This outstanding loop takes in high altitude meadows, aspen glades, fabulous evergreen forest, and unbelievable views in the San Francisco Peaks. The ride lacks any technical challenges, but long and consistent uphill grades (at high elevation) make for a good workout. The reward is an ending that includes miles of fast flowing downhill on some of Arizona's finest singletrack.
This ride can be traveled in either direction, and can start from any number of parking areas. As described here, the ride starts at the signed intersection of FR 151 (Hart Prairie Road) and FR 418. There is parking on the north side of this junction.
A counter-clockwise ride (described here) will take in the longest stretch of dirt road first, and allow full enjoyment of the swooping easy descent through aspen forest near the end of the ride.
From the parking area, head south on Hart Prairie Road (FR 151). This road climbs through forest and sees some traffic from cars and trucks. The road passes the intersection for the Bismarck Lake trailhead, and heads up along the shoulder of Fern Mountain and past the entrance of the Hart Prairie Nature Conservancy Preserve. Near here is an unexpected seasonal stream that flows through the aspens at the base of Fern Mountain. When running, this is a great spot to cool your heels.
Enjoy knockout views as you continue south on Hart Prairie Road to the signed but unremarkable intersection with FR 9215B
. At this intersection turn east (left) and follow to little-used two-track up through a cattle gate. When the trail exits the forest and enters a meadow with nice views look for a well-traveled use trail near a "Closed to Motor Vehicles" sign. This heads uphill to Aspen Corner past Alfa Fia Tank (another nice spot to take a break!).
Just past Alfa Fia Tank at a well-signed trail junction, head north (left) on the Arizona Trail (Aspen Corner to FR 418)
. This five-star route is comprised of unsurpassed easy singletrack through meadows and aspen glades. The latter half of this trail is a long gentle descent swooping back and forth through beautiful forest. At the intersection with FR418 (a major well-traveled dirt road), head west back to your car.