell Rock actually resembles a bell; some believe the top houses a spaceship. Dates have come and gone where the faithful have climbed up and held on to Bell Rock waiting for it to break open and reveal an intergalactic ship so they can hitch a ride on its shiny metallic side toward the cosmos. More patient believers following the Mayan calendar were ready to leap from the rock into a porthole this past December. Other believers have purchased advanced tickets for an expected ride through the galaxy or will leap into the abyss with no set time of guaranteed departure.
Sedona has an abundance of clear blue skies and sunshine with plenty of fairly mild days. Winter temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. Snowfall rarely sticks to the roads and sidewalks in town but can add a dusting of beautiful white contrast to the upper ridges and red rock. Summer usually is a comfort- able 75 to 85 degrees, though it can average in the mid-90s from June through August and days over 100° are not unheard of. Despite the chance for a summer or early fall monsoon there really isn’t a bad time to ride the area, but peak tour- ist season is March through May and September through October, so if you visit during peak season, avoid the crowded lower trails when possible.
Most of Sedona caters to the average tourist, and there are plenty of kitschy shops cashing in on crystals, aliens, artifacts, jewelry and Indian art. Oak Creek Brewery and Grill straddles the touristy line but offers excellent microbrews. Seven were on tap when we visited, and the food was good and affordable. It’s also one of the few places open later than 7 p.m. Nightlife is nearly nonexistent in Sedona, and almost everything closes early, so be prepared to entertain yourself. Sundowner, the only neighborhood dive bar we found, is open late and the beer is cheap. Don’t expect much excitement beyond the shuffleboard table and the hundreds of corny bumper stickers and photos plastered to the walls. I spotted an autographed Mr. Mister photograph but surely missed other treasures competing for my attention.
Natural beauty is where Sedona shines, and the night sky is a perfect example. Light-pollution laws keep the area dark, so stargazing is a must. The evenings are usually clear, and picking out planets and constellations with the naked eye is simple. Take it a step further and embark on a UFO tour. Some supply night-vision goggles to make spotting easier, so do a little research before heading into the night. According to Melinda Leslie, an ufologist (UFO+logy) and tour guide with more than 23 years of research and investigation experience, “Castle Rock is a UFO and vortex hot spot where Native Americans had continuous contact with star people.” Her shiny, unpainted aluminum trailer parked next to the creek behind the Center for the New Age is worth a visit. It’s right on State Route 179 and can’t be missed: just look for the purple sign with bold yellow letters.
Relationships and Riding
While some regions are struggling with land mangers for trail access, Sedona trail builders find themselves in a unique position. Rather than limiting land use and closing illegally built trails, the Forest Service is willing to incorporate illegally built trails into the network, providing they meet certain criteria. This brings its own set of problems as illegal-trail builders create more and more trails, but one such trail, Hangover, has been officially adopted into the network.
Hangover was built years ago by mountain bikers and is an iconic trail known for its exposed traverses, slickrock steps, and breathtaking views. Each time I’ve visited Sedona I’ve ridden it, guided by riders who know the way. Apparently, thousands of other riders have as well. It’s well-worn in most places as lines disappear across great expanses of slickrock. With its acceptance came signage and trail markers, which will help visitors navigate across and down the slickrock. Trail markings also make it possible for bike shops to send vacationers to this grand trail without fear that they will become lost.
Because of the cooperation between the Forest Service and mountain bikers, the trail network is impressive and growing steadily as more trails are adopted into the system. “The Red Rock Ranger District recognizes mountain biking as a legitimate trail use and is working to expand trail opportunities for mountain biking along with other trail uses,” said Jennifer Burns, District Recreation Manager.
Trailheads exist all over the city, but it’s best to stop by a bike shop to plan a route that meets your skill level and avoids the stream of tourists using the lower trails; you’ll have a more enjoyable ride, and their walk will be more pleasant. Over the Edge Sports, Bike and Bean, and Absolute Bikes all have current model-year rental fleets and offer maps and trail knowledge.
With access points surrounding the city, it’s easy to pedal from a trailhead and in a short time be on some of the most dangerous trails you can physically and mentally handle, yet remain relatively close to the city in case a ride turns bad. If you are looking to get the most mileage out of your trip, plan it around the Big Friggin’ Loop, part of the annual 60-plus-mile race that takes place in March.
