Riding from the south on Scotts-dale Road, the route to Bartlett Lake takes you through North Scottsdale and finally into Carefree, a modern Mayberry in the desert. Coming from the west on Carefree Highway to Cave Creek Road, you'll rumble through the less posh but equally scenic Cave Creek and its biker bars. Either way, you'll be having fun even before you take the final leg east to the lake. Once clear of civilization, the ride turns into pure heaven for motorcyclists. Though not as full of twists as the road to Tortilla Flat, plenty of curves and dips unfold on the last few miles. The asphalt on Bartlett Dam Road is smooth, but watch for sand drifts around the bends.
For a round-trip ride that takes only two or three hours from most points in the Valley, you get the feeling that you've gone somewhere much more remote. Arriving at the lake doesn't mean you have to grab a burger and beer at the marina. Take off your boots and cool your heels in the water on one of the beaches, or keep riding on the smaller, fun park roads that surround the lake. It's definitely better in the cooler months, but Bartlett satisfies the jones for something other than the Valley's straight-edge grid system.20808 East Bartlett Dam Road, Rio Verde