Imagine if I told you there is a fantastic motorcycle road that runs for 123 miles between two towns and features 500 switchbacks and sweepers, with a 3,500 ft elevation gain that reaches as high as 8,500 feet. Would you believe me? I was able to experience such a road and it is called the The Coronado Trail or US 191. It has been described by many motorcycle enthusiast as being the most twistiest highway in the entire USA.
Quite a bit has been said about the of "Tail of the Dragon", US 129, in North Carolina, as being the most challenging road to ride, with 318 curves in only 11 miles. While the Coronado Trail runs 123 miles, it's technically less twisty. But if you ask me, I'd rather ride 123 miles of twistiest, than just 11. The bike of choice naturally is the Yamaha FZ9. With proper after-market suspension set-up and a optimized flash ECU tuning by Stoltec I was all set.
I've read some forum posts from people who have ridden the Coronado Trail and said that it was so twisty, that by half-way through they wished it for it end soon. I kept this thought in the back of my mind as I rode along the highway. Yet, no where did I ever feel like wanting it to end. Quite the opposite, I wanted it to keep on going. If you're riding a clunky cruiser perhaps it is easy to get fatigued but the FZ9 thrives in this type of riding environment.
Since the monsoon or rainy season was starting to make it's appearance in Arizona, that usually meant rain in the afternoon. So I had to make a choice. Would I run Highway 191 from south to north, which is the most favorite option or head from the high mountains down to the desert south? I opted to ride south. But when I reached the end of the road near a very large copper mine, I had ample time left in the day and the weather was cooperating, so...I filled up the Fazer with go-go juice at a local Shell station and headed back up towards Alpine. I enjoyed the route in both directions and really do not prefer one direction over the other.
What also makes the Coronado Trail so enjoyable to ride, is that it has very little traffic. I rode this on a Sunday morning. I encountered around five cars, and I quickly passed them. There was a handful of other bikers, mainly cruisers but an occasional GS went by on the opposite lane. Otherwise, for the 123 mile stretch, no other road blocks. How often can you ride such a great road for that long without any obstructions? For this I suggest starting out your ride preferably on a early Sunday to avoid any road construction. I was on the road by just a little after sunrise.
As I mentioned earlier, most motorcycle riders will start the ride at the southern end, by approaching US 191 from Interstate 8, east of Willcox, AZ. Much of US 191 at this point is easy to ride, with great views of grassy hills. Once you get into Clifton, the scene switches to steep canyon walls and mining operations from Freeport McMoran. As you pass the town of Morenci, the Fazer fun begins.
The first 10 miles of the Coronado Trail are probably the most tightest of twisties. Nearly every curve is a 10-15mph switchback. And you're quickly gaining in elevation too. The road actually runs through the Morenci Mine, the largest copper mine in the USA as my picture below shows. The road here is red with the dust from the mine. There are also some really great viewpoints along the Coronado Trail. Since the road takes you up to as high as 8,500 feet, you can see a lot of countryside. Some of this is just breathtaking.
Once you get to Hannagan Meadow, the road becomes less twisty, and is very easy to ride, but is no less scenic. I stayed in a cheap motel in Alpine. A quite ranching community with a several good dining options.
I look forward to returning another year to this amazing part of Arizona riding terrain, but not on a cruiser!
Top section overlooking the valley
Mountain meadow near the northern start point
Looking down on the upcoming road
Road that goes in the middle of the mining operations
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