We visited Safford, AZ because we specifically planned to ride 90 miles of the Coronado Trail from Morenci, AZ to Alpine, AZ. Our plan was to ride from Safford which is about 50 miles from Morenci, and once we got to Alpine, we planned to ride back to Safford the same day. Our plan failed, and I would suggest to anyone thinking of riding this road the first time to ride it only one way in one day. The road (US-191 N) out of Morenci is a twisty moutain road with switch-back after switch-back after switch-back. That wouldn’t be so bad, but there was a lot of gravel on the road so we had to take it pretty slow. It took us about an hour to ride 15-20 miles past Morenci. At that point we were getting frustrated not knowing how many more gravely switch-backs we would encounter and knowing that we still had 70 miles to Alpine and still had to ride back to Safford from Alpine. There also is no gas between Morenci and Alpine so, due to the limited range of our bikes, once we got past 50 miles north of Morenci we would be at the point of no returning to Morenci until we rode to Alpine. We also wanted to get back to Safford before dark. We turned around after talking it over with each other saying we’ll do it another year with our dirt bikes or with a plan to stay over in Alpine and returning the next day or having a home base closer to Morenci.
The picture above shows the rest area where we turned around. I hope you can make it farther than us!
On our way back to Morenci, we stopped at the Chase Mountain area overlook. Can you see the Coronado Trail snaking trough the mountains in the picture below?
The ride back into Morenci was a lot easier than the ride out to the Sardine Saddle turn around probably because we knew what to expect. We stopped at the Freeport McMoran Copper Mine overlook in Morenci to take some pictures of the copper mining operation. We met our “tour guide” at the overlook; he was one of the truck drivers winding down at the overlook after his night’s shift. The truck he drove would get loaded with ~300 tons of rock; then he would drive the material to a location for storage or extraction. The driver explained what he knew of the whole operation, for example how acid was added to the leaching beds to leach out the copper then the leachate would be pumped to another area for copper extraction. The picture below shows the copper mine. Notice the small size of the vehicles and machinery.
Starting at the the Three Way intersection stop sign (described in a previous post), head north on US-191 N. It is a pleasant ride into Clifton. Clifton has two gas stations on US-191. Staying on US-191 N, you will soon ride into Morenci. There will be one gas station in Morenci on US-191 N before US-191 forks to the right. Taking at right at the fork will take you through the mine then on to Alpine after 90 miles. Going straight/left at the fork will take you into Morenci where there are lots of restaurants. Good luck with the ride!