January 18, 2014

AZT #20 - Four Peaks

I'm nearing the end of my goal to ride all the bike-legal miles of the Arizona Trail, only a few partial passages remain. The recent swath of perfect January desert weather had my eyes drifting towards a barbell loop of passages 19 & 20 near Roosevelt Lake. I sent up the bat signal to some like-minded friends who scoff at the notion of hike-a-bike (HAB) in search of sweet singletrack and adventure. Jeff & Nancy were the only ones to take the bait, as the others had scheduling conflicts.

While the start/finish area isn't all that far, as the crow flies, it's 20+ miles of twisting dirt road or an extra 30 miles of pavement to reach Roosevelt Dam. I opted for the more scenic, Apache Trail (AZ88), route on dirt, naturally.
A few days removed from a full moon, it sets over the early morning glow.
 We met around 8a, gathered our things - well, most of our things as I forgot my water bottle of electrolytes in the car and my squeezable baby food at home (yes, baby food!! Banana-Mango to be exact, it's incredible!!).

The gist of the ride was going to be passage 20 (Four Peaks) first, roughly 20 miles on pavement/dirt rd/AZT. We would stop back at the cars for re-fueling before tackling passage 19 (Superstition Wilderness), another 24 miles of dirt rd/AZT.

We hit the pavement portion of AZ188 first, crossing the impressive Roosevelt bridge.
Nice to have a wide bike lane here.
The calm waters of Roosevelt Lake.
Roosevelt Dam.
We turned onto FR429 and started climbing. The road was in really good condition and there were just enough rollers to give you a break all the way up to the Mills Ridge trailhead.
Nancy and I climbing away. Photo by Jeff.
I Had to shed some layers. Photo by Jeff.
Four Peaks looking mighty impressive from the north side.
FR429 ends in a dirt cul-de-sac where it intercepts the AZT.
Jeff & Nancy ready to continue upward.
Four Peaks trail, 'looks rideable from here'. (Don't they all?)
Eh, not so much. Photo by Jeff.
Still pushing.... Photo by Jeff.
But some sections were really nice. Photo by Jeff.
Others required more pushing. Photo by Jeff.
The Four Peaks trail was about 50% HAB going up, but we wanted to reach the Wilderness boundary, then turn around back to Mills Ridge. There was one downhill stretch going up where we decided to ditch the bikes in favor of a faster less painful arrival to the WB. It was a wise decision. The trail was in descent shape, probably would have been a hoot to descend, but it would have been a tiring slog and we still had plenty of unknown trail ahead of us.
Wilderness reached, hopefully in my lifetime bikes will be allowed on at least some Wilderness trails.
On our way back down I turned around to snap this one, shows the downhill rideable section & the small canyon where we ditched the bikes before hiking to the WB. Four Peaks are poking above the saddle. This would be a more logical turnaround point in the future or simply head down the AZT at Mills Ridge.
Another look back at where we were, WB is somewhere in the upper right, the AZT can be spotted coming out of the canyon in the lower left and near the top of the larger mound on the left.
Sure was a fun descent.
Some steepness & exposure to keep things interesting.
Back at Mills Ridge. Photo by Jeff.
AZT continues onto the Vineyard trail, a super fun ridgeline.
Nice view of the upcoming ridge.
We were pleasantly surprised by how good this section was.
Lifezone change? End of the line for Saguaros at 3200'.
The trail progressively became more technical.
We popped out onto a jeep road for a few hundred yards, peeling back onto singletrack halfway up a climb. From here the trail climbed a lightly technical bit, but followed the contours of the terrain very well. The ride-ability of the trail soon became non-existent. The HAB ensued and it quickly ascended to near legendary status. I had flashbacks of Mingus Mtn for a brief moment, images of this danced in my head....
Day 1 from the Coconino250, Mingus Mtn HAB.
Nancy enjoying the HAB. Photo by Jeff.
I'm enjoying the HAB. Photo by Jeff.
That's the trail. Photo by Jeff.
Even Jeff enjoys the HAB, HAB or the views probably suck.
Eventually we made our way up to the saddle where riding our bikes would resume.
The lower water levels of Roosevelt Lake reveal a series of small islands.
Four Peaks....or is it Five??
Roosevelt Lake getting bluer as the day goes on.
This view of Apache Lake & Apache Trail stopped us in our tracks.
Nancy riding into a postcard.
The trail passes right by a microwave reflector.
Another show stopper, high above where we left our cars. (The small parking lot between the bridge & dam)
Everyone's favorite, downhill HAB.
Finishing off the loop.
Another 8.3 miles of AZT under my tires, bringing my total to 569 miles covered.
Jeff with the obligatory AZT sign photo.
Back at the overlook parking lot.
The route for the day.
Somewhere near the end of the ride we made the wise decision to skip the passage 19 loop. I was pretty whooped, still shaking the effects of my sinus infection from earlier in the week. The 20 miles we did ride took us 6 hours at touring pace, no way we were going to add another 24 miles of unknown terrain and make it back before dark. It's so beautiful around there, I want to see the terrain I'm riding through. We'll plan another outing to take on that segment.

For more on this ride, check out Jeff perspective.


  1. nice work John and great pics. what camera are you using?

  2. Thanks CB!! I'm using a Canon XSi DSLR, stock lens 18-55mm. This is the precursor to the T1i, etc. A little post-processing in photoshop for a few of the tough lighting shots.