Mountain Biking

Sedona

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Free Camping in Sedona 

We park and camp at the same spot every time we come to Sedona. There are no free camping areas inside Sedona, but there are some scattered just outside, with a stay allowance of 14 days. There is free camping on Schnebily Hill, but I’ve heard that it is difficult to get to, but worth the views. The Free Dispersed Camping just off Arizona SR 89A and Forest 525 road is the only one I can speak for. Apparently this is an alternate launch site for a Sedona balloon tour company, so breakfast views sometimes come with some nearby balloon landings.  

Be prepared to share this site. The first couple pull offs are usually occupied by quite a bit of trailers and motor homes every time we come. You can drive further down the road for quieter more solo sites, we’ve done that for tent camping. And when we were sick of camping with the cavemen and their loud ass generators, we went as far as we could down Forest Road 525. The views get better the further down 525 you go. Some spots are right up in the red hills below Bear Mountain and they are totally secluded and actually feels like camping or quiet off the grid living. 

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Mountain Biking in Sedona

In the morning after you’ve cooked up a breakfast, head in towards Sedona for some mountain biking or hiking. There are heaps of trails just off Dry Creek Rd. 

We hoped on the 7.6 mile Chuck Wagon loop. It is a hike/bike trail. For us, it was walk-a-bike in a few sections, but it was an overall really fun ride. There was enough flow-y, fun, and technical sections to make you forget any bumpy technical climb you may have just endured. It is definitely one of my favorite trails. The views are all time. 

We took in the views from our pull off parking spot and snacked in the van. Since we had not been around wi-fi, we headed into the restaurant area to find a Starbucks or some place with free wifi. We hung outside of a pizza place to send some emails and make contact with the outside world. 

Once we were up to speed and wi-fi’d out, we headed back towards Forest 525 Road to cook some food and catch some z’s. 

Aeire Trail/Cockscomb trail - After being pumped about the Chuck Wagon trail, we wanted to try some others, although we were really tempted to do it again. 

We decided to try the Aeire Trail linked with the Cockscomb trail to creat the Aeire Loop, it does a 5.4 mile loop around around Doe Mountain. It was pretty chunky, but makes a nice short loop if you are short on time or if you are a eager beginner that wants a trail with some rewarding reviews. We saw people doing this trail with bike lamps at night. They were flying thru there.  Made me want to get some bright ass lights and try some night biking!

After the loop around Doe Mountain, we made some food in the van and looked for a hiking trail to cap off the afternoon. We checked out our REI Hiking app and saw two nearby that looked interesting: Bear Mountain and Boyton Canyon. They were both about 2.4-2.6 miles, one-way. Since the Boyton Canyon hike seemed to just hike gradually up thru the canyon, instead of straight up a mountain, we decided to do that one, since we weren’t really mentally prepared or ready to hike down a crumbly mountain in the dark. We would leave that hike for the next day.

Boyton Canyon Hike - Boyton Canyon was beautiful. At the beginning of the trail, it looked like you were hiking into a secret city. There were mind blowing houses and vacation properties, with stucco to match the hill sides they were so efficiently nestled into. There were views of the canyons for about the first 1.5 miles, then the tree canopy kind of takes away the views of the hill sides pretty much until you reach the End of Trail sign. The hike was more like a stroll, and where the “end of trail” sign is, it kind of invites you to find your own view. If you follow a little goat path to the right of that sign, it leads you up to a ledge where you can over look the canyon valley you just hiked thru. You return the same way you came in. 

Twin Buttes Loop - At this point our stoke level is high with Sedona, we want to do everything. So we figure we need to get on our bikes to see things faster. Even if we have to walk-a-bike in sections, if we can ride partial parts of the trail, we are into it. So we hoped on the Twin Buttes loop. This was a hike/bike trail. It was pretty epic, like every part of it was up until Chicken Point. Then, it was just alright. Parts of the trail go thru neighborhoods on the pavement. It is just kind of bizarre that it is part of the same loop as the first couple epic miles of Broken Arrow. 

