By Randy Victory
The Thumper Loop, is actually comprised of portions of three trails: Raptor, Thumper, and Lime Kiln. The Raptor singletrack starts out rocky and rolling for about a quarter-mile, then a steep pitch, “the Evil Hill”, appears. This is a real tester, and just about everyone has occasionally pushed their bike up this one (although it can be ridden in the middle ring). But, it’s the steepest climb on the entire trail. After this, it’s basically a 2 ½ mile grind to the top. On the way up, you’ll go over a cattle guard. At the top, you’ll see a bunch of trail signs. Take a right. This is Thumper. Designed by mountain bikers, this section is mostly downhill. Just as the trail gets fun, you’ll come to another cattle guard. NOW things start to heat up! The trail is rocky and loose. A small concrete bunny alerts you at the hardest technical section. Beginners will walk this section, experts will laugh with glee as they fly down it. Then you’ll come to a sandy doubletrack. Go right. This is Lime Kiln. Although not as “downhilly” as Thumper, it has some fast descending sections. First comes the sand, which gradually solidifies into small rocky dropoffs. Go left at the first fork with the Carsonite (NO Cars) marker. The terrain varies a lot, with sections like “the Stairsteps”, and “the Chalk Chute”. When you come to the next fork, go right. The trail runs to the right, past the Ranger residences, finally ending in a nice 2-3 foot dropoff and dumps you out onto the Park’s main road. Go immediately right, then take the second right to get back to your car. Bring lots of water. Slime yer tires! In the Summertime, try to be on the trail no later than 7:00 am. This is a good place to take beginners, to give them a taste of real mountain biking. And it’s a good place for first time visitors to Arizona – it’s got rocks, it’s got drops, it’s got sand, it’s got speed!! If you race, it’s a fantastic training loop!
But please be considerate of other trail users. Remember IMBA’s rules of the trail!
The trailhead is at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona. There are brown signs directing visitors to DHRSP from many adjacent communities, and numerous signs in Cottonwood itself. The Park is in central Cottonwood, just off of Main Street. (Call 928-634-5283.) There is a $5 per carload fee to enter the park (which entitles you to use of the astonishingly clean shower facilities), and camping is available. Because Sedona is nearby (25 minute drive), Dead Horse Ranch is an excellent place to camp ($12 & $19 per night, RV hookups available) and make daily riding expeditions to Sedona’s many trails. However, as long as you’re at the Park, you should ride Thumper. Take the second left after entering the Park, and park in the first parking area to your right. The trailhead is clearly visible from there, a kiosk with a large map and sage trail advice. Free maps are available at the entry station/visitor center. A couple of the Park Rangers actually ride, and will be happy to provide visitors with detailed trail info.
Bike & Bean (928-284-0210) & Absolute Bikes (928-284-1242) are the nearest bike shops.
Update: August 20, 2010
I went to Cottonwood this weekend for our annual BDGL Golf bonanza. I decided to take my mountain bike with me and check out Thumper Loop. Below is my Garmin readout of my ride. I started my ride at the Motel 6 in Cottonwood, since the manager told me it was only a few miles to Dead Horse Ranch State Park. He was right. It was 4.3 miles to the trail head from the hotel. It cost me $3 to get into the park on my bike, and vehicles cost $7. I was really surprised at how fun the trail was! Randy does a good job of describing the trail and how to get there. I have added some photos below.