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Shred the Red

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Tips to plan your first MTB trip to Sedona


You may have heard of it, and maybe you haven't. Perhaps it's on your bucket list of places to ride, and if it isn't, well then, you should make sure it gets added!


Sedona, located about 2 hours north of Phoenix, is a small touristy town nestled in the infamous "red rock". The town attracts many tourists but is undoubtedly a major destination for mountain bike enthusiasts. Boasting dozens and dozens of miles and counting of sanctioned single track, there will be something for everyone on two wheels. There's a reason I choose this town as my' winter home' year after year.


First things first, if you plan on visiting, plan your trip to avoid the extreme desert summer heat and rainy season, along with the brief wintery spell Sedona experiences. I've found the best times to visit are March - April and October - November.


You'll need to decide whether you will be bringing your own bike or renting. If bringing, the more current your bike, the better. You'll need dual suspension (I'd recommend a minimum 130/120 mm of travel), a dropper post, and preferably tubeless tires. Those items will immediately set the right tone for your experience. If you need to rent, there are two local bike shops, Thunder Mountain Bikes in West Sedona and Absolute Bikes in the Village of Oak Creek (~15 minutes south of downtown).


You're likely to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbour - a major international airport and rent a vehicle - preferably one that can transport your bikes. Most trails can be accessed via pedalling from West Sedona, but only if you're keen for a longer day in the saddle (20+ km). If you stay anywhere else, such as the Village of Oak Creek or Upper Sedona, you'll find yourself needing to drive to the trail heads.


Accommodations are in plenty - book based on your creature comforts and budget. We spend the winter in our travel trailer but suggest booking in West Sedona for proximity to the trails, amenities and avoiding some of the traffic congestion found in the roundabouts in Upper Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek.


Food and amenities are also in the plenty here. There's a Starbuck, Safeway, CVS, and Whole Foods, but the local restaurants and cafes sure are delicious. My go-to is pizza from Picasso!


When deciding what trails to ride, remember that the trails here are likely more challenging than those you're used to (depending on where you are coming from). Respect the trail rating and get warmed up before trying to hit the infamous Hiline, Hangover or Hogs trails on the first day.

On the trails, you'll find a mix of desert riding - everything from slickrock (a very grippy rock), technical rock gardens and shelves, hard-packed clay, moon dust, and loose rock on rolling terrain. Pay attention, though! The views can quickly get distracting, and you'll find yourself off the trail or riding into a cactus before you know it. The trail is often marked by white paint slashes or stacked rocked cairns when riding on the slick rock. And keep your head up as the trails are shared by plenty of hikers and the odd horseback rider.


I'd suggest checking out the Adobe Jack trail system, Western Gateway trail system, Dry Creek trail system and the Village of Oak Creek first to get acquainted with type of riding Sedona has to offer, and then venture based on your comfort level to more challenging trail systems (Carroll Canyon, Broken Arrow, Schnebly Hill).


Trailforks has an abundance of info for trail info and navigating, including opportunities to donate to the local trail fund (Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition and Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund). For more local info on the town, visit the town's website.


Pro Tip: Everything here is SHARP! Bring small needle-nose pliers and/or tweezers with you on rides for any unexpected cactus removal (on your body). If you get any in your tires, do not pull them out. Cut them down flush with the tire, and let the sealant do its job.


Bonus Pro Tip: Drink more water than you think you need and be prepared to feel out of shape. The dry desert air disguises sweating and dehydration can set in quick. Pair that with some elevation (town is at about 4,500 ft) and you'll certainly feel your lungs on your first couple rides. Take it easy to start!


Happy riding and shredding the red!


Already visited Sedona? Leave us a comment below with your favourite trail!


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