Scenic Rides Within an Hour of Downtown Phoenix
Arizona is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated states for outdoors enthusiasts. While the Phoenix Valley may not seem like a motorcyclist’s paradise, there are multiple scenic drives within an hour of downtown Phoenix that will leave you wanting more from this beautiful state.
Bartlett Dam Road
A personal favorite, this 14 mile long road twists and turns down to the Bartlett Lake Marina. The road may be short, but it’s a beautiful, scenic drive on the north side of town. The Dam Road descends as it gets closer to the reservoir, with views of saguaro cacti, blue waters, and mountain peaks that lie within the nearby Tonto National Forest growing tall beyond the lake.
Barlett Dam Road is commonly traveled by motorcyclists, as well as large trucks towing boats to and from the lake. Always keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic as you wind you way down this scenic road.
The nearby towns of Cave Creek and Carefree offer various restaurants and watering holes. Be sure to stay hydrated if you choose to ride to Bartlett Lake! The Marina restaurant is not always open, so bring a water bottle before you venture down to the water.
From downtown Phoenix, this is roughly a 100 mile round trip. It’s a great ride on the weekends to take a dip in the lake and grab drinks in Cave Creek. However, I’d personally suggest you catch the sunset right as you make your way back to Cave Creek Road. There’s a dirt lot that overlooks the north valley nearby where you can watch the sun go down behind the mountains directly in front of you.
Ride the Scenic Apache Trail
Although 45 miles in it’s entirety, from Lost Dutchman State Park to Tortilla Flat, this 12 mile stretch of road is jam packed with unforgettable desert views. Around every turn it seems as if you get a new desert landscape via the ever changing boulder and mountain formations. This is definitely one of the most easily accessibly scenic drives in the Phoenix area.
The Apache Trail was named after the Tribes that once lived on this land and traversed the Superstition Mountains that the road winds through. In the early 1900’s, the road was primarily used by cattle and stagecoaches, hauling supplies to build the Roosevelt Dam.
The road leading to Tortilla Flat was repaved in 2018, making it smooth and desirable for motorcyclists. Ideal times to visit the area are weekdays when traffic is low. Unless you are comfortable riding on dirt roads, your journey will end at Tortilla Flat. The road quickly turns to dirt shortly after the historic “town.” If you’re willing to ride through the 22-mile stretch of dirt, be sure to stop off at the Apache Lake Resort! They’re friends of ours, and love motorcycles, too.
Take a ride to the top of South Mountain
Don’t have much time, but want a scenic view of the city? take a ride to the top of South Mountain. Yes, the big mountain south of town with the blinky red lights, or radio towers.
The South Mountain Park is free to drive through, open from 5am – 7pm daily, and offers multiple hikes and other recreational activities. There is only one way up, and one way down South Mountain. The park’s road is heavily trafficked by bicyclists and other automobiles. Be patient as you make you ascent to the lookout points. There are many blind turns and distracted drivers, so obey the speed limits.
There are multiple pull off points that offer panoramic views of the Phoenix Valley. When the winds are low and the dust is settled, you can see multiple Phoenix Landmarks. The Superstition Mountains and identifiable Lost Dutchman State Park to the East, the town of Buckeye to the West, Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale, as well as Arizona State University in Tempe are a few landmarks you can view. If you head all the way to the antenna farm at the peak, you’ll be able to see the many farmlands south of town near Maricopa and Casa Blanca.
Best times to visit? At Sunrise or Sunset to beat the heat. Want to avoid people? Try to go on a weekday for less traffic.
Take the Beeline to Jakes Corner
Arizona State Route 87 connects the Rim Country towns to the Phoenix metroplex. This is a major highway, with two lanes in each direction and speed limits averaging 60-70mph. From Phoenix, you’ll be able to watch the terrain change from low desert, saguaro covered foothills, to high altitude alpine and evergreen trees in Payson. Many Phoenician motorcyclists enjoy turning off at Highway 188, and stopping by Jakes Corner before descending back down the valley.