The only lame part about this loop was all the pink jeeps EVERYWHERE, at every single vista. I found them to be very annoying. I didn’t mind the Duck tours in Seattle or other big cities, because it was chaos everywhere in cities and when one of those things comes squawking by with their obnoxious blab pointing out stuff, it just blended in with all the city noise, but bloody hell, they are just obnoxious out in nature. 

They would come one right after the other. As soon as you thought, “oh this is the time I can go and sneak a picture before anyone else is around,” or just take a breath and enjoy the silence I was trying to escape to, here comes another over-enthusiastic dude romping over some hillside to turn his jeep around, precisely where you are standing. Even when the Pink Jeep tours weren’t around giving tours, they were giving instruction to new members of the team. Letting them practice on the obstacles before they bring paying customers aboard. I wonder if this bothers the hell out of the locals. I really can’t imagine this place during busy season, if that is the way it is in February. 

All my personal annoyances aside, the views are worth the hike, bike, or hike-a-bike. When we were done with the loop, we cooked some food, strapped on our hiking boots, grabbed some head torches and hiked the Broken Arrow section again. That is how awesome the views were. This time, we had it all to ourselves, as we saw the last Pink Jeep Roll out past the mostly empty parking lot. It was so quiet, I felt I could hear the static of silence. 

Bear Mountain -On this day, we got a late start. We couldn’t decide if we wanted to take the day off or go enjoy Sedona before the weekend hit and the Phoenix weekend warriors come up. We decided we better get out there. So we cooked a nice brunch, packed up camp, and parked up at the Bear Mountain trail head. We got on the trail about 2:45pm, just enough time to chill, see the sunset and probably hike the last part out in the dark. 

Most people don’t like hiking in the dark, but we find it to be a great trade-off to have the spot to yourself. We leave enough time for the easiest part of the walk to be mostly in the dark. The hike estimated time is 4.5 hours. It took us 1:35 to get to the top and about the same to get down. If we didn’t stop to take pictures every 5 steps, we may have been able to do it faster. 

The hike starts out pretty easy as it slowly starts to get crumblier. Then, you start to climb to get up top of that plateau, and then climb, dip down and then climb some more. It flattens out enough after each hard climb to catch your breath before the next climb. Sometimes you have to use your hands to pull yourself over some sections. It is exactly 2.4 miles from entry to end of trail sign. 

At the top, we hung out and tried to place where we were from our usual campsite. We spotted many RVs and campers so close to the rocks, we were curious as to what road they were parked, because those spots looked epic, secluded, and so far from those noisy ass generators we had been camping next to. From up on Bear Mountain, we realized you could take that same road all the way to the end and we would hit Forest Road 525, the road you can camp on for up to 14 days, free. So we started our hike down, with plans on finding our own secluded campsite. Although we found our spot in the dark, we woke up to a pretty epic views. 

Because you are hiking with your back to most of the views as you are climbing the trail, the entire way down is so picturesque. We literally stopped so often, just to take in the views. The view from any summit is rewarding, when you make the effort to get to the top, but I felt like the summit views weren’t as amazing as the rest of the hikes views. I am only mentioning this because if you were tired, and didn’t feel like you could finish the entire hike then, any of the vistas that you pass on the trail will make up for not making it to the top. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make it to the top. Just take in the views.

Albuquerque Mountain Biking

Albuquerque Mountain Biking

Hills - The Sandia Mountain foothills and the Cibola National Forest extend down through Albuquerque, giving the city some incredible open space.  There are plenty of options for riding in both the north and south foothills.  We found that our personal favorite tails are all found in Placitas and the Elena Gallegos Open Space.  We usually like to start at the “free” Bear Canyon  parking lot and ride the Elena Gallegos Main Loop up to the trailhead of the Pino Trail.  The trail system here is pretty extensive bikes are allowed on all the trails in the open space but not in the National Forest Trails.  I highly recommend the REI MTB Project app for this area, as it will really help you stay on course for the loop.  There’s is endless ways you can ride here and the majority of the riding is intermediate with some technical chunky sections along 230A which we most times skip for a faster smoother downhill.  

