San Diego to Prescott by Motorcycle — Part III
…were able to test out some of the turning techniques…
Prescott has some great hiking, so we took advantage of this and hiked every morning 3 – 4.5 miles. After a late breakfast we spent the afternoons riding. It was a great combination to get in both some exercise and adventuring. I loved being back here reconnecting with friends and nature.
We followed Senator Highway east out of town. Eventually it turns to dirt road and we just kept going. Depending on how far back people live, the maintenance on these roads varies. It was nice to be in the forest where it was cool but we still have a good surface to ride on.
We came back to Senator Highway another day and took the road up to the fire lookout tower. Turns out the gate to the lookout was locked and we couldn’t go to the tower or the loop we had planned. We don’t recommend this road for motorcycles. It is very rutted and there are a lot of large loose rock to give automobiles traction when it rains — not so much traction for the bikes! Also, someone suggested that we take the fire escape route down and that was no fun on the motorcycles at all! Very steep with loose rock. Those roads are probably better on a dirt bike!
The ride on Copper Basin Road drops in elevation pretty significantly. It is a great ride out of the woods with panoramic views and nice turns.
Our bikes are loaded and we are ready to go — we packed light and were surprised how much stuff we had!
Copper Basin Road
Copper Basin goes out of town on the west side. We quickly ran out of blacktop and were on a really wide dirt road. We weren’t sure why this road was so wide, but it was nice. The shade of the forest only lasted for a couple miles, then the landscape turned to chaparral. We started out pretty high up, so the views were spectacular.
We had taken a dirt bike class and were able to test out some of the turning techniques that they showed us. We rode this road all the way out till we hit pavement again in Skull Valley (we were practically back on Iron Springs — the road we took to come into Prescott). We turned around and rode back. At this point you can take Iron Springs Road back into Prescott and make a loop, but we wanted to drive on the dirt road instead (it’s a little longer to take the dirt road as well).
Road to Jerome
This was an awesome day! The road turns to dirt shortly after you leave Williamson. This is wide open cattle country that climbs into the mountains about half way through the ride. The views as you near Jerome are just spectacular!
Above, Franz stops to enjoy the views from the road to Jerome (on far right curve). The red rock in this area is just spectacular!
Back roads to Jerome
Our final dirt road trip was amazing. So far, the Copper Basin Road was my favorite, but the roads to Jerome were even cooler! First off we saw a lot of animals — a coyote, pronghorn antelope, lots of deer, cows, hawks, ravens and vultures. And second, the changes in elevation and rock colors were visually stunning.
We headed north out of town on Williamson Valley Road and made a right onto Pioneer Pkwy. Follow that to 89 north into Chino Valley. Make a right onto East Perkinsville Road (that road is also called Forest Service 354 Road, but on the off-road map it is labeled 70). Now you are in cattle country, and the road turns to dirt pretty quickly. The land is pretty open here with the mountains in the distance. Eventually we reach those mountains and start to head up them. We are treated to views of even more mountains and color the farther we go.
If you follow 70 all the way you will end up in Perkinsville. We wanted to go to Jerome, so we took a cut over to 72. It is called 9899D. It will save you about 4 miles. Head south on 72 and that goes right into Jerome.
72 is a really nice uphill section. The road turns to red rock here, and the views and drop-offs are breath-taking.
We took a short walk and got some ice cream. There are several public bathrooms in Jerome and a couple nice parks with incredible views. We took our ice cream to a picnic table in the shade. It was really nice to hear the local bar music and watch the people walking by enjoying the day. It was really a great ride up here, and it was just as interesting to see it in reverse!
Note: When we planned this ride we had intended to take 318A up to Jerome. It looked shorter, but we missed a turn at the bottom. We saw it at the top and Franz rode a short distance down it to see if we should take it back. It would probably be fun on a lighter dirt bike. We decided to go back the way we came. But that might be an option for someone with a dirt bike.
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We rode every day on this trip — 1054 miles in 8 days! We had layers to control temperatures from 57° F to 97°. We have Kawasaki KLR 650’s. Mine is 2009 and Franz’s bike is 2011. They are dual sport so handle fairly well on the dirt roads, but they are heavy, so we avoided ruts and sand washes when possible. This is what makes Prescott’s dirt road system so appealing to us. There are lots of tracks to explore and check out there.
In the future we will probably trailer the bikes and do the run to Prescott in one day by Jeep. That would give us two more days of dirt road riding and skip the boring straight stretches and highway miles. It would also give us a vehicle if we wanted to preview some of the routes.
I would recommend starting your trip in Prescott at the ranger station and get the free Motor Vehicle Use Map for Prescott National Forest. They also have trail maps with clear designations on them for various activities like hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and dirt bikes. This can help narrow down your choice fairly quickly when picking a route to try out. Arizona also has 12.2 million acres of public land where you can camp and follow four-wheel access roads. Check out the Bureau of Land Management website for more details.
Also don’t miss the charm of Prescott’s downtown. There are some great restaurants and shops to explore. If you are lucky to be in town for a festival there will also be some great music. If you like western history check out Whiskey Row and the Palace Restaurant and Saloon.
Resources to plan your own trip!
Enjoy the journey!
Karin H Wilson
Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller
I am Karin and I just love to share a good story — preferably with snacks! I’m particularly interested in capturing the world’s beauty and wonder in photographs.
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