Many thanks to my friend Bob Lovell for providing this terrific summary of biking options at Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim. All photos are by the author.
Biking at Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)
by Bob Lovell
No, you can’t ride the Bright Angel or Kaibab trails down to Phantom Canyon Ranch. But, thanks to significant park management changes, there is a lot of biking fun to be had at Grand Canyon anyway. Bikes are permitted on all paved roads. Some roads are closed to cars and carry only buses and emergency vehicles. These have narrow lanes which the buses may not leave and no shoulders, so bikers have to dismount to allow buses to pass. There is a 13 mile hiking trail along the rim offering spectacular views, and biking is permitted on significant chunks of it. The park plans to extend this shared-use path, called the Greenway Trail, to allow end-to-end car-free biking. For now, some sections are too dangerous – after all, one of the overviews is named “The Abyss” for good reason, and most of the trail lacks guardrails.
There is a bicycle bypass around the heavily travelled middle section. Like most National Parks I’ve visited, it seems that 90% of the tourists confine themselves to the closest 10% of the trails, so the bypass is a good safety feature. Part of it runs through a nice ponderosa stand, so it has its compensations.
The (free) buses are equipped with triple bike racks mounted on the front, so you can go by bus to, say, Hermit’s Rest at the west end, ride the length of the trail to Yaki Point, then return by bus. I rode the eastern end on a ranger-led trip (family paced, with well-done talks at several points along the way). California Condors on the wing were a thrill. To use up my rental time I rode the bypass as well.
Bright Angel Bicycles near the Visitor’s Center rents well-maintained cruisers for a reasonable rate, helmets included. Advice was free and helpful. Water bottles are extra. Bottled water is no longer sold within the park, but there are many fountains.
Grand Canyon in summer is warm to hot at 85+ degrees, and high for flatlanders at 7000 feet. This means that sunscreen and large quantities of water are required for an enjoyable ride; I was happy to have my new Camelbak whether riding or walking.
The biggest shortcoming is signage; the bypass is difficult to find and follow among the many paved paths and trails. As usual, bike racks are needed in many places. The official website has a page devoted to biking but there’s no easy link from the home page and most of the information consists of rules and restrictions. But the whole concept is fairly new, and these will all improve as the Greenway is extended. And, with scenery like this, I can forgive a few details!