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Matt Marine

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I’m Sara! I’m 21, a senior in college, and a journalism major.  I love to read, write, travel, and listen to music.  I’m always on to my next adventure.


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Name: Templeton Trail Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Bike Difficulty: (Challenging)
Time: 2 - 3 hours (riding only - take time to enjoy the scenery) Region: NW Arizona
Length: 11 miles (loop including the Baldwin Loop, but can be as short as you want) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1304 / -1436 ft / -132 ft (out and back)
Type: modified loop Avg Elevation: 5800 ft
Best time to go: fall, winter, spring Fees: Requires Red Rock Pass. These can be purchased at any Ranger station, kiosks, Circle K's and many other stores in Sedona or Oak Creek.
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: November, 2009
Short Description: My favorite mountain biking trail in Arizona. Great singletrack and Sedona's awesome scenery
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Spirit of Sedona; Coyote's Vortex; Top O' Cathedral Rock (almost); Creekside
References / Contact Information: Coconino National Forest website. Templeton Trail
Points of interest: Sedona. Bell Rock. Cathedral Rock. Oak Creek. Awesome singletrack! Unrivaled beauty
Special Considerations: Requires Red Rock Pass. These can be purchased at any Ranger station, kiosks, Circle K's and many other stores in Sedona or Oak Creek.
How to get there: Sedona is about four hours from Tucson (two from Phoenix). There are numerous places to start this trail. Most people start from the main Bell Rock Pathway trailhead (Waypoint 001). Click here for directions. The Bike and Bean bike shop is right across the street. Bike and Bean is a great place to stop, rent a bike, shop, get info or just talk to the nice (and informative) people. They've saved my butt a few times with maps, information and equipment. Click here for their website. You can also access Bell Rock Pathway from numerous other parking areas along SR 179. We usually ride from the next parking area north of the main Bell Rock trailhead due to lack of parking and the crowds at the main parking area (Waypoint 020). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is a great trail for beginners and kids. It follows a two-track road through some fairly flat desert just north of Tucson in Catalina. It’s wide enough for kids not to be too nervous about crashing into a cacti and offers enough sand, small rocks and whoop-dee-doos to let them hone their skills before trying out singletrack. All-in-all, a super trail to help the young ones start mountain biking!

General Information and History

There are miles and miles of four-wheel-drive, ATV and biking trails in the Rail-X area. Some of the trails are just perfect for beginners, others are extremely sandy and more attuned to ATVs and four-wheel-drives. The trail described here is only one out of hundreds. You’ll see many branching off as you’re riding it, feel free to explore and have fun.

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The Trail

Although I know it’s not practical, I’ll detail the ride as though you’re starting from the second Bell Rock Pathway trailhead (Waypoint 020) and end up at the main Bell Rock Pathway trailhead (Waypoint 001) to give you enough waypoints so you can start and end from either spot. Ride south for 0.3 miles from the parking area (toward Bell Rock) until you reach Waypoint 002 (the intersection with Bell Rock Pathway). Take a left and ride along the pathway for 0.6 miles until you reach Waypoint 003 (keeping to the pathway as other trails lead off to the east). This is the intersection of Templeton Trail. Turn left and go down Templeton.

This first part of the trail is a blast that takes you down to the new tunnel passing under SR 179 at Waypoint 004. Go through the tunnel and soon you’ll pass through a second new tunnel. This part of the trail can also be ridden fast as you wind through the scrub trees and red dirt singletrack. As you begin to get closer to Cathedral Rock, you start riding more on rock than trail (Waypoint 006). Riding the rock path along the section about one-third the way up Cathedral Rock is outstanding. Take some time to notice the view down in the valley below.

At Waypoint 007, you’ll intersect Cathedral Rock Trail. Down and to the right is the trailhead parking area, up and to the left is Cathedral Rock. You can hike up Cathedral Rock if you’d like. It’s about a mile roundtrip from this point and takes about an hour. The hike is steep and strenuous, but worth it, though I wouldn’t recommend you do it with biking shoes. See Cathedral Rock Hike for more information on this hike.

At this point, you have a couple of options. One: turn around and go back the way you came. Two: keep going straight and do the Baldwin Loop. Or, three: take a right and go down Cathedral Rock trail and ride the road back to the Bell Rock Pathway.

The route I’ll describe is to go straight and do the Baldwin Loop, then back to this point and then down the Cathedral Rock trail.

Keep riding on the rock for another one-third of a mile and Waypoint 008 and the start of the switchbacks. These can be very dangerous. A miss-peddle here can send you down 50-100 feet off the edge. Ride (or hike-a-bike) down the switchbacks down to Oak Creek. The first few hundred yards under the thick canopy of trees (especially in the fall) is outstanding!

Once you get to the creek (Waypoint 009), the trail becomes more technical. Expect to hike-a-bike a few times as you go along the southern edge of the creek. Ride until you get to Waypoint 010. This is the start of the Baldwin Loop Trail. You can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We’ve found counter-clockwise is the best way (though this is trip is detailed in the clockwise direction).

Ride along Baldwin trail for almost a mile until you reach Waypoint 011 and continue going straight. Another half a mile and you reach Waypoint 012 and the turnoff to Baldwin Crossing, keep straight on Baldwin Trail. Waypoint 013. After 1.86 miles, you’re back at Waypoint 010 and ready to go back the way you came.

Retrace your ride along the creek until you get to the switchbacks. You might have to do a lot of hike-a-bike to go up these, then continue riding to the Cathedral Rock Trail intersection (Waypoint 007). Again, you can go back using Templeton Trail or turn left and go down Cathedral Rock Trail.

Going left and down the Cathedral Rock Trail is somewhat technical. Portions of the trail are very steep and there are some big drop offs. I have to get off my bike a few times when riding down, though Arizona Explorer can ride most or all of it.

Once you get to the Cathedral Rock trailhead parking area (Waypoint 014), turn east and ride along Back O’Beyond Road. There’s a long uphill section, but it’s easy on pavement. Take an opportunity to view some of the spectacular homes along the road. Wow! Very nice.

The intersection of Back O’Beyond Road and SR 179 (Waypoint 015) is now a traffic circle. Follow the circle around to the road on the opposite side. There’s a church on the corner, ride up the ramp to the upper parking area. Keep going east (not into the actual parking spaces) once you reach the top of the ramp. The pavement quickly turns into a dirt road. Follow this to the right to start the Bell Rock Pathway Trail again (Waypoint 016).

Take a left as the trail begins and left again at the power lines. Now you’re on the Pathway proper. Keep riding, staying on the main trail. Not too far away, you’ll see another parking lot for the Bell Rock Pathway. This is another good area to bike the pathway if you don’t want to start from the main trailhead.

Keep going past Waypoints 017 and 018. During this ride along the Bell Rock Pathway, you’ll also ride over a nice wood bridge, then a smaller stone culvert. Fairly soon, you’ll pass the Templeton Trail turnoff (Waypoint 003 on the right) and you’ll be back on familiar ground.

If you started at the main Bell Rock Pathway trailhead, go straight at Waypoint 002 (instead of turning right to go back north to the second parking area). Keep riding along the wide path (dodging the plethora of hikers) until you’ve reached the parking area at Waypoint 001.

Now wasn’t that some of the best mountain biking you’ve ever done?

Have fun and be safe!

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