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I am sitting on my bike atop a mountain looking down at a 50° incline only inches from my front wheel. I have yet to test this trail but I am dialed-in and ready to go.
I’m Scott from Flagstaff, and today I’m in western Canada competing in an elite mountain bike race. My trusted bike and I have been pounding the brown pow competitively for a few years now. I am feeling good about this race; I have something special up my sleeve that no one else around me does – a world-class training ground that has prepared me for anything.
Hi, I’m Scott Countryman. Riding competitively has taken me from coast to coast and internationally for the past six years. So, when I tell people that my favorite place to ride is my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, they are usually a bit surprised. The trails are top notch, community is vibrant, food is killer, and outdoor access is unbeatable. If it’s not already, put Flagstaff on the shortlist for your next mountain bike adventure.
Flagstaff has excellent trails for riders of every skill level but there is also something special for the advanced rider that wants to push their limits, like I did Canada. You can test your skills on some of the most technically challenging trails, test your fitness at Flagstaff’s high elevation, and test both at the same time! The city of Flagstaff is perched at 7,000’ but the trails wonder up to 9,000’ or more. Even the fittest rider will feel the burn here! Once you come to terms with the altitude, the trails can provide the next challenge if so desired. The region’s volcanic geology creates a rugged landscape filled with giant rock slabs and boulders. The trails weave around and over these features, roll in and out of canyons, crest up and over mountain ridges to give you the ride of your life!
Don’t let me scare you (LOL), this place is not just for the seasoned riders. There are as many mild as there are wild trails. If you have never ridden a mountain bike, Flagstaff offers novice riders plenty of trails to enjoy, and the views are the same on all of them -- breathtaking!
The Schultz Creek trailhead is the heart of the Flagstaff trail system. Most rides will start and end here for the intermediate riders and up. A simple out-and-back on the Schultz Creek Trail will be enough for some and riders wanting more will have numerous options to make their ride longer and/or more technical. Those seeking the most strenuous and challenging trails should head up Mount Elden Lookout Road and then make their way back to Schultz Creek. Need a warm up before jumping into the whirlwind of world-class riding? Some laps at Fort Tuthill County Park or Campbell Mesa will get you sharpened up and still provide the fun.
If you see someone on a trail (and you won’t if you choose wisely), wave and say hello. The riding community in Flagstaff is friendly and welcoming. They will probably invite you to ride with them and if you play your cards right, they will take you downtown after the ride for some delicious food and drink.
Flagstaff has some seriously good food and has made a name for itself as a craft brew hot spot. The downtown area has a half dozen or more breweries and taprooms within a square mile as well as a few others elsewhere in the city. So “rehydrate” the fun way. First, make a quick stop along Mikes Pike, which by the way was the original Route 66, to pick up odds and ends you may have forgot at Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution, order a pizza from Pizzicleta or Fratellis, and finish off the night at Mother Road Brewery.
Maybe the piece of the puzzle that ties all of this together and makes Flagstaff so special is the ease of access. All of the trails, restaurants, shops, and neighborhoods can be connected easily by bike. You wouldn’t be crazy to ditch the rental car here; take a shuttle to your hotel and let your legs do the rest!
Scott grew up on the outskirts of Phoenix and started mountain biking when he was 12 years old. Thereafter, he moved to Flagstaff to attend NAU and that’s when he changed direction and became a professional mountain biker. Seven years later, he’s still as excited as ever about the town he lives in; and there is a lot more than just world-class trails keeping him in Flagstaff. A wide selection of delicious restaurants, a tight knit outdoors community, easy bike access around town, and breweries on every other corner are just a few other reasons.