Epic Rides, Scenic Trails and the Occasional Herd of Elk: Arizona's White Mountains

Not all Phoenix fun comes with dim lighting and fancy cocktails. Sometimes, there's nothing better than endorphins, sunshine, and sweat. Lover of all things outdoors, The Outsider explores the more natural side of Phoenix.

Leave it to mountain bikers to turn a serious, off-road race into a three-day party. There's something about the rowdy but life-loving culture that can turn any event into a great time.

The three-day Tour of the White Mountains took place at the Show Low Bluff campground in Show Low, Arizona. Single-track enthusiasts arrived Friday afternoon with tents, sleeping bags, and of course, bikes.

Was the ride worth the trip?  Find out after the jump.

The Spot: Pinetop is located 190 miles northeast of Phoenix. The small mountain town is just one of many popular vacation destinations in the scenic White Mountains area.

All race events, as well as the start/finish, took place at the Show Low Bluff campsite and venue located at Penrod Road south of the 60.

Guests first pledge their dedication to the cause by driving SUVs and compacts alike through an extremely rocky, at times treacherous, dirt road that leads the equally rocky campground. The undeveloped land made the perfect venue for RV's, tents, dogs, bikes, and fun.
View Larger Map

The Price: The entry-fee for the race, promoted by Epic Rides, ranged from $40 to $60 depending on participants desired mileage. However, the trails are always open, for free, to visiting mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Sight-seers and thrill seekers can easily access the trails by taking Sky-High Road from Bucksprings Road. Visit the Pinetop website for more information.

The Equipment:
For a ride this intense, attendees came prepared with water, helmet and ride. Owning a high quality mountain bike is crucial for more technical trails. If you try the trails on your own, be sure to have the proper cycling equipment and plenty of food and water.

Sweat Factor: The race was broken up into four parts: A 10-mile fun ride, a 15-mile single track frenzy, a 35-mile single track romp, and a 60-mile single track challenge. The majority of riders participated in the 35-mile route.

No matter the size of the challenge, riders journeyed into the mud-packed route covering a variety of local trails. Riders gawked at the beauty of the Panorama trail and amped up the power to get up the hills of the Springs Trail.

All four distances challenged cyclists' endurance, power and technical skills. And nobody walked away thinking it was easy.

The top 35-mile finishers rolled in a little under three hours and the 60-milers wheeled in after five. As the numbers of finishers added up, the afternoon evolved into a celebratory day of bike appreciation including six kegs of free beer from New Belgium Brewery, endless grub from Blue Banjo Barbecue, massages, music, and more.

Even the slower riders and non-participants celebrated the day by soaking up some sunshine and carousing with the rest.

The Scenery: It's always refreshing to get away from the never-ending heat of Phoenix, and the White Mountains offer a lush, beautiful backdrop for outdoor sports. The spot offered the typical mountain town scenery including pines, red rock and plenty of elk.

Although the 3.5 hour drive can seem like an endless trek, the scenery and weather is worth is upon arrival. Summer months provide cool temps and afternoon showers and Autumn brings in the bright colors and falling leaves. Even without the bikes, it's a worthwhile getaway.

Ups and Downs: Although the race was a riotous, good time, the Pinetop trails aren't the best in Arizona, but they do offer a unique experience. While taking in the trails, visitors can enjoy a small-town vacation and enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest. The trails are entertaining and often technical which leads to a good time and a good workout.

For a fitness challenge, try the switch-back climb on Pat Mullen Mountain.

Visit http://www.tracks-pinetop-lakeside.org/ for more information.

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kelsey Havens
Contact: Kelsey Havens