Bikepacking The Robbers Roost Overnighter In Sedona
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If you know anything about me or this blog, you know that I love Sedona. The mountain biking there is my all-time favorite and the views and everything else just make me feel giddy. So several years ago, when it was time to choose my first-ever bikepacking trip, I opted for the Robbers Roost Sedona Overnighter.
I found the route on Bikepacking.com and overall, it was great! The views were amazing, the route had a good mix of singletrack and doubletrack, it was challenging at times – mentally and physically, and it was easy to plan, which was great for a first-time bikepacker.
In this post, I share my planning tips, a day-to-day breakdown, where we camped, and more.
(But first, watch this quick video of the trip!)
- Miles: 52.75 miles
- Elevation gain: 5,191ft
- Number of nights: 1 night
- Rideable time: 99%
- Percent singletrack: 40%
- Start/End: Sedona Cultural Park
- Water availability: Very limited
The Robbers Roost Overnighter in Sedona is a 52-mile route that winds its way through the Dry Creek singletrack area of northwestern Sedona and out to the dirt fire roads and OHV tracks farther west.
It’s a great mix of singletrack and gravel road and the total elevation gain over the 52 miles is only 5,200 feet, making it a great two-day overnight adventure.
We started at the Cultural Park at the Girdner trailhead as recommended on bikepacking.com. We left our van there overnight and had no issues (although the Cultural Park area is for sale, so I’m not sure how long overnight parking will be tolerated).
The first stretch of Girdner up to Cockscomb and Mescal is pedaly, flowy singletrack with a little bit of chunk and tech. Since we’re mountain bikers, we found all the singletrack to be totally manageable on our loaded bikes, but I could see several sections being a little tricky for those not accustomed to rock gardens and small trail features.
When we dropped down to the creek crossing at the Devil’s Bridge trailhead, we were hoping to find it full of water, but nope! It was completely dry. In fact, there was NO water along the route at all. We – as naive newbie backpackers – were kind of relying on the two water points along the route. Later in the day, we ended up asking a very nice family for 6 bottles of water from their fully stocked OHV rental cooler. Oops.
Once out of Dry Creek (which was very dry), the route continues on paved road and then mellow dirt roads all the way out to the Honanki Heritage Site. The views are gorgeous and I regret not taking the time to go look at this large cliff dwelling site…
From Honanki, the road takes a turn for the worse. It becomes rutted, rocky, and full of baby head rocks. Just keep pedaling! We camped at the top of the ridge about a mile and a half past Honanki (around mile 20.5) and had amazing sunset views out over the red rocks and were greeted by hot air balloons at sunrise the next morning.
The descent down from our campsite on the ridge was very bumpy and rocky until we hit FS525C. From there it’s smooth sailing up to the Robbers Roost turn-off (which isn’t marked, make sure you take a right onto 9530! See map recommendation in the next section).
Robbers Roost Cave is super cool and definitely worth making the short trek up to. There are a bunch of trails without a clearly marked path, but just keep making your way around the left side and you’ll find your way to the cave.
From Robbers Roost, you’ll enjoy several miles of fun downhill along dirt roads with 360° views. Take your time and enjoy it!
Now here’s where things get less fun. The bikepacking.com route says to take a right onto OHV road 5913 shortly after turning onto Red Canyon Road. If I were to do this route again, I would not take 5913 (aka Diamondback Gulch) and would instead continue on Red Canyon Road (525) to Boynton Pass Road.
Why? Because 5913 is a popular OHV route and in addition to having ATV’s zoom past you every few minutes, the condition of the road is awful. Some of the hills are so steep and torn up that they’re impossible to pedal up and you’ll be bumped and jarred around for the entire five miles (which feels like an eternity).
I’m not saying don’t do this section if you want to follow the route to a T, but personally, I wouldn’t do it again and I don’t think it’s worth it. (I would actually say definitely don’t do this section if you’re riding on a weekend due to the ATV traffic).
Once you make it through the FS5913 section, you’ll retrace your steps a bit and then pick up Aerie Trail to Cockscomb to Outer Limits. This last leg of the ride is only 9 miles, but for me, it felt so much longer, probably because I was super thirsty and rattled from the OHV road beating.
This was unfortunate because Outer Limits is one of the most fun (and technical) sections of the ride and I wish I had skipped the OHV road so I could have enjoyed it more!
Outer Limits will spit you right back out at the Cultural Park where hopefully you have a cold beverage waiting for you.
