BEST: SEPTEMBEROCTOBER: COOL TEMPS, NO CHICAGO SPRING-BREAKERS
Ninety minutes north and a world away from Phoenix, Sedona has a reputation for crystals, pink Jeeps, and more curio shops per acre than Disney World. Maybe that's why so few people realize it's a hell of a place to ride a mountain bike, with mile upon mile of juniper-and-manzanita hills, the chalky red singletrack rolling into smooth rock shelves with constant changeability. Unlike Telluride's brutal vertical or Moab's endless slickrock, Sedona's spectacular trails are all right out your back door. "It's like being a skier and living right at the base of the mountain," says 30-year resident Mike Bower, an architect who's been working on the path network since the eighties. Because so many trails switch quickly from gentle rollers to technical descents, beginners might not love it. What never changes is the awesomeness of the red-rock formations, making the riding great from winter (when snow might pile up on the evergreens and melt by noon) through summer (when dip-worthy Oak Creek is never far away). Temperate spring and fall are that much better. Base yourself at Sedona Rouge Hotel and Spa, a slick Andalusian-themed resort in West Sedona (doubles from $199; sedonarouge.com), and rent a ride from Absolute Bikes, in the Village of Oak Creek (from $80 for two days; absolutebikes.net). From their back door you'll immediately wheel out under the shadow of Bell Rock, one of Sedona's five major vortexesor, if you prefer, a damn gorgeous hunk of rock.