words and images by Jake Richter
On the leaving side of a weekend mountain bike trip I finished topping off the Subaru and jumped back in the driver’s seat. Drew was reclined and riding shotgun, staring intently into his iPhone.
“What you looking at?” I asked.
“I’m applying for grad school at NAU.”
The biking was that good…
The Flagstaff/Sedona trip was an afterthought. A half hour prior to leaving Vegas for Moab I got a text from a friend who was struggling to find a camp site saying “Don’t come, this place is a zoo.” Fall recess in the Utah schools corresponding with a half marathon made Moab the kind of busy that rivals Easter jeep week (albeit, less wife beaters, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and bud light.)
So we left Vegas and headed eastbound instead. Scoring a tent sight just outside of Flagstaff we headed into town looking for a bit of food and some craft brew. We ended up at the Lumberyard brewery on college night- which consisted of 6 dollar 32 oz microbrews or mixers… Good food, great beer, and a fun atmosphere.
Saturday morning we headed into Sedona, which lies 30 miles south and 2,500 feet lower than flagstaff. We stopped at Over the Edge bike shop to grab a trail map and some advice. They were more than helpful, taking time to mark up our map with notes about parking, ride directions arrows, and other “local” advice. Following their recommendation of Ridge Trail- Baldwin-HiLine which included a crossing of Oak Creek via stepping stones, we dropped a 6 pack off as a thank you and set out.
Sedona is a technical riders dream- Ledgey, Loose, Slickrock, Sprint Climbs and bouldery descents. The views pairing of endless ribbons of single track with the green plants, red rock, and blue sky were second to none.
Sedona wiped us out. After a shower, some food, and a little ice cream I crawled into my sleeping bag as I glanced at my watch. 7:48. “We’re getting old.” I said.
That night we both awoke to the sound of a light rain pattering down on the tent. “Hero dirt” Drew mumbled as he rolled over and fell back asleep… He was so right.
We got up early the next morning. After packing the car and grabbing some breakfast we stopped at Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff. Once again, greeted by a super friendly staff willing to take time to mark up a map and put us on a great ride.
If I could only ride one area the rest of my life it would be Mt. Elden trail system. I had that much fun. Its an enduro rider’s paradise. The 17 mile ride was comparable to front range riding. The start was 6 miles of straight climbing on a fire road that initiated at 7,500 ft and finished upwards of 9,000 – it left me desiring an extra gear on my 1x setup.
There are no shuttle serves offered by the local bike shops due to some red tape with operating a business in a national forest. If you can swing getting 2 cars there or link up with someone else in the parking lot it might be worth it, but we did notice a lot of the locals preferred to earn their turns.
The downhill started with an exposed, beautiful sidehill overlooking the San Francisco Peaks that soon flowed into a techy boulder and root ride through an aspen and ponderosa pine glade known as “hobbit forest”.
After a brief, loose, 400ft climb out of hobbit forest we found ourselves gunning down 10 miles of some of the fastest, buffed out, bermed brown pow either of us ever had the privilege to ride…
I’m heading back soon– hope to see you there.