Cycle: Mountain Bike Getaway to Munds Park

Categories: Bicycle Culture

photo by Jason Franz
The view from on top of Crystal Point in Munds Park, with a stright shot toward Sedona, is among the best in Arizona.
Arizona is known worldwide as one of the nation's best mountain biking states because of its varied terrain and consistently good weather. Think about it -- this place has deserts, plateaus and high(ish) mountains and it's always 80 degrees and sunny somewhere.

Sure, spots like the Catalina Mountains in Tucson, South Mountain and Black Canyon in Phoenix, Red Rocks in Sedona, Mt. Eldon in Flagstaff and Sunrise in Pinetop get most of the dirt love, and deservedly so. But a small vacation home town about 25 miles south of Flagstaff is a secret mountain bikers' paradise with endless miles of off road bliss rolling in every direction.

Munds Park may seem like it's more of an ATV capitol at first glance, but the double track trails and infinite web of forest roads make some prime riding for those looking to roll their knobbies over any kind of dirt.

Odell Lake.jpg
photo by Jason Franz
Vacation homes line Odell Lake with the Crystal Point trail heading up through the pines at the right.
Just off of the I-17 on the high plateau above Sedona that leads up to Flagstaff, Munds Park sits at 6,200 feet in the Coconino National Forest. Named for the Munds family who came up from Oak Creek Canyon to first homestead the natural pasture area, the town is now a popular vacation home area complete with country club and 18-hole golf course.

Munds Park is also the gateway town between the freeway and the dirt road that cuts through the forest to Mormon Lake, for those who don't want to drive up to Flagstaff and drop down Lake Mary Road. The road, appropriately named Mormon Lake Road, is the backbone for a massive network of backcountry fire roads and trails that are commonly populated by summer campers.

There are two primary mountain bike trails to access directly from Munds Park, and each of these trails link to an infinite combination of other trails and roads that can lead north to Flagstaff, south to Sedona (via the legendary Schnebly Hill Road), east to Mormon Lake, and west to the rim of Oak Creek Canyon. Feel free to let an adventurous spirit take over and explore the area, but just be sure to have a good map or GPS in hand and an eye on the constantly changing weather.

The Trails
Two popular trails anchor each end of town: Frog Tank Loop on the northwest end and Crystal Point Trail to the east. The favorite area trail of the Cycle Mountain Biking Team (of one) extends on the Frog Tank Loop to take in more of the parks and land tucked in the Coconino National Forest around the northeast side of the town.

Frog Tank Loop (9.5 miles) - This was the first primary singletrack hiking trail in the National Forest that would lead from the high plateau and hillside that the northern homes sat on down to the main watering hole for cattle and other wildlife to feed. The trail has a couple of primary trailheads, but the best place to set in is at the Iron Springs Trailhead at the top of the development off of Iron Springs Road and Cedar Wood Drive.

The Iron Springs trail is fairly rocky with a bunch of jagged obstacles jutting all along the track, but the trail runs downhill making for an easy entrance to the forest. Iron Springs runs about a mile and a half before connecting into the actual Frog Tank Loop. Hang a right and hold on for a rocky descent off the plateau. Stay right on the trail, rolling over some exposed boulders, and you'll be fine.

photo by Jason Franz
Stay right along this drop and roll over the rocks down into the basin section of the Frog Tank Loop.

Once at the bottom of the twisting drop, the trail turns into buttery smooth double track bliss. Look for a right turn that cuts through the forest and ride the trail along the creek bed for another mile until the trail ends at NF 78B. Hang a right and follow the fire road another mile on a very slight incline until it ends at a hillside and pit. Test your climbing and try to ride up the hill that hits upward of 35 percent in spots, and then hang on for dear life for the short downhill and take some jumps off of the double ramps at the base before heading back to the loop.

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