Mountain bikers may wonder if they're in Moab when cruising the smooth, red surface around Submarine Rock.
Sure, Moab gets all the glory, but Arizona mountain bikers don't need to drive all the way to Utah for great slickrock riding. Deep in the red rocks of Sedona lies Submarine Rock, a large hunk of slickrock that rises out of the desert and offers riders a great technical challenge.
In fact, Sub Rock is so challenging -- and the Sedona terrain so dramatic -- that professional mountain bikers Brian Lopes and Leigh Donovan recently shot an extreme video here. I got to tag along and shoot some still photos. We parked at the end of Morgan Road, just off of Highway 179, early in the morning. We pedaled about two miles on a rough dirt road before arriving at the slickrock (don't be surprised to see tourists in pink jeeps on this route, but don't worry, they can't follow where you're going).
The three of us had been there barely a minute before Brian was off doing some of his incredible stunts. I snapped a few pictures -- taking advantage of the early morning light -- then got on my bike and joined them on the smooth surface. It was like being in a skateboard park for bicycles. Up short, steep rock faces without any effort, then right back down; it was an incredible rush.
After riding on and around Sub Rock for about an hour, we pedaled south to Chicken Rock. This strange looking outcrop is only a short distance away, and it offers more great riding on its slick surface. Chicken Rock also has the region's best views of the spectacular red rock formations.
Brian and Leigh performed their hard-earned skills for the cameras. When I joined them (somewhat humbly), it was a real eye opener. I had considered myself a good rider until that point. While enjoying the biking here, don't forget that slickrock riding can be especially demanding -- and very unforgiving if you fall.
About noon, when hunger had finally taken over, we packed up and headed to the car. We rode back the same we way we had come, although you can also complete a loop by continuing past Chicken Rock and taking Power Line Trail to Morgan Road. The single track route goes around Lee Mountain and passes the Chapel in the Rock, a well-known church that is built into the base of the hill.
Remember, this is a very fragile environment; always ride on slickrock or established roads and trails. No bikes are allowed off trail or in the nearby Munds Wilderness Area.
Directions: To reach Submarine Rock from the Greater Phoenix area, drive north on I-17 to Highway 179 and proceed toward Sedona. About a mile before the bridge at Telaqupaqie look for Morgan Road on the right (a sign reads "Broken Arrow Estate" Turn right and drive through the housing development to the parking lot.
Contact: Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District at (520) 527-3660.