This is a full day escape trip on excellent roads with over a mile of elevation changes, open range, mountain roads, deep canyons and incredible scenery. It runs about 318 miles in length, so plan a full day, but it could easily become a two day ride if you take time to explore the various attractions along the way.
I met up with buddies and started the ride from downtown Phoenix, leaving on highway 202 East to Hwy 87. more affectionately known as the 'Beeline Highway' to locals.
Beeline is a 65 MPH road, divided highway for most of the trip to Payson, and is as good or better than any interstate for comfort, but any two lane road for scenery.
The first attraction along the beeline is Mt. McDowell, AKA Red mountain. There is a unique 'cut' along the side of the mountain that gives you the impression some giant Paul Bunyan with a massive chain saw ripped into the side of the mountain. The slot is remarkable from some angles, and you can see it clearly from the beeline.
Red Mountain is the local landmark for Fountain Hills, a planned community built with a massive fountain in a central park.
This fountain can shoot as high as 500 feet, but normally only goes a little over 300 feet. You can see it from the beeline, but if you are passing through close to the hour, turn left on Shea and then right on Saguaro and follow this pleasant (35mph) road to the park and watch the fountain anytime from 0900 to 2100 , running for fifteen minutes from the top of the hour. The exception is when the wind goes above a certain point: then they either keep it low or shut it off.
If you need gas before the 70 miles to Payson, there is a great station just North of Fountain Hills at the Fort McDowell Casino exit. http://www.fortmcdowellcasino.com/ The Fort McDowell Casino has quite a number of events and it is very busy, so watch for geriatric gamblers rumbling their RV's into this popular attraction.
This gas stop is popular for bikers. You'll see everything from scooters to Boss Hoss V-8 bikes here if you pause for a short break.
Continuing North on the beeline, the next attraction is to watch to the East for
Weaver's needle is reputed to be the landmark for Jacob Waltz's (The original lost dutchman) Lost Dutchman Mine. You can see it clearly for a number of miles as you tool along beeline, and seeing the harsh Superstition mountains from this angle makes it easy to see how hard it could be to find the minute markers Waltz supposedly left.
After reading a little on Jacob and his experiences as a miner in the Wickenburg Vulture mine, I suspect Jacob did not want to admit to 'highgrading' his ore from the Vulture. But Gold hunters would shoot me for suggesting this and destroying their dream of finding the mine.
It's only a few miles farther when the road becomes interesting. Watch for the signs pointing to the road to the Four Peaks.
The four peaks are a major landmark in the Phoenix area. Winter snows make these a beautiful Eastern backdrop to the horizon. Don't be tempted by the four peaks 'trail' unless you are on an off road capable bike, as it is 27 miles of dirt and scrabble. The trip is worth it if you do have a dirt bike, just watch for ATV's blasting around corners at breakneck speeds.
Leaving the four peaks road, you begin to climb through a valley filled with massive boulders. Not surprisingly, this area is known as 'The Boulders'. Boulder mountain is off to the Northeast and has the same rugged look as the area around the beeline.
You'll crest a pass and come around a corner formed by Crabtree Butte, and then be treated to a fabulous view of the next mountain valley. The first time I rounded this corner I startled from the view and scared the death out of my wife, as she thought I was going to hit something.
Mt. Ord will be off to your right, Maverick Mountain to your left, and Iron Dyke Mountain up ahead. Watch your speed in this area. The road slopes down steeply into a series of sweepers, and traffic tends to be erratic. The sceneric can distract you, but I haven't heard of any bikers losing it on these wide curves. Some drivers will press you, though, so be cautious.
You'll pass through another valley and come to Sunflower. I'm not exactly sure where Sunflower is, though. I've seen signs telling me it's there, but never actually seen Sunflower. Good luck picking it out. . .
The next stop is Jake's corner. There is a large rest area, but if you turn right on 188 you'll come to Jake's Corner in about 2 miles where you'll find biker friendly people with gas and drinks in a little store, and a biker friendly Bar.
Continuing North on the Beeline you'll come to Rye, the home to more salvaged motorcycles than I have ever seen.
I'm sorry I don't have a better photo. If you're making this an overnight trip, stop in and poke around. The owner is not known for making great deals, but the sheer number of salvaged bikes is overwhleming.
From Rye it's only another 18 miles over Oxbow hill to Payson. Your first notice is the Mazatzal Casino http://www.777play.com/
There is a gas station outside the casino. I've stopped for gas and then a little gambling at this casino. It is not too large, and we've enjoyed the payouts a few times.
There are a number of really great restaurants in Payson. The Beeline Cafe is a very popular Biker Breakfast stop. The prices are great, service superior, and the food is good.
Payson is home to Zane Grey, one of America's most prolific western authors.
Zane Grey's original cabin where he wrote is now the site of a park.
Their website is http://www.zanegreycabin.org/ and it's worth the one mile trip to the left.
Payson has a number of interesting art stores. The website is http://www.ci.payson.az.us/ .
Watch for the signs to Highway 260 and turn right on 260 towards Overgaard. The road is busy and all at grade through Payson. Watch out for shoppers and other drivers. Shortly after leaving Payson the road becomes two lane and mountain grades and curves. There are loads of tourists, as you are now driving just under the edge of the Famed Mogollon rim. Never heard of it either, eh?
