Mingus Mountain, Autumn Colors


Getting To Mingus Mountain

This last October I took a mountain bike ride down Mingus Mountain near Cottonwood,Az to see the fall colors. My wife drove me to the top of Mingus on 89A through Jerome. At the peak of elevation on the mountain, turn left. After about 1 1/2 miles on the dirt road you will top out once again. There is a fork in the road at the top, both having cattle guards. This is where we stop to unload and the bike ride begins. The right hand fork has a sign for Allen Springs Road.

View to South

View to South after about 3 1/2 miles

The Road

Allen Springs Road goes around the south end of Mingus Mountain, North along the East face, then down into Cottonwood near the airport. This is a long downhill run if there ever was one. About 22-23 miles in length, only 1/2 mile of uphill, approximately 4 miles of near level riding and all the rest is downhill. The downhills vary from 5% to 10% grade. Elevation change is over 4000 feet. So check your brakes before you attempt to ride this road. You’re going to need them to be working properly.

Looking South, Verde Rim

Looking South, Verde Rim


The first time I rode down this road I rode my Schwinn Beach Cruiser. Not the bike of choice, but I was dying to ride and it is what I had. My pedal brakes got the heck fried out of them. Ended up walking over two miles because I was sure the rear hub had been destroyed from the friction. Luckily, it was not.
The second time was better using a full suspension mountain bike with front disc brake and standard rim pincher brakes in the rear. Having good brakes did wonders in functionality and for my confidence. The day was a little cloudy, but still a great day to be riding.

The Ride Down

As soon as you cross the cattle guard on Allen Springs Road you’re coasting downhill and picking up speed fast. There were people camping on both sides of the road for the first mile, but almost nobody else after. I got going early so it was nice and cool, refreshing after an Arizona summer. The Gamble Oaks are yellow and stand out among the evergreens.
In fifteen minutes of straight-up downhill racing there is another fork in the road, stay Left on Allen Springs. Soon the road levels out and even a little uphill. Another mile and the view opens. Black Canyon to the South is thick with chaparral, but you can see some fall colors at the bottom. When the road turns North you can see the Verde Valley and down the Verde Rim. Five minutes from here you face the longest section of uphill on the entire trip. Once this is conquered your uphills are over with.

Verde View

Verde View from East Face

This next section of downhill is steep and rocky, about a mile long. Once at the bottom of this you are in color. The East face of Mingus has a lot of Arizona Maple and Mexican Locust, so it really lights up. From here it levels out flat for several miles making the riding easy and good. This is also where the bulk of all the fall colors are, making it really easy to stop for photo’s and absorb the views. I rode this on October 23. Unfortunately missing about half the potential colors. My best guess for the perfect date would be October 18 or 19.
Along the flat stretch

Along the flat stretch

Getting to the Bottom

At the end of the level stretch you reach another fork in the road. The road to the Left stays level and will go around the North end of Mingus Mountain over Jerome. The road to the right is Allen Springs, going downhill steeply. This section is reasonably treacherous, really steep, really rocky. Hang on tight or walk because wrecking here will be painful. Actually there are two sections like this with a break in between. After the second one though you’re home free. About seven miles of decent dirt road, every bit of it downhill and fast. Be careful and keep an eye out for cars. By the time you see the dirt start turning white you’re almost out. Soon you will hit pavement, a mile later the airport, ride over!

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