The road that leads from Flagstaff to Snowbowl Rd is popular for cycling and a separate bike path alongside it is suitable for leisurely family rides. This is North Fort Valley Road/US-180, which continues all the way to the Grand Canyon. Use it to add distance to the huge climb toward Snowbowl or as a fun ride all its own. The 7 miles from town to the base of Snowbowl Road is generally uphill, but only steep for a few short sections. This is a 2-lane highway that receives moderate car traffic, but most of the way has broad shoulders that allow for safe riding.
What Makes It Great
This is the best ride considering quality and proximity to town. If you live near downtown, there’s no need to even drive; just start riding from the house. For cyclists training in Flagstaff, Fort Valley Road is part of a routine route from town to Arizona Snowbowl. This full ride is 13.5 miles one way and 2400 feet of elevation gain, but only the first 7 miles and 400-foot gain are on Fort Valley, before the turn onto Snowbowl Road and a long haul up the mountain.
For a longer ride with less incline, you can continue as far as you want on US-180. The scenery is amazing as you breeze through ponderosa and aspen forest, with clearings that give views of snow-capped peaks. It crests at just over 8,000 feet elevation then makes a long descent into Valle, which is about 55 miles from Flagstaff and is the next place with gas stations or restaurants. From Valle, it is 25 more miles to Grand Canyon National Park. This is a serious ride that is seriously rewarding, but should only be attempted with proper gear and endurance.
The Snowbowl climb and the Grand Canyon enduro are respectable long-term goals, but Fort Valley Road is great as an out and back of any distance. The riding is relatively safe and the scenery is remarkable, especially if you make it a few miles past Snowbowl Road where the forest opens up
Who is Going to Love It
Strong cyclists will blaze Fort Valley Road en route to Snowbowl or the Grand Canyon, but the ride can be tailored to anyone by customizing the distance. Set a car shuttle, or just ride out as far as you are willing to ride back. If you are still working up to endurance distances, practice on the flatter stretches of Fort Valley Road for a while. Continue past Snowbowl Road for more mileage and climbing that will help you train, and eventually you’ll be able to take on the big climb.
Families, kids, and dogs can use the bike path that parallels Fort Valley Road close to town, which passes by a coffee shop, Pioneer Museum, and Museum of Northern Arizona. It connects to neighborhoods near Flagstaff High School.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Downtown Flagstaff, take Humphreys St north to the traffic light intersection with N Fort Valley Rd/US-180 turn left here following signs for Arizona Snowbowl and the Grand Canyon. If you drive to start the ride, a convenient place to park is the Basha’s lot, straight through this traffic light and just up the hill. There are plenty of pull offs along the highway, allowing for car shuttle of just about any distance.
While riding on the road, be sure to observe all traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, and school zone speed limits, following the same rules as motorists. If you ride the bike path parallel to the road, be considerate of pedestrians and dogs who share the trail.