This article and video were produced in partnership with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Less than two hours from Phoenix, Sedona offers almost 300 miles of trails that draw mountain bikers from all over the world. The quality of riding is so high, and the variety so diverse, even a local can struggle with figuring out where to start — so we figured it out for you. The Long Canyon trailhead is a gateway to everything Sedona has to offer; this 13-mile figure eight loop includes about 1,000 feet of mellow grade climbing and warp speed descents. Expect a mix of flowy single track, a few technical sections, slick rock traversing, and plenty of unbelievable views along the way.
In the heart of West Sedona, along Highway 89A, is Over the Edge Sports, which is a great one-stop shop for bike rentals, trail snacks, last-minute supplies, and up-to-date info. Once you're properly kitted up, you'll head northwest out of town to the trailhead …
- Drive west on 89A approximately one mile. Turn right on Dry Creek Road.
- Stay on Dry Creek Road for about 1.5 miles, before coming to a stop sign. Turn right onto Long Canyon Road.
- Stay on Long Canyon Road for about a half a mile. You will pass a trailhead parking area on the right. Keep going until you see a sandy trailhead parking area on the left — this is the Long Canyon Trailhead.
This route begins on the Long Canyon Trail and over Deadman's Pass before entering into the Aerie/Cockscomb Loop. Along the way you'll stop on Doe Mountain and Mescal Mountain, both of which provide views for days across some of the region's iconic red rock formations. There are faster and more challenging rides in the area, but for fun and beauty, this one is tough to beat.
- The ride begins with a gradual climb up Long Canyon Trail, which lasts for one mile.
- Look for the left turn onto Deadman's Pass Trail. Continue to climb for a quarter of a mile before you reach the top of the pass; from here you can see the opening of Boynton Canyon, which is a solid photo opportunity.
- Continue straight on Deadman's Pass trail for about 1.5 miles before the excitement begins. This downhill is fast, with opportunities to hit some drops and catch a little air. Keep your head up, there are a few rock gardens to navigate.
- Stay straight through several trail intersections and road/parking area crossings.
- Cross Boynton Pass Road and stay straight to continue onto Aerie Trail.
- After 0.8 flowy miles on Aerie Trail you'll reach a four-way intersection. Turn left on Cockscomb Trail to begin the clockwise loop around Doe Mountain.
- Halfway around the loop, you will come to the Aerie Trail parking area. Stay straight onto Aerie Trail to continue the loop.
- This 5.5-mile loop has multiple climbs and descents, eventually climbing Doe Mountain. From the top, you can see well-known red rock formations like Cathedral Rock and Mescal Mountain.
- Continue on Aerie Trail to begin a challenging descent, which brings you back to the four-way intersection where you will stay straight and start backtracking on Aerie Trail towards Deadman's Pass. The trail is even more fun and flowy in this direction.
- Continue straight onto Deadman's Pass. Begin a gentle grade climb, looking for a right turn onto Mescal Trail.
- Turn right onto Mescal and begin up the most challenging climb of the ride. Make your way up switchbacks towards Mescal Mountain.
- At the junction with Canyon of Fools, drop your bike and hike up to your left. You'll only need to climb a few feet above the way you came to take in spectacular views for 180 degrees.
- To get back to your car from the Canyon of Fools junction, go straight and then stay left through the next three intersections to begin your final descent to the Long Canyon trailhead.
What to Bring
Expect to be out for about three hours and, as there are no water stops along the way, plan accordingly. Weather-wise, Sedona is near-perfect, with temps generally hovering between 60 and 70 degrees for a good chunk of the year. In the summer, the temps climb, meaning it's best to ride early morning or late afternoon, when spontaneous thunder showers might require a dry layer in which to change if you get caught in the rain.
- Obviously, water is key — Over the Edge Sports has a water fill station for your bottles and bladders.
- Pump, extra tubes, and your basic tool kit, including tire levers and a wrench set.
- The intersections are all well marked, but there's a lot of them so it's still a good idea to bring a map of the area.
- Whatever calorie-dense snacks you can fit in your pack.
- The view from Mescal Mountain will transport you to your favorite western movie — be sure to bring a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to toast the red rock buttes and spires in the distance.