Snowbowl Road offers a quick, challenging workout close to Flagstaff, and it happens to be among Northern Arizona’s most iconic scenery. For cyclists, this ride is not to be missed. The uphill is 2000 feet of climbing in 6.5 miles, at a fairly consistent 6% grade, topping out at over 9300 feet elevation. The journey rewards with breathtaking views (pun intended) and of course, a thrilling downhill on the windy mountain road. The start of Snowbowl Road is only 7 miles from downtown Flagstaff, so it can easily done before work by driving or even biking from town.
What Makes It Great
Snowbowl Road is one of the most popular joyrides in the area. Motorists come from all over the state just to drive into the cool mountain air, colorful aspen trees, and amazing sunsets. For all the same reasons, plus its value as a good workout, the road is favored by cyclists as well. It is the road that accesses Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. As such, it is paved and well-maintained year round, though there is always risk of snow and ice during cold weather.
This high-elevation climate can be very different than the surrounding conditions, which can be great for cycling. On a hot day in Flagstaff, you will likely find comfortable temperatures for the upper part of the climb. Be sure to pack a windproof layer for the chilly ride down. This downhill is definitely the highlight of the ride, with steep curves and fast straightaways careening down the mountainside. Be sure your brakes are in top shape!
Who is Going to Love It
Strong cyclists looking for a quick burn are the most frequent riders of Snowbowl Road, and many start from home in Flagstaff to make a 30ish mile trip that takes 3-4 hours. For those looking to step up their game by training on a long climb at high altitude, you can skip the somewhat hilly ride from town by parking at the base of the road and riding only the big hill itself. Plan on 1-2 hours for ride up, depending on your fitness level. The ride down takes less than 15 minutes. If you have a whole day to spend and want to explore more of the mountain, extend your workout by hiking some of the trails at the springs area, Kachina Trail, or Humphreys Trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Flagstaff, take Highway 180 for about 6 miles to the well-signed right turn for Snowbowl Road. You can leave a car in the large parking lot at this intersection and start the ride from there. Bikes are allowed anywhere on the road, though there is no designated bike lane. Try to ride as far to the side as possible, because motorists are sometimes reckless coming around the turns.
If you may be riding in low light, be sure to have front and rear lamps as well as reflective gear for safety and adherence to Arizona law.