The Grand Canyon National Park is a treasured part of the American landscape that draws an enormous crowd each year. In 2004, there were 1,336,505 vehicles counted at the South Rim alone. Because of the extensive crowd of visitors each year, particularly in the summer, it is necessary to enforce regulations that maintain the safety of the visitors, while preserving the area for future crowds.

Recently, the Arizona Trail has been symbolically finished with the hammering of a golden stake. With about 800 miles of non-motorized trail from Utah to Mexico, it will be an impressive trail system offering plenty of challenging single-track. The route heads through the Grand Canyon, offering its tremendous vistas and challenging hikes to the adventurous travelers.

However, “Bicycles are not allowed on any rim hiking (foot) trails or on any trail below the rims.? (GRNP 1988 Backcountry Management Plan, Section H (15), Page 12). Trails in the canyon are incredibly steep and narrow, and well used. Rules like this are intended to ensure the safety of trail users, and in wilderness areas, to prevent environmental impact. Bikes can potentially damage the soil and cause erosion which has a lasting and negative impact on the environment. In the Grand Canyon, the trails are crowded (especially in the summer) with mule trains and hikers each day, and with cliffs plunging hundreds of feet alongside the trail, bicyclists are incompatible with mule trains and hikers, due to the risk of spooking the animals or losing control of your bike.

Fortunately, if you are trying to complete the Arizona Trail, there are options to legally traverse the canyon with your bike.

1. There is Trans-Canyon Shuttle service that runs between the North and South Rim once each day and can carry your bike across while you hike across with the rest of your belongings. Unfortunately, there are not facilities on either side to store your bike and you will have to make arrangements for someone to pick up your bike. Reservations are required and it costs $65 dollars to get your bike across. Call 928-638-2820. This is not an option during the winter season.

2. It is possible to hike your bike (strapped onto your back) across the canyon without ever letting the wheels touch the ground across the canyon as well. It is advisable to get in touch with the backcountry ranger’s office if you are going to attempt this. It is possible they can help facilitate your needs and steer you in the right direction so you do not violate any park regulations.

3. There is also a (paved) 171 mile detour around the canyon that is possible. These roads are considered dangerous by most cyclists.

You can get in very serious trouble for violating the National Park Regulations. In 1995, 5 cyclists from Sedona got caught red-handed riding their bikes down the North Kaibab Trail. They were apprehended, searched and found to have marijuana and illegal mushrooms. A helicopter evacuated them out of the park and they had to pay 240 dollars for the helicopter ride. This made national headlines. With a plea bargain, they got the drug charges dropped and a 250 dollar fine was suspended. They were forced to give up their bicycles, which are said to still be down in the ranger’s station on rollers.

             The Riding the Spine team was also caught riding their bikes in the canyon, and camping without a permit (Class B Misdemeanors). Two undercover federal agents followed us to the 24 Hours in Old Pueblo race to serve us a summons. We are required to donate $500 dollars to Grand Canyon Search & Rescue Fund, spend 2 days in jail, we will have 5 years of unsupervised probation, and we will be banned from all National Parks for 5 years as well.

                During the 5 year probationary period we are not allowed to use any images or descriptions of biking/camping in the Grand Canyon on any internet site magazine, newspaper, or any other publication. We were required to withdraw all photographs, video footage and journal entries about riding our bikes/camping in the canyon. Furthermore, we have to publish this entry on our site describing the penalties that we incurred, as well as conveying the ethics and reasons why cycling in areas such as the Grand Canyon/wilderness areas is prohibited.  The judge was also real keen on having us take a picture in front of the court and post it somewhere on the website.

I was browsing the web and came across a really thorough article on mountain bike trail ethics that I wanted to share with the readers. It comes from the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association and was posted February 8, of this year. They are located online and their web address is: http://www.copmoba.org/trail_ethics.htm.

Mountain Bike Ethics

1. STAY ON DESIGNATED TRAILS to avoid trampling native vegetation and fragile desert soil. Minimize potential erosion to trails by not using muddy trails or shortcutting switchbacks.

2. SHOW COURTESY AND RESPECT TO ALL TRAIL USERS. We’re all members of the trail family seeking quality experiences. We must learn to share. Our motivations are not different than those of other trail users regardless of our mode of travel. Show concern for a clean, quiet backcountry experience.
Keep the trails as natural as possible.

3. YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY TO OTHER NON-MOTORIZED RECREATIONISTS, and allow adequate room for motorized vehicles that may need to pass you.

4. SLOW DOWN AND USE CAUTION when approaching or overtaking others and make your presence known well in advance.

5. MAINTAIN CONTROL of your bike at all times.

6. DO NOT DISTURB wildlife or livestock.

7. DO NOT LITTER. Pack out what you pack in, and pack out more than your share whenever possible.

8. RESPECT PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PROPERTY, including trail use signs, no trespassing signs, and leave gates as you found them.

9. BE SELF-SUFFICIENT. Destination and travel speed will be determined by your ability, equipment, terrain, and the present and potential weather conditions.

10. DO NOT TRAVEL SOLO when bike packing in remote areas. Leave word of your destination and when you plan to return.

11. OBSERVE THE PRACTICE OF MINIMUM IMPACT BICYCLING by “taking only pictures and memories and leaving only waffleprints.”

12. USE APPROPRIATE SAFETY EQUIPMENT.

Enjoy the trails and remember to keep the singletrack single!

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