Just a short drive from Abq on I-25 is the small town of Placitas.  This is home to our favorite bike trail in the area.  The Bobsled is a 2 mile downhill section with jumps, bumps, and burms it's really the only trail in the Abq area with multiple small built features throughout.  There are other trails in the Placitas area but we just prefer to lap the Bobsled a few times.  If your rig can handle a little bit of off roading you can drive the Forest Road 445 and park here and begin the Bobsled descent or you can head to the Piedra Lisa Canyon trail head for some serenity at the end of FR445.  Take into account in the warm months that you can. and will come encounter Rattlesnakes we've seen our fair share out here and for some reason they love to be in the middle of the trail.  So ride and hike with caution especially in the cooler parts of the day. 

Rattlesnake mountain bike ride

On another note both areas are great areas to post up in the van for the day while in Albuquerque.  Elena G is the only place that you have to pay but it's only $1 on weekdays and $2 on weekends for entry.  There are BBQs and picnic areas throughout and the views of the Sandia Mountains are a nice treat.  There are tons of hiking trails in the open spaces and in the National Forest that neighbors them.  I recommend Domingo Baca Canyon or the Pino Trail for a nice day hike from Elena G.  In our opinion this is your best bet for biking, hiking, and a good place to post up for the day in Albuquerque, I’m not sure what would happen if they locked your car in overnight but the space does close at dusk.  

Van Life Albuquerque

Mountains - Just a short drive up Interstate 40 will bring you to more advanced riding.  There are a few options but in my mind there’s really only two.  The Sandia Ski Area trails or the Cedro Peak trails.  On some summers the ski area does run the lift for downhill mountain biking but I would check before heading up.  If the lifts are not running you can do a challenging climb up the King of the Mountain Trail and enjoy a well earned fast and flowy descent down Golden Eagle.  On south side of I-40 is the the Cedro Peak trails which are  closer to Albuquerque than heading to the Ski Area, but they are not our favorite trails.  This is a very chunky and bumpy area and the descents to me aren’t very exciting.  I’ve ridden a few trails out here and the best is Otero Canyon, but it is short and sweet.  If you are looking for a work out try the West Figure 8.  We aren’t the best bikers and we like to stay in the intermediate realm and some of the trails here were a bit too challenging and chunky for our hardtails.  

Albuquerque Mountain Biking

River - The Rio Grande Bosque is another anice open space in Albuquerque along the Rio Grande River.  However off road trails in this area are not the best.  There is a good amount of short flat single tracks through here, but nothing to write home about.  In my opinion this area is very underdeveloped and I wished the city of Abq would develop a nice open space park like the Valmont Bikepark in Boulder here in this area.  The trails in the Bosque are sandy and not my first option or my last.  These trails are more for family rides with kids on the paved Bosque bike trail.  There are some fast flowy sections but they don't last too long.  Hopefully in the future this area will be developed better for outdoor recreation.  

5 Days in Boulder

Rocky Mountain National Park

After shooting the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail.  We headed down to Boulder for a visit with one of our best friends.  We just had a few days and really wanted to get after it while we were in Colorado.  

Bear Peak

Bear Peak, Boulder Colorado, Hiking

We wanted to get used to the altitude and get in better hiking shape before we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park later in the week.  We went with Bear Peak a 7.7 mile out and back hike to the highest point in the Flat Irons.  This hike is rated difficult and is a climb all the way to the top, and was a great warm up to the high country and getting adjusted to the altitude.  

Valmont Bike Park and Antelope Trail

Mountain Biking, Boulder Colorado.

We discovered the Valmout Mountain Bikepark on this day and fell in love.  We went in the morning before the summer camps showed up.  This is an amazing place for beginners, and advanced riders to develop skills we rode about 5 miles in the park alone.  Later we headed out to ride a few trails out near Lyons.  We rode the Antelope Trail and connected with Nelson Loop for some flowy single track with amazing views.  This was a fun ride with some big climbs and descents.  

