This is certainly the most entertaining climb in Arizona - the first 15 miles takes you through an active copper mine, with digging going on 7 days a week, and enormous dump trucks hauling rocks all around the quarry.
We really had a heck of a time getting the profile and route map for this one. The road (AZ 191/Coronado Trail) has so recently been re-routed through the mine by the mining company, that Google Maps still shows the previous version of the road (although the imagery is updated on google earth). So even when we tried to manually have the route follow the new road, the topographical data went wild, showing that there were 90% and -30% grades in some places! All this led to enough frustration that I (Sam Lyons, @samlionman) decided to drive down from Phoenix and get the route data myself - by riding it! Although, that meant I had no idea how long or steep the climb would be, and ran out of water in 90+ degree Arizona sun…
The climb starts in Clifton, a small town in a canyon just underneath the mine. There’s a parking lot at a public community park right at the start of the climb.
There’s tons of wildlife in this area!
All within the first 2 miles of the climb in the town of Morenci.
Once you get out of Morenci, this is an… unsupported climb… to say the least
Morenci is home to one of the largest copper sources in the world. Each year, 3,300 employees bring up between 700 and 900 million pounds of copper.
Part of the in-ride entertainment includes huge gravel “waterfalls”. Noisy and dusty, but fascinating!
The exact same type of trucks I used to play with as a kid!
There’s a nice shoulder and very low traffic - no big mining trucks are permitted on the road.
This really is two climbs in one - once you pass the mine, it’s like you’re in a different universe, with how much the colors and foliage change.
The roadway isn’t bad, but around the same quality as Mt. Graham in some places, in others, freshly paved (overall, probably around 50-50). It was bumpy and gravelly enough however that I personally didn’t feel like taking the descent fast.
Dark red cliffs reminiscent of Sedona
The view from the top, HI Saddle Picnic Point, with the mighty Mount Graham in the far off distance.