Havasu Trails … Stunning Scenery and Good Riding
I started looking for trails on the eastern border of Arizona and quickly came up with an area on the outskirts of Havasu City. We were camping near Quartzite, the RV shopping capital of the world.
Seventy-six miles north of there, Lake Havasu City sits on the eastern shoreline of Lake Havasu (a swelling of the Colorado River behind Parker Dam) and is probably best known for being the location of the London Bridge. The bridge was moved, piece by piece, from London to Lake Havasu in 1967.
I guess I should have figured the Trailhead for the Havasu Trails (called the Sara Park Trailhead) would be extremely busy on a beautiful Saturday morning … especially since this part of the desert had experienced unusual rainstorms the prior few days.
My plan was to ride the Watershed Loop, a nine mile, intermediate trail encircling most of the area. After getting my GPS and phone dialed in I realized the Watershed Loop actually began at another trailhead down the road a bit farther. I thought about jumping back into the truck but figured I could ride down there faster than I could load up the bike.
Interactive Map for Havasu Trails
- Click the big blue “P” for driving directions to the trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information.
The air was crisp so I wore my light nylon sweats and a windbreaker. About a quarter mile south and I passed the other trailhead, where I stopped to peel off my sweats and jacket.
The Watershed trail just kept heading south across an alluvial cut by washes draining from my left to my right. Much of this part of the trek was over a smooth doubletrack, pretty boring except for the sight of the serrated mountains directly in front of me at a distance to the south.
One highlight was passing the Beer Bottle Trail, marked by the appropriate bottle tree.
I also passed several other promising trails branching west but figured I had better stay on Watershed … at least until I got down near the lake.
The Fun Began
At about the four mile mark the Watershed Trail makes an abrupt right turn, directly at the foot of the serrated mountain. This was the point where the Watershed Trail got a little more interesting. Several 20 foot high mounds of smooth soil lay in my path, separated by low, sandy washes. My job was to peddle down as fast as I could, and assisted by my momentum, scale the next one. I worried about the crunch of my forks as I hit bottom and started up. Setting my Rockshox Pike to the stiffest setting helped some.
After passing a cave I could have fit into I gained sight of some kind of man-made structure to the west. What looked like a huge tan dance floor surrounded by split rail fence turned out to be some kind of animal assistance structure (according to a local Fire & Rescue volunteer I met in the parking lot later). From the Watershed Trail I would have had to have bushwhacked to get closer to the structure so I didn’t.
I had noticed the Crool Trail marked on my Trailforks app as “red,” an indicator of a most difficult ride. I was a little worried by the small, hand painted, unofficial looking, wood sign … usually an indication of a private trail builder. Sometimes signs of a sketchy trail.
While looking at my Trailforks app I looked up to see three spectacular columns back to the east.
However, I also noticed the Crool Trail would elevate me for some great views and also take me closer to the lake. I had not been on a red trail for a while so I decided to give it a go. I can usually ride most anything and am smart enough to walk if I am over matched.
The Crool Trail immediately climbed up the side of a mountain. I was able to stay on my bike the entire way but was disappointed by not getting any closer to the animal structure. The trail continued to climb until I passed right below the sheer cliffs of a huge cylindrical shaped butte. This part of the trail had a few tricky sections but was actually pretty well designed.
The views from this highest point were stunning. As I skirted the butte I came up behind a huge, cube shaped rock. After a photo I began my descent.
At first the Crool Trail was quite ride-able … but that soon changed.
Within a few hundred yards I found myself riding my first ridge trail. The Crool Trail builder continued to follow the ridges on his way west out of necessity … anything off a ridge was almost straight down! Riding a ridge means the biker must pass directly over the peak of each mountain. Passing right over a peak can be kind of thorny … for if you lose your balance you have no footing in any direction to catch yourself. And since you have little speed by the time you have climbed the peak, balance is always an issue. I did some walking over some of these peaks and down some sharp declines through loose rock.
Crool took me to Critters (a black rated trail) which brought me to Recycle … a virtual freeway down to the lake and Pilot Rock.
I found a middle aged couple (hikers) sitting at a picnic table at the base of Pilot Rock. I asked them if climbing to the top of the rock was possible. The woman told me the easiest way was to go around the rock to the right. I thanked her, parked my bike by a bush, and circled the rock counterclockwise.
Less than halfway around the rock I came to a great place for jumping into the lake, but no way to the top without rock climbing gear. Then I rounded the rock in the opposite direction and found a ledge which angled toward the top. I managed to climb up despite the metal cleats on my shoes.
Of course the views of the lake, the lagoon, of the mountains from the top of Pilot Rock were stunning … the perfect place to eat my apple and granola bar. I was surprised to see the lighthouse was not much taller than I was.
Riding back to the trailhead involved riding Recycle to Watershed, then continuing on my original loop. On the way back up Recycle I did get some more good photos. One of Pilot Rock, and one of the butte I had skirted earlier on the Crool Trail. I like being able to look at a landmark to see just how far I have traveled on my bike.
Watershed lead me to Trash Can, which dumped me back at the Sara Trailhead. The closer I got to the trailhead the more hikers I came across. When I crossed the main wash to start up Trash Can I spotted hikers on different trails in almost every direction. I was glad most of my riding took place several miles from the trailhead.
The highlight on the ride back involved going down “Kamikaze Drop,” although nothing near as treacherous as the backside ridges of Crool.
Trash Can followed the main wash toward town, then made an abrupt u-turn and returned to the Sara Trailhead.
Was it worth the 150+ miles to ride these Havasu Trails? You bet.
What was the highlight of the ride? The scenery! Incredible setting for mountain biking.
What about the trails? All trails were rated accurately in my opinion. All (except for the backside of Crool) were well built and maintained.
Any regrets? Yes, there were several trails I did not get to ride … like Beer Bottle. I wish I had visited on a weekday.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured on these Havasu Trails … 90 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for my Havasu Trails ride … just click on the box below.