RTWPaul: Grand Canyon

Riding the Grand Canyon, and Not Bumping Into 6.4 Million Other Tourists…It Is Possible? YES!

It’s true the Grand Canyon national Park receives around 6.4 million visitors a year, and regardless to when you go it is BUSY!!!

…but there are other ways to see the Grand Canyon, a lot more of it, than the average tourist sees, and virtually not see other tourists for a week.

Firstly, the Grand Canyon is huge, obviously. The National Park Service who operates and manages the park has great viewing areas on the north and south rims, easy to get to accessible areas by paved roads.

If you are a little adventurous and don’t mind riding some dirt roads you can have the Grand Canyon to yourself, but how?

Cameron in Arizona is a great place to start, and Mesquite Nevada is a good place to finish, by paved road it would be a 253 mile/ 408km ride and easily doable in one day including a stop at either the south rim or north rim.

Ignore the pavement and that distance can jump to in excess of 1700 miles or 2750 km. I took this ride in late summer with a friend and we covered that distance, we actually expected to ride a lot more but forest fires stopped us getting to some of the points we had planned to.

The reason for starting at Cameron is; if you want to see where the Grand Canyon actually starts you will need to get a permit from the Navajo Parks and Recreation Office because you will be riding on Navajo land for the first day. Do not skip getting this pass as the fines can be severe, and the permit is only a few dollars.

So how do you find your way around in the desert, it’s remote and there are very few signposts?

A friend of mine @Dave6253 has been riding this area for over ten years and put together an adventurous dirt route he calls ‘Grand Canyon Backcountry Adventure Route’ and the GPX track can be found here.

The route is set up to be big bike-friendly, but the weather in this area can be unpredictable so some off-road skills are required. A fuel range of 200+ miles is required and there is a section that is 373 miles between fuel stations, but luckily there is a ranch called ‘Bar 10’ that will sell you fuel, albeit at a very high price, but hopefully, you won’t need much and it’s just a one-off.

The best time for riding is June to early July, or late September to late October. Expect a huge range of temperatures, early morning can be below freezing, and afternoons highs can exceed 100f/ 38c.

We set off from Cameron on September 30th, permits in hand, our first destination was where Little Colorado meets the Colorado River, THIS is the start of the Grand Canyon. If you look closely you can see the two different colors in the water, this is called The Confluence Overlook.

We had set up camp, made food, and the night fell, the stars came in to view and we had the place to ourselves.

Over the coming days, you have loads of options to go out to points, some are a lot more remote than others. Once you feel ok with your comfort level, you might take on more challenges but need to be aware on some of these tracks and points are very remote and not easily accessible, they get less than 20 (twenty) visitors per year

Riding in and out from point to point, if you are there the same time as me, you’ll get to see the colors of the trees change and the Aspens, even though it’s the same tree will have different colors depending on your altitude or how much sun they receive per day. 

The Grand Canyon and surrounding areas are open range, meaning there are wild animals everywhere so don’t be surprised to see buffalo, elk and deer on a regular basis. Smaller living creatures are also in abundance, snakes and even tarantulas might even stop by to check you out while you camp.

Even though some nights might seem perfect to camp without your tent, remember you might be the only ‘moisture’ available and insects get hungry! Always double and triple check your boots, tents and clothes before using just in case you have unwanted passengers.

It goes without saying on a trip like this you need to be self-supportive, not only for food but also for repairs. As it’s a desert there are a lot of cactus growing and some of the needles are very strong and will puncture a tire easily, so carry a way to fix your rubber.

The area of the Southwest US is a great place to ride, the challenges can be minimal to extreme, you make it to whatever suits your riding, smooth graded to tracks to crazy boulder fields, but almost always there is an easy alternative route in case you get in over your head, or simply turn around. The tracks attached are just a suggestion, and not written in stone, forge your own path.

Give yourself the opportunity to see some of the remotest points of the Grand Canyon, with names like – Tatahatso, Havasupai, Buck Farm Point, Kaibab Plateau, Point Sublime, Saddle Mountain, Marble View, Bright Angel Point, Crazy Jugs Point, Sowats Point, Jumpup Point, and my favorites, Kanab Point and Son of a Bitch Point which is extremely remote. So much so, that most GC park rangers have never been there, and the icing on the cake, Toraweap Point that has one of the longest drops straight down to the Colorado River.


©Dave Schwartz





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