Chasm Lake

Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder

We woke up feeling a bit sore but it was a great day to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park.  It’s a short scenic cruise from Boulder.  Since it was summer the was very busy.  We didn’t want to deal with the crowds plus the day before the NPS was saying that all the parking was full and they weren't letting people in the park.  Knowing this we headed to the lesser used and free (if you don't have a parks pass) Longs Peak Trailhead, near Estes Park.  Earlier in the week we were considering Longs Peak but we decided to do a more mellow hike.  We went with the Chasm Lake Trail.  This is a 8.2 mile out and back trail that is rated moderate to difficult.  We really enjoyed this trail and this was the highlight of the trip.  After we finished the hike we headed down for a night in the Subaru.  I would tell you where but it was so  out there I don't even know where it was.  With this being said there is plenty of camping available on Forest Roads in the area.  

National Forest Camping

Subaru Camping

We woke up and took it easy ate breakfast and enjoyed the sunshine for a bit before heading back down to boulder.  We just took it easy this day visited a few dispensaries and rode the Valmont Bikepark again that evening.  We later biked over to Avery Brewery for a few of the local selections before calling it a night.

On the last day we spent a majority of this day on our bikes.  We headed over to the bikepark, in the morning.  Then spent the rest of the day checking out boulder and its large array of bike trails and headed up to the top of the Boulder Creek Trail.  If we were more prepared and had known we would have brought our tubes and wetsuits for what looked like a wild tube ride down the Boulder Creek.  Later that night we headed to Fresh Thymes for some vegan cuisine.  

Boulder is an incredible little town that has a lot to offer.  We will definitely be back. 

Jemez to Taos, Hot Springs and Mountain Bike Tour

Jemez New Mexico Hot Springs

White Mesa - Mountain Biking

We packed up the newly remodeled road-trip-ready Subaru and headed out for a northern New Mexican adventure.  Our first stop was Jemez, just about an hour and thirty minute drive from Albuquerque.  If the weather was cooler and it wasn't the peak of summer, I recommend stopping at White Mesa (photos below) for a very unique mountain bike experience. 

Jemez Hot Springs

Our first stop in Jemez was Spence Hot Springs, while we waited for a friend.  The pools at Spence aren’t incredibly warm, but they are worth the short hike and they have an amazing view from the pool.  Our next stop was San Antonio Hot Springs, off of Highway 126.  We arrived to a closed gate and had to walk over five miles, one way to the hot springs, but it was well worth the walk.  These are some of the best hot springs I’ve been to in New Mexico.  It consists of about 5 pools with a high pressure source pumping out into the top pool.  We left in the late afternoon and were soaked on the hike out and slept in the Jemez Falls parking lot that night.  

Taos - Mountain Biking and Hot Spring

The next day, we drove highway 4, easily one of the New Mexico’s most scenic roads, passing through the Valles Caldera and then through Los Alamos, where there is more mountain biking.  The next stop was Taos Ski Valley to ride the Northside Trails.  With a climb of over 2,100 feet, this trail is a big climb and the only alpine riding in New Mexico.  The Climb is worth the effort and the views of the Carson National Forest are epic.  Get ready for a steep ride down.  I don't know if you've ever been to TSV, but they say Taos is a four letter word for steep.  

After the ride we had a beer and snack at the Stray Dog Cantina and headed down the valley to Taos Mesa Brewery.  We stayed a few days out on the mesa with a good friend and relaxed and explored Manby and John Dunn hot springs in the Rio Grande Gorge.  One afternoon we headed back up to TSV to hike to Willams Lake. The lake sits below New Mexico’s tallest point, Wheeler Peak.  Later that week, we rode Horse Thief Mesa and the Rift Valley Trail before heading back to Albuquerque.  Before arriving to Albuquerque, we stopped at our favorite trail, Bobsled, in Palcitias.  Upon Arrival, we were really stoked with our spur of the moment trip and another trip in the Subaru.