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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mountain biking at Dead Horse State Park, AZ

Most of you know I live in a town called Cottonwood, AZ in the Verde Valley just south of Sedona. Cottonwood is overlooked by most visitors to the Verde Valley who come to see Sedona and the old mining town Jerome. But Cottonwood has some cool stuff too. In Cottonwood is a place called Dead Horse State Park that has a trail system to hike and mountain bike on. The park is located along the Verde River the only designated wild and scenic river in Arizona. Normally I park outside of the park to avoid the entrance fees and then just ride in on trails by turning right down a steep slope just after I cross the bridge or I go past the entrance station about 50 yards and enter on a trail to the right.
Once in the park there are tons of trails that wind all around connecting the different camp grounds and fishing lagoons. Some of the trails parallel the river among the large cottonwood and elm trees.
And some cruise and wind through the beautiful mesquite groves that are closer to the river and many travel through the desert areas farther away from the river.
Most of these trails are very smooth and easy with a few short steep climbs and in some cases a few small foot bridges to cross small washes
Now all these trails are nice but the real attraction for me is the trail system that leaves the park and climbs the mesas north and east of the park. There are two main trails that head up the mesas. One is called Lime Kiln Trail and it is heads east out of the park and the other one is called Raptor Hill at it generally heads north out of the park.
Both of these trails climb in stair step like increments of short steep climbs with flat smooth areas between climbs. The state park near the river is around 3280 feet in elevation and on Raptor Hill trail you will be at around 3900 when you get to the trail junction with the Thumper Trail after traveling 2.85 miles. Thumper Trail runs southeast from Raptor Hill Trail and connects with the Lime Kiln trail completing a loop. If you are traveling east on Lime Kiln Trail you will reach the Intersection with Thumper Trail after about 2.1 miles. It is 2.25 miles to get from one end of Thumper to the other making the entire loop about 7.2 miles of trail. Add in the time on the trails in the park and you will be doing at least 8 miles to do the loop. Thumper Trail gains and looses elevation several times as it goes in and out of a series of washes. At the Raptor Hill and Thumper intersection there is also a trail that heads off to your left or north this can take you to several longer options. The most noted is the Upper Raptor Hill Trail that was once called Indian Chimney but the name was changed by the State Park people. Upper Raptor can be easy to miss, it is on the right a few hundred yards north down a double track from the Raptor/Thumper junction. Upper Raptor starts by going up a small wash and then climbs up out of the wash to the right. Upper Raptor continues your climb to the top of the mesas and connects to a series of Forest Service roads. The top of the mesas reach an altitude of at least 4300 feet and maybe even more. The top of the Mesa has juniper and pinion pine. Along the steep northeast edge of the mesa are nice views of the Red Rock country. This trail system is great in winter, spring, and fall, but can get hot in the Summer. I often take a break here to enjoy the view and then return the way I came with a long downhill to end the day. By adding some of the forest service roads you can make loops as long as 20 or more miles. And for the very hardy you can take Lime Kiln Trail all the way to Sedona a long trek of at least 15 miles one way. There are two bike shops in Cottonwood If you need repairs or forgot something when you visit.
They are both located on main street not far from the park. One is called Sultana Cycles and is located at 470 S. Main, Suite B. Cottonwood, AZ. (928) 649-3822, Sultanacycles@gmal.com The other one is called Zoomers Bike and Gear and it is located at 743 N. Main Street, Cottonwood, AZ. (928) 202-4941, http://www.zoomersbike.com/ To get to Dead Horse State Park, from I-17 take (exit 287) Hwy 260 to Cottonwood. Hwy. 260 intersects with 89A/Main Street. Turn left on Main Street and proceed to North 10th Street. Turn right (north) on North 10th Street. Continue on North 10th across the Verde River Bridge to the park entrance. The Park also has camping, fishing, hiking, horseback rides, among other things.

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