Mountain Biking Escape: Sedona’s Mystical, Desert Singletrack

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Pulling into Sedona with a bike on your roof rack is different from driving into any other desert mountain-biking destination. Sure, red-rock buttes rise left and right. And yes, desert trails beckon from the end of the pavement. But posh spas and upscale galleries line the streets instead of gritty small-town establishments, and you’re more likely to see advertisements for “vortex tours” than billboards for mountain-biking excursions. The town certainly harbors a mystic vibe. Don’t let that fool you into passing on through without sampling the singletrack.

Sedona’s trails are world class—they’re where Bike magazine has gone to test new bike models. The best trails in the area are special because they were built by mountain bikers, not adopted from Jeepers or motorcyclists. And if you’re more into roughing it than spending ducats on a comfy night at the spa, dirtbag-style BLM campsites can still be found outside of town. Here’s how to get the best of Sedona.

Sedona Mountain Biking

Brendan Leonard cruising along the Aerie Trail.

Ride for flow on the Mescal-Aerie Loop.

If you like buff trail and flowy turns, this is where you want to put your rubber down. You’ll still have some small sections of rocky climbing through shady juniper forest, but you’ll be fully rewarded in joyous, curvy swoops and a view of gorgeous buttes opening up before you.

Or hit the ledges on the Hangover Trail.

If double black diamond, high-exposure riding sounds like your type of fun, head to the Hangover Trail. You’ll roll over a knife-edge ridge and ride along the edge of a 200-foot cliff face. It’s not for the faint of heart—and provides a full-value slickrock experience with challenging steps up, steep descents and puckering roll-offs.

Sedona Mountain Biking

Photo credit: Brendan Leonard

Munch on Mexican food for recovery.

We’ve heard it said that horchata—the sweet, cinnamon-flavored almond milk drink—is the best recovery drink. The science might still be out on that, but it certainly hits the spot after a sweaty, sunny ride. And the tortas and burritos at Tortas de Fuego will fill you up and leave you dreaming of your next day of mountain biking chased with a Mexican meal. Address: 1630 W. State Route 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336.

Camp in Coconino National Forest.

If you’d rather pitch a tent than pay for a hotel room, a few national forest sites dot the highway north of Sedona. If you’re an angler, pack your rod because a couple of them are along the gravelly banks of Oak Creek, which is stocked with trout and home to refreshing swimming holes. Check out the Red Rock Ranger District for more information.

Or go for the upgrade at to a hotel.

If your idea of comfort is clean simplicity—single-dollar-sign style—check into the popular Sedona Motel. If your vacation dream is closer to the three-dollar-sign rank, reserve a room at El Portal, and trade making your own campfire for the elegant fire pit in the courtyard and your sleeping pad for a soft bed in a glamorously rustic room.

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