Now that I have discovered some fellow Arizonan toureres here, I am excited to ask for some info on local routes.
I was heading off this weekend to ride out the Apache Trasil from Mesa and return via the Four Peaks Wilderness road on my yet untested new Novara Safari. All without a map and I was wondering if finding your way through the Four Peaks area was as simple as following the road or are there forks and turns, etc that make a map necessary? Are the roads marked at least?
Update: I made it up the Apache Trail well enough. It was tougher than I thought but I made my planned first day desitination - 80 miles. The second day of my two-day trip didn't go as planned. Fought a strong headwind heading up to the beginning of the road that goes over the mountain through the Four Peaks area. That put me behind schedule. Then the road up was so steep it wasn't ridable so I started pushing the bike. My planned average speed of 5 mph dropped to 2. After a few miles I calculated the time I would need to get to the top and realized I didn't have the daylight to make it completely over. That was not a mountain I was willing to bike down in the dark. I didn't bring the supplies for three days and, besides, I had to be at work the next morning. Strange thing here in the low parts of AZ, when the weather gets nice, the days get short.
So, it looks like a great route if you're into "adventure touring" - spectacular scenery, mountains, empty dirt roads, did I mention spectacular scenery? There's nothing like riding through deep canyons and gorges. I hope to try it again however...
Things I would do differntly:
1) Plan in more time. That was not a two-day trip. Besides, I don't know if I like doing 80 miles in a day; there's no itme for anything else.
2) Use more rugged tires. Continental Town & Country's don't have enough bite in the mountains.
3) Check the camera's battery before leaving home. Sorry I don't have any pictures to share.
I jeeped your loop several years ago to see if it would be good for riding (I live in Mesa too). I went counterclockwise, first going by Tortilla Flat, then Roosevelt Lake before getting to the offroad stretch that runs along the north side of the peaks and on down to Highway 87. Like you were wondering about - there are many side roads on the offroad stretch. It is apparently rare for someone to even drive the entire stretch, as the side roads were often more established. I had a good map with me, but many of the side roads were not on it, making navigation difficult. I recall, there were two splits on the downhill side where it was a 50/50 guess to find the correct road back down. I guessed correctly, and felt very lucky. The road condition was not too rough, but some sections were very steep. I remember there was one section on the downhill side where my Jeep was sliding in four-wheel-low. If you go back, I reccommend taking a map and GPS. Also, if you have an SUV, consider driving the loop first so you will know where to go when riding.
Gary Fisher Tassajara commuterized, Evil Imperial stealth bomber, Sun Custom Cruiser, Punk Rock Trike of Doom (in progress), and an S&M Holmes (sentimental).
Maybe that route would be better in the opposite direction. I seem to remember the road up this (West) side is not quite as steep as the back (East/Roosevelt) side. It's been a while since I've been up there though. That sounds like a fun trip though. Did you encounter any water crossings in the 4 Peaks area? It's been so dry this winter.