If you ask any Flagstaff cyclist to tell you the best road for riding, they are likely to say, “Lake Mary for sure.” This is County Road 3 that runs southeast out of town in a mostly straight path over gently rolling terrain. Traffic is fairly light and shoulders are wide on both sides, making it one of the safer rides in the area. The long highway allows for any distance you could possibly want to ride, as an out and back or point to point. The landscape is spectacular and there are good possibilities for seeing wildlife as well.
What Makes It Great
Lake Mary Road is a cyclist’s dream. Its perfectly rolling terrain and wide shoulders were seemingly made just for bikes. There is high-speed auto traffic here too, but typically only one car every minute or so. Another advantage is its proximity to town. Most Flagstaffians can pedal from their house to start the ride. There is also plenty of parking in pull outs or Forest Service roads if you want to park a car for shuttle.
The road is great for long training rides, and the scenery will keep you entertained with views of Mormon Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks. Closer to town, the road passes neighborhoods and farms. The fields here burst with yellow sunflowers during the summer. Most of the ride is through Northern Arizona’s typical ponderosa forest, but a long section of it opens up along the the shores of Lake Mary. Lower Lake Mary is a huge plain with seasonal water, and Upper Lake Mary is a reservoir that holds water year round. Wildlife loves the Lake Mary Area; you are likely to see deer and elk, sometimes in large herds, grazing along the road or near the lakes.
Who is Going to Love It
Lake Mary is a favorite road for training beginner and intermediate cyclists. Though there are plenty of hills, none of them are excessively long or steep. There is a net elevation gain as you head away from town, but it is gradual and hardly noticeable because of the alternating ups and downs. Experts can get their workout, too, by going fast and far. The road runs 55 miles to the intersection with AZ-87, which takes you to other towns further south. This longer route is often done as an overnighter by touring cyclists.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Milton Rd in Flagstaff, turn onto Forest Meadows St then take a left on Beulah, which is also Highway 89A. Instead of staying on 89A toward Sedona, turn left onto Lake Mary Road. From the start of the road, it is 5.5 miles to Canyon Vista Campground, 7 miles to Lower Lake Mary, 10.5 miles to the Upper Lake Mary dam, and 16 miles to the upper end of Upper Lake Mary. There are many spots to leave a car along the road, but be careful to avoid private driveways. There is a fee to park in any of the large lots at Upper Lake Mary.