Plan for no water
Plan for NO WATER on the Robbers Roost Overnight route. Bikepacking.com does mark two places where there may be water, but when we did this trip in November, both of these creeks were dry.
There is a cow ‘pond’ on the side of the road on the way up to Robbers Roost, but it looked pretty nasty and I wouldn’t recommend relying on this either.
As I mentioned above, we had to ask some ATV’ers for 6 water bottles, which I felt pretty guilty about (they were more than happy to gift us water, but I felt like such a newbie). We should have planned better ahead of time! That being said, if you are in a pinch, there will be lots of ATV’ers with fully stocked coolers on the back, so if you find yourself running out of water, I’m sure you can bum some water from them as well.
Personally, I need to drink a lot of water, so for me, I would have liked to have had 4L of water per day (so 8L total just for me). That may seem like a lot to some people, but I sweat a lot and need to drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated!
Where to Camp
There are plenty of camping options west of Dry Creek. We camped about a mile and a half past the Honanki Heritage Site on top of a ridge with great views out over the red rocks. This made for a 20.5-mile first day and 32-mile second day.
If I did this route again, I think I would try to get down to the FS525C road that leads up to Robbers Roost just to make the mileage a little more even.
I wouldn’t recommend camping at the base of Robbers Roost, though. It’s not as scenic as other places. (Unfortunately, there is no camping allowed at the Robbers Roost cave).
Be prepared for ATV Traffic
Be prepared for a lot of ATV traffic once you leave the Dry Creek singletrack area. For this reason, I do not recommend doing the Robbers Roost Sedona Overnighter on a weekend or during a holiday week. Most of the ATV’ers were courteous to us and slowed down when they saw us, but others just zoomed right past.
This is also a big reason why I wouldn’t do the FS5913 road again. There was lots of ATV traffic and the road was so torn up because of them.
How to navigate the route
Bring a paper map. Even though it’s just a one-nighter, I HIGHLY recommend bringing a paper map. Cell service is spotty in places and you don’t want to run the risk of draining your battery.
We stopped by Canyon Outfitters and picked up a Sedona Outdoor Recreation Map.
Alternatively, I recently purchased the Garmin 830 Edge GPS Computer, which works great for bikepacking adventures and the battery lasts a lot longer than cell phones.
Best Time of Year to Ride
The best time to bikepack the Robbers Roost Overnighter are the months that have cooler day temp but don’t get down to freezing at night. We did our trip in November and the temps were perfect. Day temps were in the 70’s and night temps in the 40’s. I think March and April would also be good months, but definitely check the weather and temp averages before you head out.
Rainfall also tends to be slightly higher in March and April, so there’s a better chance that water will be in the streams.
Our Bikepacking Gear
Both Andy and I used our Santa Cruz Chameleon’s (AL D+) and they were perfect for this trip. I had 2.8” tires on mine and Andy had 3.0” tires on his and they worked great.
Because of the slightly techy singletrack, I wouldn’t recommend a gravel bike or anything with tires less than 2.4”.
We both used a full Moosetreks bag setup (frame bags, seat post bags, and handlebar rolls). While these bags are very budget-friendly and a good choice for bikepackers just starting out, they aren’t the best quality.
Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Bikepacking Bags + How to Load Your Bike
Andy also carried a hip pack and I had on my 3L hydration pack. We strapped water bottles to the front forks using anywhere cages.
To carry more water (which we needed), next time I would switch to larger water bottles and stash another 3L water bladder along the route.
We didn’t get to use it because there was no water in the streams, but the Platypus GravityWorks 2.0L Filter System is a great lightweight choice for bikepacking. If you are absolutely sure there will be water along the route, a water filter is great to have.
- A lightweight 2-person tent (depending on the temps, you could forego the tent and just sleep under the stars)
- 2 lightweight sleeping bags
- 2 inflatable sleeping pads
- Clothes to sleep in
- Extra pair of socks
- Camp stove
- Solar light
- 2 headlamps
- A lightweight, warm puffy jacket each
- Lots of snacks and mac and cheese for dinner. Yum!
Related: Bikepacking Food – How to Eat Well on a Bikepacking Trip
- Bikepacking the Black Canyon Trail in Arizona
- Bikepacking the White Rim Trail in Moab
- A Complete Guide to Mountain Biking in Sedona
- Bikepacking 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Have you done the Robbers Roost Overnighter bikepacking route in Sedona? What questions do you have about planning your trip? Leave a comment below!
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