There are things in life that make it worth living. If you can find your joy and embrace it, each day will be that much sweeter. For me, a road trip to new places – sitting co-pilot next to my husband John with two mountain bikes secured to the back of the truck – is about as good as it gets. There are always new trails to ride, beers to drink, and things to see. Our trip to Sedona, Arizona was no exception.
My sister’s recent move to Sedona gave me the excuse I needed to finally visit. Fantastic mountain biking and the magnetic beauty of the desert were just a bonus. It’s a gorgeous drive from Salt Lake as you thread your way between Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks through Panguitch and Kanab, crossing the border into Arizona to Page at the edge of Lake Powell. South of Page, the road drops from the top of a plateau with spectacular views of an immense flat plane split by the crack of the Grand Canyon.
Mother Road Brewing Company
We reached forested mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona just in time for dinner and headed straight for original location of Mother Road Brewing Company on Mikes Pike St. Here, Mother Road brews experimental batches and pours all the favorites for thirsty patrons while servers from the pizza joint next door, Pizzicletta, take care of evening hunger pains. The menu includes wood-fire pizzas, salads, Italian appetizers, and house-made gelato. A local butcher shop, Proper Meats + Provisions, takes care of the daytime crowd with sandwiches, salads, and soups. Mother Road is kid-friendly, and the patio at the Pike location is also dog-friendly.
I love the beer at Mother Road. It’s clean, with vibrant hop flavors, and not a lot of bitterness. These beers are smooth and easy to drink. There’s no need to sacrifice either flavor or drinkability when swigging Daily Driver, the “low-octane” session IPA. The ultimate is Tower Station IPA, with its balanced composition of pale malts, tangerine, pineapple, grapefruit peel, and pine. I was happy to carry away cans of it, along with the Lost Highway Double Black IPA, for later consumption.
Dark Sky Brewing
If Mother Road can claim consistency, Dark Sky is all about creativity. My plans to visit Wanderlust were thwarted by their business hours. So, I found myself at Dark Sky instead, with an array if interesting concoctions to dazzle my senses. Blood of my Enemies, a tart take on the NE IPA, is brewed with passionfruit and hibiscus and looks like a glass of pink grapefruit juice. Wide Awake, an Imperial blonde ale brewed with coffee, lactose, and cocoa nibs, tastes like a creamy caramel macchiato. For a spicy interlude, I enjoyed a hoppy Imperial pale with pineapple and habanero called Dat Caliente Ananass. Astro Cookie is an Imperial stout brewed with schloads of Oreos. I enjoyed the cookie beer, but my jam was Feel the Rhythm, an Imperial stout aged in rum and bourbon barrels with coconut and vanilla. It was a delicious, boozy Almond Joy!
Dark Sky is also a great place to hang out. They have a variety of laid-back options, both indoors and outdoors. Kids and dogs are welcome to join you. Out on the patio, you’ll find a food truck to fill the void that beer alone cannot. Dark Sky doesn’t do a lot of packaging, aside from growlers and crowlers, but they did have some wax-dipped 22 oz. bottles of their barrel-aged beers. I was happy to acquire bottles of Feel the Rhythm.
Flagstaff has a lively craft beer scene with plenty of breweries to explore. Visit McGaughs for growler fills and a smorgasbord of craft beer from all over to fill up the cooler. If you’re mountain biking, the trails wind through lodgepole pines and offer nice flow with some technical rocky bits. Everything changes as you drive south through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. The forest becomes desert with immense red and white rock spires and faces. Visit Over the Edge bike shop to get trail information. Sedona’s trails are well-built and vary from easier intermediate to very technical.
We started out mellow on the Dry Creek trail system. It offers a veritable tour of the western Sedona area. Views are continuously spectacular, and the trails flow well, with some exposed technical bits around Mescal Mountain. We stepped it up on day two, riding to Cathedral Rock from Bell Rock Vista (two of Sedona’s famous energy vortexes). We skipped the notorious Hiline trail, opting instead for an easier pedal up Slim Shady and Templeton. For the return trip we rode Easy Breezy down a wash, in and out of a dry creek bed, and eventually back to our truck. All of the chunky ups and downs over dirt and rock and had us smiling like we’d ridden a roller coaster.
After three days of riding, we were ready for a change of pace. A yoga class at Aumbase (taught by my sister Yolanda), with 360° views of Sedona’s scenery, was the perfect way to shift gears into relax mode. Plans for the rest of the day included a dip in the creek at Grasshopper Point where slabs of rock invite lounging with a cold drink, and a refreshing waterfall is just a short paddle away. This little paradise is a cool refuge from the heat of the day. Later, we did a lovely sunset hike to Devils Bridge, but not before hitting the local brewery for lunch.
Oak Creek Brewing Co.
For craft beer in Sedona, Oak Creek Brewing Co. is pretty much the only show in town. Alternatives consist of the local Whole Foods, Famous Pizza, and Vino di Sedona. Oak Creek does have two locations, the original brewery in west Sedona, and the Oak Creek Brewery & Grill in the charming Tlaquepaque (pronounced T-la-keh-pah-keh) arts and crafts village on Route 179. The original location has a beer garden with ten beers on tap, nachos, and tamales for sustenance. The fire pit, live music, and regular drum circle will get you in sync with the local Sedona vibes.
We visited the more touristy location at Tlaquepaque where stucco walls enclose a courtyard with serene fountains, and ornate, colorful tiles line the steps up to the brewery’s entrance. If you like to shop, this is where you want to be. We lunched on a shaded balcony with ceiling fans to keep us cool. The food is fairly basic, but good. The beer is straightforward and approachable. I liked both the pale and amber ales and was delighted by the seasonal oatmeal toffee IPA. The porter’s roasted caramel malt flavor was a nice treat to end on. I was also able to snag a fancy etched bottle of the 10th Anniversary strong scotch ale as a souvenir.
My Arizona adventure was filled with good beer and deep sleeps in the bed of our truck after long fun-filled days getting dirty on the bike. I don’t think I will let too many moons pass before finding my way back to those peaceful panoramas of Sedona.
Look for a full photo gallery on our Facebook Page.