Are you in the Flagstaff area and looking for a full-day mountain bike ride? Consider the ‘Round the Peaks loop around the San Francisco Mountains. The 50 mile route includes tons of single track between sections of jeep road, including many miles of fun riding on the Arizona Trail. It logs about 4800 feet of vertical gain, while circumnavigating Arizona’s tallest peak, Humphrey’s Peak, 12,635 ft. As first timers to the area we thought it was an incredible long-day effort to see what Flagstaff mountain biking had to offer.
Typical for the fall off season, we hit the road in search of new places and adventures. Because the options are somewhat more restricted this year in the era of COVID-19, we made the call to do a mountain biking road trip of Arizona and New Mexico. At one point we ended up in Flagstaff for a day and night, so we wanted to find something that offered the most bang for our buck.
Humphrey’s Peak Loop
After a quick search on the Mountain Bike Project website, the best option was immediately clear. We found a connection of dirt roads and singletrack that make a 50 mile loop around the mountains just outside of town. Known locally as ‘Round the Peaks, it would give us the most miles and varied scenery that was reasonable to do in the limited amount of time that we were there.
So we loaded up with enough food and fluids for a long day and headed to the trailhead a short drive north from downtown Flagstaff. To follow this route we recommend you first download the Mountain Bike Project app, which makes on-the-go navigating a breeze.
The loop goes counter-clockwise around the San Francisco Mountains, starting on the Schultz Creek Trail, a gradually climbing singletrack which was a perfect warm up for the day ahead. After about five miles, we joined the Schultz Pass Road, and continued to climb gradually, up past a gate and the start of the Waterline Road. This road is an easy cruise, continually climbing though what appear to be old burn zones along the east side of the mountains.
After about 15 miles, we arrives at a popular trail intersection where it was time to leave the road and descend the Inner Basin Trail singletrack. It was a fun, semi-technical trail that brought us down to Forest Road #552. This began another long-ish section of jeep road, going downhill to an intersection with FR #418. We ascended the 418 road around the north side of the mountains to around mile 28 on the trip odometer. From there we got on the Arizona Trail (AZT) and it was single track the rest of the day!
We cruised the rolling, well-built AZT southbound, along the west side of the mountains, past the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area, eventually closing the loop back at the Schultz Trail at mile 46. All that remained was a downhill cruise on the Shultz Creek Trail for four miles back to the trailhead.
And that was the ‘Round the Peaks loop. It was an awesome way to spend the day mountain biking in Flagstaff, check it out if you can.