The Grand Canyon by Bike, Not Burro

The Suburu/IMBA Trail Care Crew helps bring new singletrack to the North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has often been called the “eighth wonder of the world.” Lesser known is the area’s value as a mountain biking destination. Eighteen miles of moderate singletrack with stunning views into the canyon are open to bikes on the North Rim. The land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) North Kaibab Ranger District, which is looking to add additional miles to the existing, out-and-back trail.
IMBA Grand CanyonContrary to popular belief, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is not a desert. The Rainbow Rim trail sits at 8,000 feet, winding through forests of ponderosa pine and aspen trees. Users can expect to see abundant wildlife, including the rare Kaibab Squirrel, a white-tailed, tufted-eared critter that only lives in the 40-mile radius of the Kaibab Plateau. The forest is also home to wild turkeys, often spotted running in packs through the trees.
During the last weekend of September, the Subaru/ IMBA Trail Care Crew (TCC) helped the staff of the Kaibab forest prepare to add seven additional miles to the existing Rainbow Rim trail. Several of the rangers there are mountain bikers and wanted IMBA’s guidance to design the extension specifically for bikes.
To kick things off, IMBA hosted Land Manager Training, helping the Kaibab forest staff and rangers from the neighboring Dixie National Forest to better understand mountain bikers as a user group. The presentation was followed by a robust discussion about resource protection, risk management and trail design.
The Trail Care Crew—along with IMBA regional directors Ryan Schutz and Patrick Kell—then assisted the rangers in finding the most fun, beautiful and sustainable route for the new trail, which will utilize a steep side slope to add a loop and turn Rainbow Rim into a lollipop ride. Schutz, Kell and the TCC flagged the steep hillside carefully, using the contour to ensure good flow in the final trail while keeping riders off an unpleasantly steep, loose service road. The new section of planned trail must undergo an environmental assessment, but as soon as the Kaibob rangers get the go-ahead, construction will begin.
The Rainbow Rim project also involves a road-to-trail conversion, which is already underway. The TCC and volunteers from Arizona and New Mexico reclaimed 900 feet of road, converted 1,200 feet of road into trail and cut 900 feet of brand-new singletrack to bypass the old road. The USFS will finish where the volunteers left off, replacing the road with sinewy singletrack.
After a night spent camping on the North Rim with the volunteers and sharing a headlamp-lit cookout, the TCC had a chance to ride the Rainbow Rim trail.
“The remoteness of this trail gives you a feeling of isolation that is often not found at the South Rim,” said TCC member Jesse Livingston. “And the well-designed nature of the trail allows riders to enjoy mileage that is difficult to achieve in mountainous terrain.”
Only a few days after the TCC left the Grand Canyon, the Kaibab rangers contacted IMBA headquarters asking for more help with their next big trail idea. We hope this visit marks the beginning of a lasting partnership with one of America’s most treasured natural splendors.

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