This figure-eight ride northwest of the Valley of the Sun links a series of significant roadside attractions on a truly enjoyable route. A wide array of road types, including view-filled straights, ultratight hairpins, and long, sweeping corners, keep the ride lively and interesting. To cap it off, one of the state’s most powerful and touching tributes to heroism punctuates the midpoint of the route. This is a ride best taken in the spring and fall, but it’s passable most of the year.
Approximately 240 miles
Kneaders Bakery & Café, 14183 W Bell Rd, Surprise, AZ
Like most of the small-town eateries in the area, the Ranch House Restaurant has limited days of operation, so check their website during your preride preparation. Find it at 23225 Broadway, Yarnell, AZ.
Scenery (4 out of 5)
While desert vistas and long views define the southeastern legs of the ride, the northwestern portion of the route from Congress to Highway 93 winds up and through the rugged and rocky mountains of central Arizona. This stretch offers statuesque stone formations, varied ecosystems, and elevated views of the Arizona landscape.
Difficulty (4 out of 5)
It is important not to let the long straights and gentle sweepers of the early ride lull you into inattention when you get to the coiled mountain portion of the route. It is easy to carry too much speed into the deceptively tight hairpins if you don’t remain vigilant.
Road Conditions (4 out of 5)
As in any desert region, sand may be present, especially in the lower over-the-road washes. Asphalt conditions are consistently well-paved and pothole-free on the entire route. In the hills, the tarmac shoulders are narrow and the drop-off can be abrupt.
Points of Interest
Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
A few miles south of the town of Yarnell, you’ll find this powerful tribute to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, part of an elite firefighting crew, who were tragically lost in 2013 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. The 3.5-mile trail that leads to the tragedy site is dotted with tributes to each of the fallen firefighters. While the early portion of this challenging hike could be done in very comfortable motorcycle boots, hiking boots or shoes are recommended.
Desert Caballeros Western Museum
This Western art museum in Wickenburg features permanent and rotating exhibits of Southwestern art, crafts, and other historical displays. The museum, which was founded in 1960, has garnered a reputation for excellence.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
This regional park north of Phoenix covers more than 23,000 acres. The lake itself averages about 10,000 acres, but its size varies depending on runoff and usage. The rugged terrain and deep-blue waters make Pleasant an impressive and picturesque lake setting.