Many of Sedona’s trails are challenging, but there are also wide-open routes along slickrock with nothing but epic views. These usually become steep in sections or have rock stairways and drop-in connectors. No matter where you ride, talk to the shops and get a map so you don’t end up stuck on the side of a cliff looking across slickrock for the line down. When the trail does seem to disappear, look for stacked piles of rocks. Those are usually trail markers. Tire rubber embedded into the rock face is also a good compass.
When you need a pedaling break, head for the ChocolaTree, a vegetarian eatery on West Highway 89A. They have a great display case of sweet goodies and serve wholesome organic soup and sandwiches. If your needs are otherworldly, there are ample opportunities for mind and body healing. Discover your animal totem and symbol or venture on a personal vortex tour. UFO spotting, crystal power enlightenment, palm reading and spiritual healing are a turn off the highway. So is beer, and the grocery stores are loaded with appealing microbrews. If your off-bike needs are simpler, just go outside and stare at the sky. The amount of stars that can be seen during the night is mind-awakening. Start a fire, have some s’mores and enjoy the cool nights before riding under the sun again.
Hermosa Tours – Tours throughout Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Utah.
Guided Tours: Hermosa Tours offers guided ride packages ranging from day tours, to the deluxe, all-inclusive experience of our trip, which included all meals and ground transportation. They cater to all rider levels, schedules, group sizes and dietary needs. A similar Sedona, Arizona guide package would cost $700-800 per person for four days.
Self-Guided Tours: Hermosa’s self-guided tours provide on- the-ground and behind-the-scenes logistics, while allowing day-to-day ride navigation up to the rider. While you’re out riding point-to-point during the day, a Hermosa guide will transfer your camp from one location to the next along the way. Be sure to check out all seven epics tours available.
Contact: Matt McFee, [email protected] or 877-765-5682 www.hermosatours.net
Stay the Night
The Red Agave Resort
Owned by Bike and Bean, Red Agave offers two-story chalets and studio-style rooms with trail access right outside the door. There’s an awesome view of Bell Rock, nightly gatherings around a fire pit with s’mores, hot tubs, pool. It’s mountain bike and pet-friendly.
120 Canyon Circle Drive Sedona, AZ 86351 877-284-9237
Pitch a Tent
The Coconino National Forest is loaded with campgrounds, each offering unique attractions, picturesque backdrops, and a spot to lay your head. Here are a few that are easy to find: Manzanita Campground, Pine Flat Campground, Bootlegger Campground, Cave Springs Campground.
In addition to knowledgeable and friendly staff, Absolute Bikes’ rental fleet covers full- suspension rigs, hardtails, tandems, kids bikes, road bikes, and trailers; enough options to get the whole family on two-wheels. Bicycle sales and service, parts and gear, they have it all. Open everyday.
6101 hwy 179, Suite D Sedona, AZ 86351 877-284-1242
Bike and Bean
Whether you need a rental bike, a repair, a pint of beer, or a cappuccino, Bike and Bean has you covered. They offer tours for casual and aggressive riders, maps, local knowledge, and trail advice for optimum adventure. If you’ve been to Sedona before you’ve likely stopped in, but take note that the shop has moved one block south. Open seven days a week.
75 Bell Rock Plaza Sedona, aZ. 86351 928-284-0210
Over The edge Sports
A knowledgeable staff will help you find areas just right for your skill level. Their self printed OTE Sedona map shows legit and not-so-legit trails to keep you from getting lost so you can focus on maximizing your experience. Over The Edge Sports offers a complete rental fleet of current hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes along with road bikes, maps, gear, repairs, and a little dog named Juno. Open daily.
1695 West State Route 89a Sedona, AZ 86336 928.282-1106
Eats and Treats
Authentic Mexican cuisine prepared using local products, wine, and cheese, with recipes reflecting the chef’s travels through Mexico. Elote Café serves four types of Tequila and a Mezcal to help you relax after a long ride.
771 State Route 179 Sedona, AZ 86336 928-203-0105
ChocolaTree serves 100 percent organic meals that are free of gluten and processed sugar. Wheatgrass shots, ginger lemonade, fantastic teas, but most impressive is the chocolate and dessert counter. Get some sweets to go, you won’t regret it.
1595 West hwy 89a Sedona, AZ 86336 928-282-2997
Oak Creek Brewery
Micro brews. What more needs to be said? Oak Creek Brewery also has food ranging from gourmet burgers and pizza to cedar plank salmon and salads.
336 Route 179 Sedona, AZ 86336 928-204-1300
Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen
Organic pizzas and a plethora of pastas, gluten-free dishes and salads await your post ride arrival. Picazzo’s has locations in and around Sedona.