Features: Commonly Bikepacked
Continue north through the heart of the San Francisco Volcanic Field and its nearly countless cinder cones. From Williams, you’ll pass through rural neighborhoods on mostly graded dirt roads before turning onto remote doubletrack into a quiet countryside of pinon-juniper woodlands before descending north into lower grasslands. Red Mountain Lookout offers a short side trip option along the way.
SP Crater marks the farthest northeastern corner of the loop. The striking cinder cone is worth a hike to the top for stellar views into the crater itself. Locate the obvious steep trail on the southwest side to complete a scramble up to the top. Plan for ~90 minutes round trip at least for this side hike.
Once riders have circled around SP Crater, the route climbs back toward the San Francisco Peaks, passing the yawning Colton Crater along the way. The route then turns east around O’Leary Peak and onto loose cinder trails that lead to a back entrance of Sunset Crater National Monument. The cinder trails are generally packed from ATV traffic, but they can be slow going for ~4.5 miles as you experience the otherworldly landscape and views of the 1,000-year-old Sunset Crater.
The route continues on pavement through the National Monument along recent lava flows before tackling steep dirt road climbs into the San Francisco Peaks’ inner basin. The final part of the climb to route's highest point can be accomplished on old doubletrack, or a very technical but beautiful singletrack. At the top, 2,500 feet above the Monument, you’ll turn onto Waterline Road, enjoy huge views along the west side of the Peaks, and then drop from Schultz Pass back to Flagstaff (with singletrack or dirt road options for the descent.)
Recommended printed topographic maps:
Trails Illustrated maps 856 (Flagstaff/Sedona) and 854 (Sycamore Canyon/Verde Valley) provides nearly complete coverage.
- Like on the first segment of the route, water sources are limited in this dry landscape. The most reliable water sources are (1) a pipe-fed stock tank at mile 44, (2) several pipe-fed stock tanks between miles 51 and 53 (FILL UP HERE!), (3) Sunset Crater N.M. Visitor’s Center at mile 98, (4) a pond in Lockett Meadow at mile 105, and (5) a piped spring at the high point on the route at mile 98.
- There are no resupply options on this segment until returning to Flagstaff aside from a gas station seven mile above Williams.