Reader Ride - Northern Arizona

Text: Tim Kessel • Photography: Tim Kessel

Extreme elevation changes, serpentine stretches of blacktop, and awe-inspiring scenery are the rule, not the exception in Northern Arizona. In a loop-ride of just over 300 miles, one can sample most of what makes this region world-famous. Visit a mining town, ride along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, buy Native American jewelry on the Navajo Reservation, dine in the pines of Flagstaff, and gape at the Red Rocks of Sedona - all in a one-day adventure or leisurely spread over a weekend.

Sedona, which is a great place to start, is a magical town nestled amid monolithic red sandstone spires that are the stuff of southwestern legend. Sedona boasts a range of lodging and dining that accommodates a full spectrum of tastes and budgets. There are both chain hotels and 5-star resorts; fast food and gourmet eateries. The area's premium accommodations include L'Auberge de Sedona, a luxury resort on the Oak Creek, and the more secluded (and exclusive) Enchantment Resort surrounded by red rocks. Sedona has been the backdrop for many western movies and TV commercials, and it may well be the most famous small town in the Southwest.

From Sedona we travel west through the towns of Cottonwood and Clarkdale. By the way, if the budget does not allow for the luxury of Sedona, this area is a more affordable home base. A mere 20 miles from Sedona, the ride takes an exciting turn up Mingus Mountain, which contains some of the state's best twisties. The mountain base lies at 3,400 feet and it peaks at over 7,000 feet in the span of fewer than 10 miles! Jerome, a turn-of-the century mining town, clings precariously to the side of the mountain. This town was home to more than 15,000 miners and merchants in the 1920s. In the late 1950s, its population fell to a mere 50 or so hearty souls. Now, Jerome is thriving in arts and tourism. On any weekend night, dozens of motorcycles are parked outside the town's watering holes such as the quirky Spirit Room. There's also a collection of Bed and Breakfasts, and even a historic hospital-turned-hotel, which is rumored to be haunted. A great gourmet hamburger and impressive views can be had at the Haunted Hamburger Restaurant.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2010 back issue.