This route makes use of several well-known trail systems in the Flagstaff area, including the Campbell Mesa
trails, Arizona Trail, and Flagstaff Loop Trail, on a mostly level cruise into the rangeland east of town. There are some stretches with wide open views, lots of swooshing through forest, and even a couple tunnel crossings under Interstate 40! This a great option for anyone looking for a ride somewhat longer and more adventurous than the loops in the Campbell Mesa
There are quite a few gates along this route - be sure to close them behind you to keep the cows from wandering onto the interstate! This is a good morning or evening ride, it bakes at midday.
This loop can be ridden in either direction, and can be started from any of a variety of access points (shown on the map). This description starts at the closest access point to downtown Flagstaff, the Campbell Mesa
Trailhead, and proceeds counter-clockwise.
From the parking area pick up the Walnut Meadows Loop
trail toward the Arizona Trail. This popular path through the ponderosas is mostly level and smooth. At the far end of the loop a sign points to a Connector trail between Campbell Mesa and the AZ Trail
, crossing Old Walnut Canyon Road along the way. A signed left turn at the AZ Trail gets you heading north and you'll cross (again) Old Walnut Canyon Road at a major trailhead.
From here, the Arizona Trail (Walnut Canyon to Highway 89) bends east, occasionally dropping in and out of small drainages on smooth fun singletrack. The trail crosses Walnut Canyon Road (the paved access road to Walnut Canyon National Monument - turn right for an easy side trip to the awesome ruins!) with the forest giving way to more open juniper-pinyon rangeland.
For the next couple miles the scenery is sublime, with wide open views in all directions. Watch for elk (I had two pacing me about 10 feet from the trail over a space of about a 100 yards - amazing!) and enjoy the fast & smooth riding. Just before Interstate 40, the trail jogs to the east, where a trio of tunnels will take you under the highway and railroad tracks. From here the AZ Trail veers back to the west, roughly paralleling the interstate (which remains out of sight and mostly out of earshot). Signs will keep you on the AZ Trail at every potentially confusing intersection, of which there are many.
After a few miles heading west on the AZ Trail you'll intersect with a major and well-graded dirt road (there is only one), with paved Route 66 visible just to the south. This marks the point where you should turn left off of the AZ Trail and then turn left again on Route 66 to the east (watch for traffic and enjoy the wide shoulder).
You'll only be on Route 66 for a few hundred yards, using its bridge to get over the railroad tracks. Just over the tracks the Loop Trail - Campbell Mesa to AZT Connector
heads south (there is no sign as of this writing, but the trail is clear) through an obvious green gate. Two tunnels lead you back under I-40, and bit more easy riding gets you back to the intersection with the Campbell Mesa Loop Trail
. A right turn here follows the shortest path back to the trailhead.