In 2014 I sold everything I owned—minus my motorcycles and a few boxes of clothes—and moved to Phoenix from Texas. I had only visited twice beforehand and only knew a handful of people, but it didn’t take me long meet some motorcycle enthused Phoenecians that were happy to show me the ropes.
What’s Arizona? A giant desert full of cacti, I thought. WRONG. Arizona is quite possibly one of the most underrated states I have visited (and I almost regret admitting that to the general public for the sake of keeping this place a secret!) The Grand Canyon state is full of countless geological finds and Wild West history, including rich Native American Navajo Culture that thrives throughout the state, remnants of the historic Route 66, and “boomtown” settlements that have long since become ghost towns.
Although I only stayed around the Phoenix area for a mere 18 months, I was able to find some great roads to share with new found friends. These are a few of my go-to’s.
Photo by Dalton Campbell
The Sunset Loop to Bartlett Lake
This is my ultimate solo ride route in the evenings, and group ride on the weekends. From Ramjet Racing, head out to the Cave Creek area. Getting out of town isn’t a bad ride as you near the mountain foothills—the temperature drops in the far out suburbs, making it slightly more bearable in the summer afternoons and a chilly ride home if you forgot to layer up in the winters.
There’s plenty of spots to stop at in Cave Creek if you want to grab food or drinks: The Hideaway Grill and The Roadhouse are both well-known biker hotspots and have cold brews and decent food—sometimes even free pizza during the weekdays/happy hour. Head east out of Cave Creek and you’ll eventually see signs for Bartlett Lake, from here (during the week) you won’t see too many cars. This twisty little road will take you down to the lake where you can sit and watch boats head out on the water, or you can jump in and cool off at Rattlesnake Cove if you make a day run out to the water’s edge.
If you leave the lake about 30 minutes before the sun sets (the water should be covered in shadows at this point), you’ll end up with the best seat in the valley for the sunset when you get near the Cave Creek/Bartlett road intersection. Purple mountains and vibrant, fiery skies…these are the ultimate desert sunsets. I’ve never seen a bad one from this spot. If you’re out on the weekend or during the day, you can leave the lake and take the scenic route out to the Road Runner for a beer, live music, and bite to eat. Park your bike inside the fenced area or leave it in the lot, the choice is yours. Enjoy the desert!
Flagstaff, Jerome, Prescott
Middle of summer and you want to beat the heat? I’ve been there. Luckily, northern Arizona is guaranteed to always be at least 20-30 degrees cooler than the Valley’s scorching temps, and you can be out of the triple digit heat index in less than 120 miles!
If you leave early enough, I suggest taking the the 89-A from Sedona to Flagstaff and back down the Mogollon Rim. Riding up and back down from Flagstaff provides some insane views of the Rim country as well as the red rocks Sedona is known for. Slide Rock State Park is a great spot to stop off at along the 89-A if you’re into swimming and jumping off giant rocks.
From Sedona you’ll head south to Jerome, a historic mining town that is built into the side of a mountain. Visit the mining museums or grab a drink at the Spirit Room, the town’s biker friendly bar. From here the ride will take you over Mingus Mountain. If you thought it was hot in Phoenix, you’ll be shocked to find out you can still see snow up here in March—so dress appropriately! If you’re like me, you probably stopped and took in all the scenic views along the way and won’t have time to take the long route. But at about 300 Miles, the short route is one heck of a day’s ride from the Valley.
In February of ’15 I rode with a buddy out to Havasu for the weekend to attend a Hot Rod/Motorcycle Show. Growing up near the ocean, I’ve always called myself a “water baby.” Anytime I can ride a road that follows a body of water, my mood instantly changes and leaves me feeling calm and collected. So of course I was stoked to make the ride to see Lake Havasu and ride along the beautiful Colorado River.
The journey across the desert is long, but worth it once you get to Parker. I like to stop in at the Bluewater Resort & Casino and jump in the river if the weather is right (it’s still comfortable in October!). If not, you can attempt to sweet talk the staff into letting you go down the waterslide in the Casino.
From here, Highway 95 will twist and turn alongside the clear, blue, Colorado River. It’s truly like you went to another world and different type of desert climate. The mountains are no longer a dull brown but instead a rich, deep red, and the scenery continues to improve as you reach Lake Havasu. Rip across the London Bridge and onto the “island,” grab some drinks, and enjoy the evening in this little slice of paradise. If you plan accordingly you’ll be able to catch some sort of Hot Rod & Classic Car show. Almost every time I’ve visited Havasu, I’ve unintentionally visited while a car show was going on.
The Mogollon Rim Country is one of the most spectacular areas I visited in Arizona. The first time I made this trip I was completely unaware of the drastic climate changes the state had between the Rim and Central regions—in fact almost a third of the state is covered in forest-type land. We ended up hitting Payson right as the sun set and I probably drank 3 cups of crummy gas station coffee trying to warm myself up in the low 50-degree temps I was forced to deal with wearing a hoodie after leaving the warm, 80-something degree valley. I never made that mistake again, that’s for sure. The region is filled with amazing hiking, swimming holes, and Native American history. If you choose to head towards Camp Verde, Montezuma’s Castle is a short sidetrack off the route. If you get the urge for some Motorcycle camping, this area is great for it. With the abundance of public lands, you can practically camp for free throughout the rim country—and actually throughout most of the state. Do your homework if you plan to camp, and remember to pack out what you rode in with.
It’s not a lengthy ride, but everyone that visits the Arizona should see Phoenix from a birds eye view. I prefer to ride this on weekdays (in the early mornings while everyone is at work) primarily because the views are incredible and the traffic along the twisty road to the summit can get a little frustrating otherwise. Be sure to read the info boards at the lookout point and learn about the mountain’s history and the role it played for Phoenix in the early days.
I never visited the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Four Corners, or rode the Devil’s Highway (US Route 191) or Route 66 in its entirety while I lived in the state, but all are high on most motorcycle enthusiasts’ destination lists.You don’t have to ride the most common and popular roads to get a full grasp of what Arizona has to offer, but you do have to get out there and ride to truly understand the beauty of this state.