The Grand Canyon

Sometimes, a cycling story concerns great physical accomplishments.  Mountains are climbed, great distances are traveled, and exceptional speeds are achieved.  This is not one of those stories.

Other times, a cycling story is simply about a fun pedal in a neat place.  This is precisely one of those stories.

I recently found myself in the Grand Canyon with Maureen and her sister.  We did all the things one would expect us to do, including hiking down into the Canyon, taking a river tour, and staring at sunrises and sunsets.  These are all highly recommended activities but I shall gloss over them here due to the fact that this is a cycling blog and I know you are terribly interested in how cycling factors into any of this.

Here’s the thing about the Grand Canyon – it’s big.  It’s almost too impossibly big to fathom until you actually gaze upon it and say to yourself, “Wow.  That is big.”  The above picture is only a sliver of it. The Canyon is 300 miles long and ten miles wide.  It’s a mile down.  The National Park covers 40 miles of it.  You can’t possibly hike all of it during a few days of visiting.  You can drive over much of the rim, but the final seven miles to the west are along a closed road.  Only park vehicles and a shuttle service are allowed on this road.

And bicycles.  Bicycles are allowed on this closed road as well.

And thus begins are our story.  We decided to skip the shuttle (for the most part – details follow) and head over to Bright Angel Bicycles to experience the Canyon by bike.  They have a store next to the Visitors’ Center and they gave us everything we needed for a few hours of bicycle sightseeing.  They provided great advice on how to navigate the park’s tricky path system, which I still managed to be confused by more than once, and gave us a handy map detailing several different routes we might take.
We had already made up our mind to head westward, so after a short inspection of our cruiser bikes and a quick class on how to rack them on a shuttle bus, we were off.

Bright Angel Bicycles

Following a tip from the bike shop, we rode mostly downhill through a series of trails for a couple of miles until we reached a shuttle stop that would take us uphill to Hopi Point.  Having never racked a bike on a bus before, I was very grateful for the class I received at the bike shop and for the assistance of Maureen and her sister.  You never want to look too foolish in front of a group of strangers or a disapproving bus driver.

The Rim Road, heading west after Hopi Point

The road from Hopi Point is level and a fun for any cyclist. Shuttle buses run every 10-15 minutes and they are almost the only traffic on the road. The road runs along the canyon rim and affords magnificent views. There are several scenic overlooks with fantastic vistas and informative signage.

Your Humble Author, making an important point at Mojave Point
What I was pointing at.

There’s also a trail that runs even closer to the rim. Depending on the section of the Rim Road, this trail is made of asphalt or gravel. The gravel portions are not recommended for cycling but the asphalt sections are fantastic.

The trail is even closer to the rim. There are better views than this, but I was too busy viewing them to take pics.

There are over 30 miles of trails at the Grand Canyon. This particular section was 5.5 miles. When combined with the cycling near the Visitors’ Center, that made for about 9 miles total. Like I said, this wasn’t the hardest or the longest ride, but it was pretty cool. You can cover a lot of the park normally only seen in a shuttle bus and you have the road to yourself. If you’re at the Grand Canyon, it’s definitely worth a few hours!

The end of the trail – Hermit’s Rest
An extra pic – not taken during the bike trip. On the left, the sun is setting. On the right, a thunderstorm. Pretty cool.

3 thoughts on “The Grand Canyon

  1. It’s an astonishing place. I was there back in 1980, hiked into the canyon and had barely enough energy to get back out again. Couldn’t believe how the trails into it were so dangerous! Not much in the way of safety railings. Loved it.

    1. It hasn’t changed very much. I marveled at how “unsafe” the park was. It’s extremely easy to plummet to your death in scores of places. Tom-Foolery must be kept to a minimum!

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