If you have not tried mountain biking lately, technological advances and beefy tires, combined with world-class trails, challenging knobs and hills, stunning views, Southwestern sunsets and colorful characters take this outdoor adventure to a whole new mesa in the red rock country.
The Enchantment Resort, tucked into Boynton Canyon in west Sedona with access to more than 300 miles of Coconino National Forest trails, has been building its mountain bike program for the past eight years.
“Enchantment Resort believes the best way to take in the beauty of Sedona’s red rocks is on the trails,” said Ashley Sheen, corporate director of communications at Enchantment Group. “With ride-in, ride-out access from the resort, Enchantment’s mountain biking program allows for all guests, regardless of skill level, to actively experience the canyon and discover the captivating red rock scenery of Sedona and the unparalleled terrain that bring countless riders to the region each year.”
The management team is so passionate about introducing guests to this mountain biking mecca, it recently donated $25,000 to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, which will be used by the Red Rock Ranger District to build and maintain the Western Gateway trail system. That is 27 more miles expected to be completed in the next three years. In the meantime, it is doubtful recreationists will feel as though they are lacking in paths to follow or levels to explore.
“Sedona has some of the best high-desert trail riding in the world, and because the area’s network of single-track trails is so expansive and varied, paths are rarely overcrowded,” said Sheen.
Getting the Nod
Take Cockscomb Trail, for example. Enchantment’s Lead Mountain Bike Guide George Miraval, known to locals and trails riders as “Nod” or “Gnarly Old Dude,” says this one is for beginners. A few minutes of steep dips, bouldered washes and slippery sand and you might ask, “Beginners of what?!” Nod offers a knowing smile and reminds you to breathe, a good idea considering you are at an elevation of 4,500 feet.
He will also suggest you get comfortable with the gears. “It’s like in life,” he said. “Most people want to make it harder than it needs to be.” He will encourage you to “trust” the technology, allow the bike to “float” over the rocks, and experience how the frame “bends” with the landscape.
Nod and Enchantment’s mountain biking team have more than 80 years of combined experience riding, instructing, trail building and leading rides in Sedona, says Sheen. “Each has incredible knowledge of the region and is able to adapt each ride to a variety of skill levels, ensuring every rider feels comfortably challenged, but safe and confident.”
On an afternoon of mountain biking with Nod, you may wonder if you signed up for a recreational outing or a soulful retreat with a Zen master in spandex. He says his goal is for guests to have “their best outdoor adventure experience ever.” However, most of his mountain biking directions sound oddly metaphorical for life lessons, Mr. Miyagi style, as he stresses the importance of focus, balance and “finding your Buddha,” that sweet spot where you have clicked into the precise gear for trail conditions.
Floating with Technology
As Cockscomb intersects with Dawa, Nod points out a 300-year-old Cyprus tree and shaggy junipers with berries that make gin. That is the moment you realize you are enjoying the ride. You actually are trusting the technology, maybe even floating over logs and rocks, and perhaps trading in your fear of jumping cholla and prickly pear on hairpin turns for a new appreciation for the unmatched raw beauty of Sedona.
That is also about the time Nod gives you a choice: there are more roller coaster dips, straight-aways and a few climbs ahead or there is the other option – a trail that offers “the kind of views that most people come to Sedona for.”
Hmmm. That sounds like a trick question. And, like in a horror movie, you know which way you should go when there is a fork in the road. Instead, you hear yourself enthusiastically shouting, “THE VIEWS!” because, after all, you signed up for an adventure, right?
As you ascend the Mescal Trail, Nod lets you in on a mountain biking secret. Her name is “Grandma.” Grandma is a left-hand gear that drops you into low low with one click. “On some of these hills, you’re going to need Grandma,” he warns.
As Nod pedals ahead, you can hear him call out in the distance for Grandma. Quickly, you discover just how much you need Grandma. You climb and climb and climb, wondering if there is also a Great Grandma gear somewhere. You are so distracted by mentally and physically pushing yourself up the hill, you almost do not notice Nod waiting for you by a sign with two directions: Difficult and Extreme.
What???!!! As if answering the unspoken terror-filled question, he gestures, “Just concentrate on this much of the trail at a time. Make your shoulders, your grip and your head line up like an arrow. Don’t look at the drama. And don’t let your freak out of the box!”
Within minutes, you are making like an arrow, but your freak is pounding at the door.
Viewing the Reward
Then, suddenly, the pinyon/juniper forest opens up to an amphitheater of smooth, curved, massive red rock. It is breathtaking. Nod is right. This is the view for which visitors come to Sedona. Majestic formations appear suspended in the distance. Late afternoon sunlight hops from Thunder Mountain to Sugarloaf Mountain to Courthouse Butte. Dusty pinks, layers of lavender and sandy rusts drape across the landscape. A full lush palette of green rises up from cracks and crevices.
For a moment, time stands still. You drink in the view. Then, Nod motions upward to where the “experts” ride. That is when the narrow ledge that spans the natural amphitheater starts to look manageable.
You ride confidently across this expansive, crescent-moonlike formation above the forest floor. As you descend the hilltop, dropping over ledges, bouncing across rocks and finessing the tight turns, you realize you are leaning in to the trail, you are one with the machine, you have zero hesitation. You are a mountain biker!
Again, Nod was right. You faced fears you did not know you had. You achieved a new level of skill. You speak of “the views” and “the trails” with convincing intimacy. You trust technology. You also trust Enchantment Resort has a hot tub waiting for you! QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN
The Enchantment offers private and group mountain biking lessons and excursions for all skill levels year-round. The program is reserved for resort guests, with paid and complimentary bike options. Mountain biking-focused packages are also available, which include luxury accommodations, Pivot bike rentals, a Camelbak water bottle and $100 activity credit card. For more information, visit enchantmentresort.com.