Much like the Little Red Riding Hood story, Sedona is a village with beautiful scenery (a red rock riding neighborhood) to explore. However, beauty can also hold danger, a symbolic wolf…the advanced and rocky terrain. Riders will be lulled into gazing at the distinct mesas and red rock formations and underestimate the warning signs. The desert sun will warm your shoulders, and you’ll forget the imminent danger around the next bend in the trail. Trails like High on the Hog, Hiline, Slim Shady, and Hangover are lying in wait to scrape your knees, your shins, and bruise both ego and bones.
Rolling red rock and chunky loose rock has both risks and rewards. Don’t be fooled by the trail names, even Easy Breezy will leave you panting and exhausted while hike-a-biking up a steep section. Though I was typically out of breath and humbled by the elevation, the sheer beauty is my primary memory. Something I’ve discovered in my Sedona mountain biking experience, the wolf, is in my mind. What am I willing to try, and what is too dangerous to risk?
My other half Josh deemed Hiline a must-do though there are sections where a mistake will send you plunging over the edge. This trail should be rated: Possible dismemberment or death! Instead, it reads Warning/Expert, with two simple black diamonds. A helmet, knee, or elbow pads will not help on a free fall. I gave him a kiss and sent him off with a good luck pat on the ass. Thankfully, he returned with stories and close calls, and only one over the bars tumble on connecting Baldwin, NOT Hiline.
As the day continued on, he commented his wrist and hand hurt from the fall. Lunchtime evolved into an afternoon ride with my dirt sister, Kim. Josh joined us for his second of the day. At 30 minutes in, he complained that the pressure of holding the bar and braking was getting pretty intense. He had to finish out Easy Breezy walking his bike to the road, then coasting home to our house in Oak Creek. Prognosis: possible fracture and X-ray once back home. Thankfully, the rain moved in for a rest day, and the next, we hiked, Josh’s wrist in a splint.
Good news, not up for the risk of two wheels and the looming carnivore ready to gobble you up? Instead, lace up a pair of hiking shoes and absorb the magic of Sedona’s mesas on foot. Ultimately, there are vortexes, peaks, and vistas that can only be accessed by hiking, not biking. My suggestion is to try both and ask the locals for advice. Not an experienced biker and new to the area, hook up with Sedona Mountain Bike Academy for private guiding, skills clinics, or individual instruction. And stop by Over the Edge or Absolute Bike Shop for a full-suspension rental bike and trail maps. They will doll out good advice like, “Don’t squeeze your front brake,” and supply you with better equipment that may save you from flying over the bars and landing in a pile of rocks. The locals are the friendly woodsman that will ultimately keep you from being eaten up by terrain above your pay grade.
Keep in mind, there are only a handful of beginner (green) trails in this area. Start slow, build confidence, and you’ll be surprised by what you can roll after several days of practice. I am happy to report that I may have graduated from intermediate to some advanced, at least in my mind.
Besides logging plenty of time in the saddle on my trusty steed, Plum, a lavender painted Santacruz 5010, Josh and I can thank our adventure pals, Steve and Kim for showing us around the red riding hood. They are both Michiganders on their first attempt snowbirding in the southwest for one month. They warmed us up on our day one with a bike and hike at Turkey Creek Trails. What a classic combo, turkey, and ham for our first Sedona sandwich.
We developed an excellent daily routine of hiking with the dogs in the morning then biking in the afternoon on Sedona’s plethora of trails. We took our friend Kevin’s advice and rode west Sedona starting on Chuckwagon to Long Canyon to Deadman’s Pass and then rolling down Canyon of Fools to Mescal. Probably my favorite was Templeton to Easy Breezy for its variety of smooth rollers to challenging creek beds, all with spectacular panoramic mesas. Though I am NOT an extreme mountain biker, in the photos surrounded by Cathedral, Courthouse, or Bell Rock, they make anyone look fantastic. Perhaps it’s the red rock glow or the energy from the vortexes. Still, Sedona will make you smile whatever your outdoor activity.
For mountain bikers of all levels, the lesson in this fairy tale is to be smart, recognize the wolf disguised in a nightgown, or perhaps lurking inside your head. So don’t get too close to the edge and only take risks with some experience under your little red riding hood (helmet). Also, ditch the helmet for a day, drive up to Oak Creek Canyon and trek up AB Young trail. This hike will reveal Sedona’s elevation and magical views. At 7500 feet, be prepared for over 20 switchbacks on this trail, some steep and skinny. Soak in this lengthy view before descending because soreness will begin to creep into knees and hips. Revel in the accomplishment, the soreness will ultimately fade just like the setting sun that shines a brief spotlight on the red rocks. Watch them turn from red to oranges to earthy browns, and finally to dark.
From all the hiking and pedaling, you’ll need some rest, but before your eyes get too heavy, look up at the vibrant stars in the dark sky then fall fast asleep.
Do it again the next day.
Rinse and repeat.
United States Arizona Hiking Mountain Biking Sedona North America
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