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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)


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

coro-middle.jpg

Mountain meadow near the northern start point

coronado-trail-top-section.jpg

Looking down on the upcoming road

coro-overview.jpg

Road that goes in the middle of the mining operations

freeport-mine-coro-trail.jpg
 

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This is a planned ride for me. I want to camp near Alpine so I can ride the road the whole day. I'm planning on a trip back to Texas to see some family and might load up the bike in the back of my truck and do just that. Set up camp in Alpine and ride the trail for a day. Then pack up & continue east the next day. If I can get a better seat soon I would just ride the whole trip. Thanks for the report.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
After seeing your post, I searched and viewed a few youtube videos on the subject. Looks like the gas stations may be few and far between?
From the gas station in Alpine to the one near the copper mine, it is about 98 miles. I had no problems with the FZ9 fuel range.
 

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thats awesome. i am very, very, very sad that on my cross country trip i was unable to ride it due to zues shitting lightning bolts all over it as i passed by barring my entrance to 191
 

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Dammit, now I expect to see traffic jams on this route. Remember to stop at Bear Wallow cafe in Alpine (good stop) and mention to the local guy next to you that you would like to see more wolves in the area...
 

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That looks awesome! I'm pretty sure I need to practice my cornering ALOT before I try something like that though. Tough to do in Indiana..


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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Dammit, now I expect to see traffic jams on this route. Remember to stop at Bear Wallow cafe in Alpine (good stop) and mention to the local guy next to you that you would like to see more wolves in the area...
I had breakfast at the Bear Wallow Cafe last week, a very friendly group of people indeed.

The issue about the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona is quite controversial. I saw several billboard signs that were staunchly against the proposal. I think the rancher would probably have thrown me into the river if I had supported the idea. <lol>
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That looks awesome! I'm pretty sure I need to practice my cornering ALOT before I try something like that though. Tough to do in Indiana..


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Check into track riding lesson if is offered in your area. You might buy a book called Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code from your local book vendor. It is an excellent resource on learning proper riding technique for the track and the street, especially riding fast with control. I have seen PDF versions of the book online but that might violate copyright law.
 

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While doing a search for pix of The Coronado Trail I ran accross this thread. Amusingly, I rode The Trail on my Goldwing on Sunday the 6th of July, a week before you. I live in Show Low AZ & it was the second time I rode The Trail. The 3rd pic from the top, I stopped at that same place.
This passed summer, I left Show Low about 730am & headed out past Sunrise Ski Resort. Despite being July in Arizona, I nearly froze to death before I got to Springerville. From there I headed to Alpine & got stuck in their damned 4th of July Parade. When I finaly got through that, I headed east to Luna NM. After eating lunch I headed south to a no name juction (US 180 to NM/AZ 78) & headed back into AZ. I hit US 191 just south of Clifton right about 3pm & got a room there. There isn't much in Clifton, so if you're looking for night life you'll want to stay in Safford instead. I got up early the next morning & got on the road by 7am. If those are the only 5 pix you got, you didn't stop enough times. ;) Both times I've rode The Trail it's taken me 5 hours to get from Clifton to Hannagan Meadow.
I'll be making that ride again this coming summer if anybody is interested in going along with a slow cruiser. :)
 

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I've thought about riding the Coronado Trail and from Tucson it could be done in a single day, but an awfully long day. It really needs to be overnight. I'll get around to it someday, I hope.
 

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I didn't see this post before. Dang that's a fantastic looking ride. Who the heck wishes that the curves would stop half way through?!?!?!?!?!?! Must be those imperial bike riders.
 
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I definitely have this route on my list. It's about 3 hours from where I live to get to the southern base of the run so it could be done in a day, but my god would that be exhausting. The roads up around Greer, Eager, and Springerville are very high quality. But as mentioned earlier, one must prepare for the temperature changes. I could leave Chandler AZ and it could be 70 degrees and by the time I'm around Eager, it could easily be freezing temperatures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I definitely have this route on my list. It's about 3 hours from where I live to get to the southern base of the run so it could be done in a day, but my god would that be exhausting. The roads up around Greer, Eager, and Springerville are very high quality. But as mentioned earlier, one must prepare for the temperature changes. I could leave Chandler AZ and it could be 70 degrees and by the time I'm around Eager, it could easily be freezing temperatures.
A one piece textile riding suit using proper layering techniques works very well. REI has a good demo on it here. However, the hands is the weak point. Electric heated gloves make a dramatic difference. I have tried hand silk liners but below 42 degrees it does a poor job at keeping your hands warm.

I hope to ride 191 again next summer. It was too wonderful.
 

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I live in tucson and have done the ride up 191 to alpine, az and back three times. First time I spent the night in alpine but the second two times I just did it all in one day. Such a fun ride. Going up or down through glenwood, nm is also a fun ride!
 
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