Sedona by bike is tough - because of the hills, the high elevation, the spread out vistas... but totally worth it. I love visiting the vortexes, and I admit, they do make me feel… weird. Vortexes are thought to have spiritual energies and have been used in ceremonies and rituals by indigenous people and new-age spiritualists for as long as anyone can remember. I'm really not an expert, all I know is that I think they are beautiful and interesting. This website has some more specific information.
Anyway, I was recently in Sedona driving around and thought how cool it would be to bike around the town, be able to stop and take pictures, not get stuck in traffic, not be trapped in the car. I thought maybe it would be more "powerful" in a sense. And I was right - Sedona by bike is awesome!
Weather: 65F, sunny
Miles on the Saddle: 35
Miles Hiked: About 8
I started the day off with a cup of coffee at a roadside market that sells moccasins and jellies.
Vortex 1: Bell Rock (& Courthouse Butte)
Bell Rock is the first vortex and rock formation you will come to if you are coming from Phoenix - it is right off the highway, very easily accessible and often quite busy.
- Bike Parking - Yes
- Bathrooms - Yes
- Water - No
- Trails: There is a multiuser path suitable for all ages/levels that splits off into a single track. I was able to ride the multiuse path with my touring bike, just to give you an idea.
You know you're a cyclist when…. You are just dying to take your bike where it's not supposed to go. Should this touring bike be on this trail? Nooooootttttt really… But who cares?!
The vortexes are known for "twisting" trees.
A Note on Cycling in Sedona
The roundabouts can be a little tricky. They are filled with confused tourists looping around like that scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation. What the traffic engineers intend for bike riders to do here (see picture), is exit the nice wide bike lane and hop up into the sidewalk to pass through the roundabout as a pedestrian, and then after the roundabout shoot back into traffic. That seemed more dangerous to me than just staying on the road through the roundabouts, especially considering drivers are distracted by taking pictures and trying to figure out how to get out of the roundabout in the first place ;)
Vortex 2: Cathedral Rock
You can get to Cathedral Rock the easy way, via Back-O-Beyond Road or Chavez Ranch Road… or you can do what I did. I took the Verde Valley School Road entrance, which is only about 5 miles from rt 179, but it's slightly uphill the whole way. The scenery is beautiful, you start out in a high-end neighborhood where the adobe and stone houses back right up into the red rocks. After a few miles, the bike lane peters out into a pink gravel shoulder, and eventually the whole road peters out into a (pink) dirt road.
- Verde Valley Route - Bike Parking, Water - NO
- Verde Valley Route - Bathrooms - YES
- Chavez Ranch Route - Bike Parking - YES
- Chavez Ranch Route - Bathrooms - YES
- Chavez Ranch Bike Trails - not really. The north side of the creek has a paved walking trail that is good for strollers, etc. It turns into a dirt path that leads to Cathedral, but it's too busy/narrow for cycling. You could do it, but I wouldn't. You would be walking most of the way.
- Back-O-Beyond Bike Trails - Cathedral Rock Trail - more of a walking trail.
- Verde Valley Bike Trails - Oak Creek and Baldwin Trails - beginner/intermediate
*Just to be clear, all "routes" end up at Oak Creek/Cathedral Rock. The Chavez Ranch route is drivable, and ends you at the north side of Oak Creek, on a paved trailhead. The Back-O-Beyond route is the paved-road access for the south entrance to Oak Creek. The Verde Valley School Road route is a mostly dirt road that ends you at more bikeable trails on the north side of Oak Creek. Oak Creek is very shallow, and you can easily walk right across to the other side, too.
… I guess it's not a tour unless you end up on a dirt road….
I took a break at Oak Creek and hung out with Cyndi and Tim and their dogs. You're probably thinking… wow, she made some friends fast! Well, not really. I recognized Cyndi and Tim from their very distinctive van which passed me on the paved part of the road all those miles back...
Crossing Oak Creek
I find the hike to Cathedral Rock enchanting - there are little surprises around every corner. And the rock just sneaks up on you, as you can see from my pictures, which were only taken in the span of a couple miles - the formation looks so far away at first.
It's like when you are out at night using the BBQ or walking your dog, and you notice the moon and it looks nice. Then one night, you are outside as usual and - BAM - the moon is taking up a whole third of the horizon! How did it get so big!? I know it must be a gradual thing, like walking the miles towards Cathedral Rock, but somehow it goes unnoticed until it is so big and right in front of you it seems sort of shocking. That is how Cathedral Rock is for me, no matter how many times I visit.
Sacred Space 3: Amitabha Stupa
Not technically a vortex, but certainly a sacred space and one of my favorite spots in Sedona. Tucked away at the base of Thunder Mountain, is this gorgeous shrine.
How to Find it: Take 89A, West of Downtown Sedona. Turn North on Andante Drive, go a couple miles. Turn Left at Pueblo Drive, and you will see a small sign (below). Enter where the sign is and there is parking. Follow the decorated trees to the stupa. There is a smaller stupa hidden before the large stupa.
- Bike Parking - NO
- Water- NO
- Bathrooms - YES
Some Final Notes:
It was getting late, and I didn't get to all the vortexes by bike. Even a strong cyclist would need two days for all he vortexes, especially if you want to hike a bit. But for the sake of information sharing, I drove to the final two vortexes: Boynton Canyon and Airport Mesa to check out the bike scene there.
Boynton Canyon Vortex
Lots of hiking and biking, here, but it's quite hard to find. The easiest way to get yourself to the vortex is to follow the signs to Enchantment Resort/Boynton Pass. Park at Dead Man's Pass, and there are many biking options (see below). This vortex is thought to be a female energy and to be the most mysterious of all the vortexes. I have to admit, it was very mysterious - I felt turned around and disoriented the whole time, this is a spot that needs more than a quick drive-by, and I'm excited to go back later and check it out.
- Bike Parking - NO
- Bathrooms - YES
- Water - NO
- Bike trails - see photo below.
Airport Mesa Vortex
I arrived at Airport Mesa at about 5:30, an hour before sunset, and already it was packed with visitors setting up shop. One couple had a bottle of wine - I was jealous.
DO NOT RIDE YOUR BIKE UP TO AIRPORT MESA - the roads are EXTREMELY narrow and very very very dangerous. At the top of the hill, there is ample parking and the "Sedona View Trail" trailhead which goes to the vortex and other lookout spots. The trail says bikes are allowed, but if you check my pix below, you'll see it's really rocky and on a steep cliff, so I personally wouldn't do it (even on a nice MTB).
- Bike Parking - There is a tiny parking lot at the actual vortex site that also has a bike rack. At the top of the lookout where there is a huge parking lot, there is not bike parking
- Bathrooms - YES, at the lookout
- Water - NO
- Bike Trails - See above