Until I moved to Arizona the Moggolon (Mo-gee-on) rim was nothing to me, now I learn it is the dominant geological landmark in the area, the eastern end of the geological plateau that creates the Grand Canyon.
The RIM is up to 2,000 foot higher than the valley below, and as you drive East on 260 you will see absolutely incredible scenes of massive cliffs stretching as far as you can see.
Again if you have time, a short side trip is to turn left on General Crook's trial (Trail road 300) for two or three miles. I wouldn't fo much farther as the road turns to dirt and gets monotonous (If seeing such spectacular sights can be monotonous. There is a pull-out there with incredible views.
General Crook was the Army General who relocated the local native americans to their respective reservations, so depending on your point of view he is either one of American's heroes, or villian.
Louis La'mour writes extensively of this area in his novels, with one lengthy passage (and novel) devoted to this specific area, including the tonto natural bridge (another destination later).
You climb from the valley onto the top of the Mogollon rim near willow spring lake recreation site, and after a twenty mile run through Alpine forests, come to Overgaard.
Bison Ranch is a good stop for a comfort break and coffee.
There are a number of shops and restaurants here, and the old west architecture is relaxing.
Their website is http://www.bisonranchsuites.com/ and the Heber/Overgaard site is: http://www.heberovergaard.org/
The scenery from here to Show Low is pretty much the 'sam-ole, same-ole' that you've just driven through for the past 45 minutes, until you get closer to Show Low and see the remaining ravages of a massive forest fire six years ago. Reportedly an out-of-work fire fighter decided to spark up some work, creating one of Arizona's costliest forest fires.
Show Low's motto is 'Named by the turn of a card' http://ci.show-low.az.us/ which comes from the legend that two prosperous, wait -- I'll let you click on the website link and read it for yourself.
This is the halfway point for the trip, and unless you plan to stay, this is a perfect place to gass up, get a snack and a break, and get ready for the fabulous Salt River Canyon that you are about to see as you turn southwest on Highway 60 Back towards Phoenix. Watch for the signs pointing to Globe.
Hwy 60 drops 1,000 feet in the next ten miles, and is more alpine scenery as you enter the Fort Apache Inidan Reservation. Fort Apache (of western movie fame) is not far off of Hwy 60, but don't expect to see the fort of John Wayne fame -- that was filmed at fort Verde in Verde Valley and in Sedona and Monument Valley.
The scenery begins to change as you decend, until the road meets up with the Salt River.
Salt River Canyon is known as the Little Grand Canyon, but after driving through this remarkable canyon, I prefer it to the 'real' grand canyon.
You decend a little under 1,000 feet down cliff roads overlooking spectacular cliffs and river scenes. Be extremely cautious, as you will be distracted, but more importantly, all the four wheeled drivers are even more distracted, and many are 'acting out' as they wander all over the road as they admire the scenery.
There are often Apache vendors by the rest stop at the bottom of the canyon, and they are more reasonable with their excellent jewelry than anywhere else in the state. I recommend stopping at the least for a comfort stop, if not to admire the incredible scenery here.
After leaving the bottom of the canyon, you will climb 1200 feet until you ride between Carol Spring Mountain and Timber Camp mountain into the Jackon Butte recreational Area.
The terrain begins to transition back from Alpine to desert moutain, and you come into Globe before you are ready to leave the Salt River Canyon behind.
Like Show Low, Globe has their own story on their name http://globemiamichamber.com/ . The town is part of a tiny metropolis with Miami being the western city. The two combined make for an interesting town, and I suggest driving downtown and seeing the intriguing Architecture. There are a number of Biker friendly businesses in Globe, and several very good and inexpensive Mexican restaurants.
Leaving Globe and finding Highway 60 can be challenging, so be prepared to wander around a bit before you head West on 60 towards Superior.
The road to Superior is more of the same -- fantastic mountain valleys and views with sweeping curves, and one very tight valley with a lengthy tunnel through one side. I suggest caution in this stretch of the road, as there are mining related vehicles on the road along with a number of 18 wheelers, and the speed is erratic.
From Superior it is only a few miles to the Florence Junction where the road turns into divided highway and you leave the mountainous terrain. This is a website http://www.fetlerart.com for this image if you are interesting in Mountain Art.
The eastern side of the Superstitions can be deceiving from the road. They almost look mild, but if you take the time to learn about this very rugged range, you will see that they are virtually untamed and truly not completely explored. You can also catch glimpses of Weaver's Needle from this side as well as your starting road of the Beeline Hwy. For the curious, Weaver's needle was named for a part of Weaver's anatomy. No comments.
Watch for the Peralta trailhead before you get into Apache Junction. That marks the trails leading to the location where everyone searchs for Jacob Waltz's Lost Dutchman Mine.
Apache Junction itself sprawls across the desert. Superstition H-D is a great Harley dealer http://www.superstitionhd.com/ with regular test rides if you are interested.
From here, Hwy 60 becomes just another divided American freeway, but if you are like me and made this trip in one day, you might be glad to click the cruise control on (road king classic. . .) and glide back to Phoenix.
This is a motorcycle ride in the state of Arizona. This motorcycle route has 12 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by bdking in September. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by bdking