The Hart Prairie loop is an easy to moderate, yet shredtastic 15.2 mile ride entirely above 8,000 feet offering views and flowy, varying terrain in Northern Arizona.
This outstanding loop takes in high altitude meadows, aspen glades, fabulous evergreen forest, and unbelievable views in the San Francisco Peaks. The ride lacks any technical challenges, but long and consistent uphill grades (at high elevation) make for a good workout. The reward is an ending that includes miles of fast flowing downhill on some of Arizona’s finest singletrack.
Go Against the Clock
The Hart Prairie Loop can be ridden in either direction, and can start from a number of different parking areas, but for the best of the best, start at the signed intersection of FR 151 (Hart Prairie Road) and FR 418 and ride it counter-clockwise. There is parking on the north side of this junction.
The trail starts off heading South on Hart Prairie Road (FR 151) – a long stretch of dirt road with gradual incline. The proper kick-off to a classic mtb – you gotta earn that flow! Be mindful of possible traffic as this road passes by the Bismarck Lake trailhead, cruises along the shoulder of Fern Mountain and glides past the entrance of the Hart Prairie Nature Conservancy Preserve. If your timing is right, there is a seasonal stream that flows through the aspens at the base of Fern Mountain that would make for a quick break sesh area.
A Bit More Grind Before the Goods
There’s still a touch of climbing coming your way, but nothing to scoff at. Keep an eye out for FR 9215B. At the time of writing this, there was no sign or marker. We were tapped into the MTB Project app and went off sight. You will see a cattle gate that you will need to pass through which will let you know you’re on the right trail. The trail is starting to get spicy fun at this point.
Into the Great Wide Open
When the trail exits the forest and enters a wide open meadow with nice views, look for a well-traveled use trail near a “Closed to Motor Vehicles” sign. This will take you uphill to Aspen Corner just past Alfa Fia Tank. This used to be surrounded by trees, but they are all gone now. The bright side is more open views.
Link up to the AZT
The trail from the Alfa Fia Tank will lead you East, into the woods to meet with a well-signed trail junction of the Arizona Trail (AZT). For the next couple of miles you will weave in and out of meadows and woods with the occasional aspen grove. Now buckle up! The last 4-5 miles of this trail is nothing but wholesome, flowsome goodness! Enjoy and shred the long, gentle descent, swooping and scooping its way through the beautiful forest. When in season, the fern garden is a place of legend. You will know it when you see it.
OK Now Go Home
At the intersection with FR418 (a major well-traveled dirt road), head west back to your car.
Find The Hart Prairie Loop Trailhead
The small dirt trailhead is located at the intersection of FR151 and FR 418. It is unmarked but clearly defined and just off the road. The turnoff of 180 is about 25-30 minutes outside of downtown Flagstaff.
Want to See More?
Strapping a GoPro to different parts of your person or bike can produce some incredibly fun shots. Don’t be afraid to go for the extreme angles – plus these cameras are built like the 80s Schwarzenegger, so get at it! Check out the video post here.
Pingback: MTB | Hart Prairie Loop Highlight Video - The Adventure Dispatch