By Richard Fox
Cycling Grand Canyon’s South Rim area used to be our little secret, but thanks to Bright Angel Bicycles rental bikes, there are now scores of cyclists along the roads and trails; most seemingly international visitors based on their languages. Even with the added traffic it still is uncrowded, and the thrill of cycling with Grand Canyon views is unparalleled. West Rim Drive is closed to most vehicles (except handicapped, trams, and a few tour buses) during March – November, giving you an ultra wide and fabulous bike path that extends 7 miles from Grand Canyon Village west to Hermits Rest. You can access all of the famous vista points that the tram stops at to offload bunches of tourists, but also have some awesome spots all to yourself along the route as well. If you get tired, hop on a bike-carrying tram at the designated stops. Be warned that although it is an easy ride technically, there are some gradual grades, so if you’re not acclimated to the 7,000+ foot elevation, take it slow and easy or don’t attempt it if not in good physical condition. Also consider taking the tram up the first and steepest hill to the first stop. Or better yet, rent an e-bike.
Bikes are only allowed on a couple of sections of the paved Rim Trail, but not near any of the high-usage areas like between Grand Canyon Village and Mather Point. From the Village, the paved Greenway Trail that allows bikes weaves east through the forest, away from the rim and gradually uphill, reaching various features such as the two campgrounds’ (Trailer Village RV Park and Mather Campground) access roads, Market Plaza with its restaurants and grocery store, and ultimately the Visitors Center complex and bike rental facility. After leaving the Visitors Center it reaches the rim for a spectacular treat of a couple of miles of amazing canyon vistas, ending at the trailhead for the Kaibab Trail. From there you can also pedal on the closed-to-most-cars road to Yacqui Point.
If you’re staying at the park campgrounds, you can take the Greenway Trail in either direction. The option of heading toward the Visitors Center and the Greenway rim trail that allows bikes just east of Mather Point is easy and very worthwhile. The other direction heads gradually downhill to Grand Canyon Village and the Hermit Rest road ride which requires more stamina.
For extra trail mileage, a new 6-mile path leads from the tourist village of Tusayan outside the park through the forest to the Visitors Center. It is mostly gravel, through the forest, and not the most wonderful experience.