The Best Place to Mountain Bike in the Winter
Ah fall. My favorite time of year. The cool crisp air, the vibrant colors, and the anticipation of winter fills the air- wait, winter is coming up? Suddenly, reality sets in, as the days grow shorter and shorter, there are less and less opportunities for you to get out and ride your mountain bike. Thankfully, if you live in the southwest or mountain states, you are within a day’s drive of a mountain biker’s paradise: Sedona, Arizona. Now Sedona is no longer a secret destination in the mountain biking community, in fact, it’s now bragged about within the community at large. Take this article by Outside Magazine describing Sedona as the “New Mountain Biking Mecca.” I personally have been mountain biking in Sedona for years and it is now normalized for bikers to travel all over the world to share some single-track with the locals. In fact, Sedona is an amazing place to visit in winter for a number of reasons- but we’re going to focus on mountain biking for now.
So why go at all? Can’t I ride in Phoenix or Albuquerque in the winter?
Of course you can! In fact, lots of people do each year. While statistics for this claim are conveniently missing from most sites that claim it, Phoenix receives more mountain bikers each winter than anywhere else in the country. For this fact alone (or lack there of), justifies staying away from Phoenix and other densely populated areas during their peak biking season. Sedona is a close-knit community that hosts a series of trails with a relatively small number of bikers compared to other cities within driving distance of it. In addition to the actual traffic that bigger cities receive, Phoenix and Albuquerque’s mountain biking trails are spread out in multiple areas and require driving to access several spots in a day. Sedona has over 200 miles of trails within the city limits and are connected in several spots together. You can actually ride from one pocket of trails to another. The difficult choice, for me at least, is deciding if I want to bike near downtown for easier access to lunch or bike further into the countryside away from hikers where I can ride at a faster pace. What I don’t worry about when biking in Sedona is whether or not I can get a full day out of my ride. You could bike for days in Sedona and still not ride all of the single-track.
What’s the Scenery Like?
For those who have not been to Sedona, you have been missing out on some of the most beautiful views in the southwest. Expect to see grand vistas of red sandstone, slick-rock, carved canyons, juniper bushes, and lots of cactus. Because the biking trails are so expansive throughout Sedona, you can see a variety of landscapes within including arches, canyons, and the amazing Oak Creek. So don’t forget that camera!
I’m ready to go, When’s the best time?
Local Sedona bike shop and outfitter, Absolute Bikes, describes the best time to ride anywhere from September through November. I personally have ridden in Sedona on both Christmas and New Years Day. With the weather highs in the mid-60s in November and mid-50s in December and January, you can pretty much ride year round! Because winter in Sedona brings some moisture- mix of rain and snow from nearby Flagstaff, check the weather before you go out. Fortunately, storms in Sedona are rare in the winter and any moisture that does hit the area will make the trails nice and tacky for your ride. As long as you bring an appropriate jacket, like the Pearl Izumi convertible jacket you’ll be ready for anything.
Where should I ride?
Since there are so many trails in the community, it more depends on your skill level. Most trails offer astounding views of Sedona’s red rock canyons and vistas. Here are some of my favorites:
- Bell Rock Pathway
- Broken Arrow Trail
For intermediate riders:
For advanced or expert riders:
- Hog Wash
- Slim Shady and Hi-Line
Once you pick your spot and the time to go, you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Biking in Sedona can extend your mountain biking season by three months into the winter making it possible to ride all year round- assuming you’re close to Sedona of course! So grab your shoes, pump up your tubes, and take a trip to red rock country to ride on some of the best winter single-track trails in the southwest! For more on biking, check out our beginners guide to biking in Arizona.
Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.