Route Overview

Region

Central Arizona

Miles

184

Days Out

3+

Physical Difficulty

4.5/10

Season

Late Spring
or Early Fall

Elevation Gain

12,000'

Tire Size

≥ 2.3”

Technical Difficulty

3.5/10

Route Map

Route Details

Perfect for bikepackers looking to get off the beaten path while following dirt roads and two-tracks, the loop meanders through 800+ extinct volcanoes of all sizes, from small cinder cones to the towering San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona.

Optional side trips include fire lookouts, cinder cone summits, and Lava River Cave. This loop also serves as a northern extension to the popular Coconino Loop to create a longer, incredible experience.

From Flagstaff the route passes through sprawling parks and ponderosa pine forests, to dry pinon-juniper woodlands and then high grasslands and finally into the high aspen forests of the San Francisco Peaks, before descending a hugely scenic non-motorized service road back to Flagstaff.

  • Quiet, non-technical riding through pine forests and grasslands
  • 1,000-year-old cinder landscapes and lava flows in Sunset Crater National Monument
  • San Francisco Peaks’ Inner Basin and the Waterline Road traverse
  • Fire lookout side trip options on Red Mountain and O’Leary Peak
  • Hike into Lava River Cave, a 0.5-mile-long lava tube
  • Climb SP Crater, one of the most striking cinder cones in the area
  • What kind of bike should I ride? We recommend a mountain bike with tires at least 2.3” wide.
  • What’s the ideal time of year to ride the route? Generally late spring or early fall, but it depends on the year. The route may be ridable in drier winters. See the route guide for more details.
  • How long will the route take to ride?  Generally 3+ days, but it depends on the rider.
  • Do I need any special permits? A Recreation Permit is required for camping on Arizona State Trust Lands . The northern part of the route passes through land owned by Babbitt Ranches. Public access and camping is permitted – please respect their land and stock.
  • Are there any specific safety considerations on this route? (1) Do not plan on every stock tank having water, and carry more water than you expect to need. (2) Long stretches of the route can become absolutely impassible when wet. See the route guide for specifics. Pay close attention to weather forecasts and carry extra food in case you need to wait for a road to dry out. See the route guide for more details.
  • What is the longest distance between water sources? 50 miles. See the route guide for more details.
  • What is the longest distance between resupplies? 120 miles. See the route guide for more details.
  • Is it easy to find places to camp? Yes, dispersed camping is often relatively easy to find, but some routes also include some lengthy sections of private lands. See the guidebook for specific restrictions and suggestions.
  • Can I ride the route in either direction? Yes. However, the guidebook is for clockwise travel.
  • How do I follow the route? These routes are not marked on the ground in any way. You will need to load the route data onto a GPS unit, or use the Bicycle Routes Navigator smartphone app.

This route and associated information is just a starting point for your preparation. Your safety is your responsibility. Check for current conditions, route updates, use common sense, obey local laws and rules, and travel with alternative means of navigation. Bikepacking Roots is not responsible for any injury or damages incurred along this route.

 

If you ride this route and enjoy it, please consider joining Bikepacking Roots and making a donation to support route development and maintenance.

If you encounter any inaccuracies or changes please let us know at [email protected]

  • As of May 2022 the easternmost part of the route is closed due to the Tunnel Fire. Riders can follow Hwy 89 between Elden Springs Road and the Wupatki/Sunset Crater Loop Road to bypass the closure.
  • The Craters and Cinder Cones Loop was developed by Kurt Refsnider to create a northern extension to the popular 250-mile Coconino Loop (developed by Scott Morris and Chad Brown) and to share with bikepackers one of Kurt’s favorite Arizona landscapes.
  • The route traverses the traditional lands of the Hohokam, Pueblo, Zuni, Hopi, Western Apache, Dine (Navajo) and Havasupai peoples.