The towering San Francisco Peaks capped with snow for much of the year give way to cascades of Ponderosa Pine forests and mountain meadows surrounding Flagstaff. Set at an elevation of just under 7,000 feet, the city is a favorite summer getaway to escape the hot deserts surrounding the extensive forest. Whether you prefer to ride an urban trail to visit the town’s many historic and cultural sites or head off on a singletrack up the piney mountains, you’ll experience top-notch trails through beautiful scenery that will inspire you to return time and again.
Urban Bike Trail System
Flagstaff’s 33-mile urban trail system can get you where you want to go without ever having to load your bike onto your vehicle’s bike rack. The trail connects to mountain-biking trail heads on all sides of the city where you can head off for a ride through the cool pines. The system consists of paved and unpaved trails as well as bike lanes leading to landmarks, parks and points of interest throughout the city. When you’re sick of pedaling, catch a bus while your bike is safely transported on the bus’s bike rack.
Best Single Track
The Schultz Creek Trail provides a 3.5 mile connector to make a loop between the Rocky Ridge and Sunset Trails. The trail was voted the number one mountain-bike trail in the area by “National Geographic All Trails” and as one of the “Top 5 mountain-bike trails” in Arizona by Singletracks.com. Schultz Creek Trail is suitable for all ability levels, with a gentle elevation gain that allows less-experienced riders to focus on the few technical sections along the way. Experienced riders will enjoy the ups and downs as well as the peaceful scenery along the way. The trail parallels Schultz Creek, which usually only flows during spring snow melt and summer rainstorms.
Best Long-Distance Trail
The Arizona National Scenic Trail passes through Flagstaff on its 817-mile journey from Utah to the Mexican border. Although much of the trail is shared by equestrians and hikers, the Arizona Trail was built to the specifications of the International Mountain Biking Association, and much of its construction was performed by the mountain-biking community. At Flagstaff, the trail splits, allowing you to bypass the city by pedaling through a canyon immediately to the east, or you can head straight through town to enjoy the city’s famous brewery restaurants that serve up gourmet burgers and hand-crafted beer.
The Flagstaff Trail circles 42 miles around the outer limits of the city, providing easy access to both the Flagstaff Urban Trail system and forest trails. At the time of publication, the Flagstaff Loop Trail was expecting completion of its final segment running beneath Interstate 40 between the Arizona Trail and Campell Mesa by the end of 2013. The trail uses U.S. Forest Service trails, county trails, abandoned roads and the Arizona Trail to make its circle.
Most trails in the area are usually free of snow from April through November. You’ll see colorful mountain wildflowers in spring and summer and blazing yellow aspen on the mountainsides above you in autumn. Late afternoon thunderstorms can drop temperatures by as much as 30 degrees in July and August, so tuck some storm gear and lightweight warmth in your riding gear. Flagstaff is considered high altitude, so you’ll need to replace more body fluids than usual to avoid the throbbing headache, nausea and fatigue associated with altitude sickness. Over-the-counter pain reliever and antacids can help some of the symptoms, but the best cure is staying hydrated.