Submarine Rock Trail is named after a large sandstone rock (slickrock) that is clearly the shape of a submarine.
This rock, however, is at least 5 times larger than even the biggest submarine. To get to Submarine Rock most people start at the trailhead on Morgan Road. We parked there along with several other cars.
It was the Wednesday of our spring break, and by looks of it, a lot of people had the same break. We were careful to display the Red Rock Pass to avoid getting a ticket.
The Broken Arrow trailhead lay just across the parking lot. After getting all my cameras and GPS all dialed in I gave Cindy our customer peck on the lips, said, “See you back at the hotel,” and headed over to the Kiosk.The beginning of the Broken Arrow Trail was all single track, half on slickrock and half on sand. The trail had a lot of sharp turns, and short, steep climbs.
Those, combined with dozens of hikers, made this first part of the trail tricky to ride. Many hikers looked like a heart-attack waiting to happen. As with many well populated areas, there seemed to be trails heading most everywhere. Luckily, the Broken Arrow is well marked with cairns (two foot tall cylindrical baskets full of rocks). After riding about .5 miles I came to the bottom of a hill where the trail came to a “T”.
There were no signs. I decided to go left when I looked over and saw a big slab of rock painted totally black. I later figured out that the black was from the tires of the many jeeps that had turned around on the “slickrock.” Slickrock (it should be called sandpaper rock or friction rock) removes a lot of rubber from tires. I looked up and noticed a sign with a bat on it… and then looked up even further and saw a big hole in the pink rock.
There was a fence around the sink hole so I was unable to determine its depth. I looked down a good 30 feet and saw no bottom and no bats. After several attempts at holding the camera as far over the fence and the hole as possible to snap photos… I finally decided to go look for Submarine Rock.
Broken Arrow continues to wind up and down the base of Twin Buttes. After about 1 mile (from the car) there was a sign for the Submarine Rock turn-off. That trail took me straight down the hill… across a jeep road… and up to the front (north end) of the sub.
The front of the sub was too steep to climb… especially with a bike. I had to go around to the “back” to get up on it … and found myself in a crowd. Four Pink Tour Jeeps had just stopped to unload tourists onto the rock. Feeling claustrophobic, I quickly rode up to the front of the sub (the north end) to escape mass humanity and to climb to the highest point… to have a “look-see”.
Once on top I was alarmed to hear LOUD… FEMALE… SCREECHING… WAILS coming from the west. Quick observation told me a Pink Jeep was coming down a sheer, rocky path (which I later learned was called “The Staircase”) and the women were panicking. As the jeep reached the bottom another started down the top, followed by squeals, another Pink Jeep… more squeals… Pink Jeep… squeals… kind of like standing at the bottom of the Splash Mountain ride at Disneyland.
When I turned around to climb back down to my bike I was shocked… I was the only human left on Submarine Rock. I rode back down and off into a churning sea of red sand and cacti, and headed up “The Staircase”.
I managed to walk all the way to the top before another jeep started down. This one was white.
Riding the Broken Arrow Trail from Submarine Rock to Chicken Point was very much like riding the bottom part except for one thing… I scarcely saw a hiker. My ride was much more difficult though, as my chain started to wrap around my front low gear… which instantly ceased all pedaling. I tried cleaning and oiling my chain twice but that didn’t help. I was stuck using only my two larger gears in the front… which resulted in a little more walking.
Chicken Point overlooks the flat piece of desert that stretches out to Courthouse Rock and Bell Rock.
Chicken Point is also where all the jeep trails end… the rest of my ride would be “Jeep-less”! I was sitting peacefully at Chicken Point, enjoying a cool soft breeze and looking for the trail I would be riding in the valley below when… a jeep pulled up behind me and 4 loud people jumped out and joined me on the point. It was time to find the trail and get out of there. It’s not that I don’t like jeep riders… I just really like serenity.
Riding down from Chicken Point (on Little Horse Trail) is what Cosmic Ray calls “Mr. Toads Wild Ride”. I found one stretch a little “technical” and the rest just pure fun. I only got off my “little hoss” once on my gallop to the Llama Trail junction.
The Llama Trail proved to be a lot like the trails at Red Mountain… fast riding over red dirt… in and out of washes… mostly smooth with occasional rocky stretches exiting each wash.
I came upon an older fellow (my age) named Mike, who was taking a picture of a flower. I thought I had seen him up by Chicken Point, but he said he hadn’t been there. He offered to let me ride first but I told him I wanted to video someone riding in front of me. We rode a couple miles as if attached … then he finally stopped.
Mike said he was going to go lay on a rock up the mountain. I took his picture and told him I was making a website.
He said he used to be an electrician but now had a website that sold packaging. He said it was doing so well that he could go out and ride (and lay on rocks) most days. I told him I hoped my website would eventually pay for me to do “research” (going places and riding trails).
Mike went to look for a “soft” rock and I sped back to the Bell Rock Pathway, which is the hiker/biker “super highway”.
Bell Rock continued to grow as I headed south, toward our hotel in the town of Oak Creek. I knew I would have to ride around that huge promontory to finish the ride.
Fortunately, a worker at Bike and Bean had told me to take the Equestrian Bypass Trail, so I didn’t have to dodge hundreds of hikers.
To help visualize the landmarks I talk about in the rest of this story, or to aid in your own ride at Submarine Rock Trail, please enjoy this custom trail map I made. Click the icons for info on landmarks, both general and personal to my rides.
This fun little single track mirrors the super highway for a mile or so, often passing through bushes so thick as to remove most the skin from my arms (I wondered how horses ever fit)… but not having to buck the throngs of tourists made it well worth it.
The “Bypass” returns and ends at the Bell Rock Pathway (Highway)… but I went you right across and rolled onto the Big Park Loops trails. I took one of those loops to once again, avoid the Bell Rock Pathway… until I arrived at the parking lot. I was one of hundreds at the Bell Rock Pathway trailhead. A guy was selling Sedona T-shirts and hats for $6 each (later that day Cindy drove back over there and bought me a couple of Sedona shirts).
I carefully rode across Highway 179 and headed straight to Bike and Bean. Their shop worker cleaned and lubed my whole drive train, added air to my shock, and gave me some valuable advice… more than a half hour of labor for… only $10. He told me that “chain suck” was usually due to a bent sprocket or excessive dirt. I had done 5 Arizona rides the past 4 days and had not washed my bike. Excessive dirt was the culprit. My ride back to the Desert Quail Inn finished the 10.3 mile trip… and I couldn’t wait to try my clean drive train on the next day’s ride… to Cathedral Rock.
The video below will give you an idea of what this trail was like.
To view all videos go to my YouTube channel at MountainBikeDiaries.