"Four Canyon Ride Part 1"
South Rim and North Rim Grand Canyon
For those of you that like to take longer trips you will know what I mean. Once you get the thought of taking off on your motorcycle for a few days it is hard to get it out of your mind until you actually get out and do it. And if you have just returned from a long trip it doesn't take long to be planning your next one. That's what happened to me as I was planning the Four Canyons Ride. We had returned from the Glacier Ride just 4 weeks prior and I was already planning to wedge in one more decent ride before cooler weather hit.
I'm not sure what it is about road trips on a motorcycle that is so infectious, but I think Willie Nelson said it best in his song "On The Road Again". And with a small lyric change, it could be a great motorcycle riders anthem. It would go something like this:
On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is being in the wind
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I'll remember when,
I just can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Lover's of the road we roll down the highway
Ridin' with our friends
Insisting that the world be turnin' our way
And our way, Is on the road again
That pretty much sums it up for me. Goin' places that I've never been, Seein' things that I'll remember when, And I can't wait to get on the road again. With that in mind, I had always wanted to go to the entire South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim and Zion. So with that in mind, Mrs. C. and I saddled up on the Road Glide, through in Bryce Canyon to our itinerary and decided to take what we called the Four Canyons Ride. This is one of those times I will tell you to take the route, but don't follow our timetable on this one. We had limited time available on this trip so we really had to hustle to get it done.
We left the NW Valley at 3:00pm on Friday, the 23rd of September heading North on I-17 to Flagstaff, then West on I-40 to Williams and North on Hwy. 64 to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was about a 220 mile 3 hour and 15 minute ride to the entrance of the park. We stayed in Tusayan that night, which is 2 miles from the entrance of the park. We knew we had a long day ahead of us so we were on the bike and ready to go in a brisk 43 degrees at 7am Saturday morning. Our first stop was the customary photo op at the Grand Canyon sign at the entrance of the park. The part of the South Rim that most visitors see are the areas around the Village, El Tovar and Mather Point. Those are the same ones that I saw the first time I went, but I was anxious to view the next 22 miles of the canyon that I had not seen before, and quite frankly, is the better part to experience.
As you ride East on Hwy. 64 you see ride by 4 major view areas that you can pull into and stop for photo ops and canyon viewing. These are well worth the effort to stop and see as this opens up a whole new appreciation of the grandeur and enormity of the Grand Canyon. You are really cheating yourself, as we did the last time we were there, by not taking the ride along the South Rim to really get a feel for what the canyon is all about. The last stop on the Rim heading East is called Desert View and is also the East entrance. Desert View is also the home of the Watchtower, built by the Fred Harvey company in the early 1930's to provide the widest possible view of the Grand Canyon and serve as a rest stop and gift shop. The tower was built with local stones handpicked by the architect, Mary Colter, to give the tower an ancient look. Inside the tower you will see authentic Indian paintings on the walls and pottery. You can also walk the 4 floors to the highest vantage point in the Grand Canyon at 7522 feet.
Once we had our fill of the Watchtower and photo ops, we were back in the saddle for our 188 mile ride from the East entrance to the North Rim. Even though, it is only 10 miles as the crow flies from the South Rim Grand Canyon Village to the North Rim lodge, it is 210 miles to travel by vehicle. So we were "on the road again, Goin' places that I've never been, Seein' things I'll remember when." I was anxious to see the North Rim and the stretch of 89A heading West that I had never been on. So we continued East on Hwy. 64 to Cameron and North on 89 to our turnoff at Bitter Springs to 89A.
As with almost any motorcycle ride, you will always come across some scenery that will both surprise and impress you. On this road it is the 293,000 acre Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, an amazingly colorful display of beautiful sandstone slickrock, brilliant cliffs rising from 3,000 to 7,000 feet stretching over 40 miles before you rise in elevation through the pine forested Kaibab Plateau to Jacobs Lake Lodge. This stretch of 89A past Vermillion Cliffs is so amazing it is hard to keep your eyes on the road as you go past the small fishing community of Lees Ferry and the beautiful area of Marble Canyon. Just before rising into the forest, stop at the overlook to get a good look at the Cliffs and the Colorado Basin.
Once you arrive at Jacob Lake Inn, you will turn South on Hwy. 67 and be 47 miles from the North Rim Visitors Center and Lodge. After rising in elevation and going through beautiful Aspen, pine trees and meadows, you will end at the North Rim in the pines. Here you can eat lunch in the North Rim Lodge and take a short walk to Bright Angel Point for a classic view of the Canyon. If time allows, Point Imperial and Cape Royal are reached via a winding scenic drive. The trip to both points, with short walks at each and several stops at pullouts along the way, can easily take half a day. But for us, we had lunch at the lodge, took our hike to Bright Angel Point and were on our way. Grand Canyon North Rim is over 8,000 feet and does get cold and snowy in the winter months. So make sure you check the weather before you go. Visitor services and facilities inside the park will close on October 22nd. Highway 67 into the park will close on November 16th or at the first major snow storm. Click Here for North Rim information.
Timing is a difficult task on this ride due to the amount of mileage in between stops, 210 miles, from the South Rim and the North Rim. The way that we did it worked out pretty well. If you leave in the afternoon from Phoenix and plan to be in the South Rim by 5 or 6:00, depending on the time of year, you can still get a good peek of the afternoon sun on the canyon walls. Stay somewhere in the Grand Canyon area either in Tuscayan or in the park, then get up early the next morning and head for the North Rim. You could either spend the night there, (with reservations well in advance) Jacob's Lake Lodge or ride on into Kanab, Utah.
Click Here For Maps.
I will be back next week with the next two canyons of the Four Canyon Ride, Zion, Bryce and a few other stops. I was able to get some great pictures of both sides of the Grand Canyon. For pictures of the South Rim Click Here. For pictures of the North Rim Click Here.
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