Photo: Mountain biker

The biking options outside of Prescott range from desert to red rocks to high Rockies pine forest.

Photograph by Scott Markewitz, Aurora Photos

Pop. 42,265
GPS: 34°34'N 112°27'W

Prescott draws crowds to its evergreen mountains, granite cliffs, and alpine lakes around town. Tony Fanelli, of Sedona Bike & Bean, chalks it up to the varied landscape. "We’ve got three stages of riding all within an hour’s drive," he says. "True desert, red rocks, and that high Rockies pine." North of Phoenix, saguaro cacti give way to evergreens and a silent expanse of volcanic mountains (notably the 12,000-foot/3,658-meter San Francisco Peaks) stretches across the horizon. North America’s largest ponderosa pine forest is up here, and so is some of the best mountain biking in the country.

PLAY

Pedal Sedona and Prescott, paddle the Verde River, and, oh yeah, peruse that mile-deep (1.6-kilometer-deep) gash in the Earth most folks call the Grand. The New Goldwater Lake Trail starts from White Spar Campground on Highway 89, just south of Prescott, and offers a scenic taste of 1.25-million-acre (505,857-hectare) Prescott National Forest. Rent a bike in Prescott and stock up on snacks there too (bikes from $24 a day; www.ironcladbicycles.com). The well-marked singletrack weaves through pines for four miles to a side trail that leads down to Upper Goldwater Lake—perfect for a picnic.

EAT

Grab breakfast on the patio of the Dinner Bell Café, and try their homemade cinnamon rolls or buckwheat waffles with mango and walnuts (+1 928 445 9888). End your day with a micro-brewed Cream Ale from the Prescott Brewing Company (www.prescottbrewingcompany.com).

SLEEP

Rooms in the Prescott Log Cabin B&B have private patios overlooking the Granite Dells (doubles from $129; www.prescottlogcabin.com).

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