Postscript: Conclusions, Notes, Information, and Suggestions - The Canyon Is Calling and We Must Ride - CycleBlaze

Postscript: Conclusions, Notes, Information, and Suggestions


Schultz Pass Road, about which I first learned from the journal by Mathieu van Rijswick, is an enjoyable alternative to riding Highway 89 north from Flagstaff. Unless the road is muddy or you need to go faster, the scenery and lack of traffic make this the best way to get out of Flagstaff.

Bonito Campground is very nice, but no hiker/biker site, so be sure to time your arrival early enough to get a spot. Cold water (no hot), flush toilets, picnic tables. No food or other services nearby (and that includes the adjacent Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument visitor center), which means you should carry your own supplies unless you think you can rely on your neighbors taking pity on you.

Loop Road (also known as Route 395) is a smooth, low-traffic, 35-mile option. Highly recommended. Nothing back there but a pair of modern NPS visitor centers (Sunset Crater and Wupatki), thus not many motorized vehicles. Terrific views. Interesting landscapes. Fascinating ruins of early North American habitation. Water available on the loop, but no food or other services.

Travelling north on Highway 89, the gas station shop at Gray Mountain is the last chance to buy beer (or other alcohol) before hitting the dry reservation. No booze available in Cameron.

The climb from Cameron to the rim is a steady uphill, but not steep. In hot weather, this would be very thirsty work. I carried two big water bottles, a small water bottle, and two plastic bottles I picked up at the shop in Cameron. I pretty much drained that in cool weather by the time I hit Desert View. Unless one of the roadside retail stalls has water, there's nowhere to resupply until DV.

Highway 89 to Cameron and Highway 64 to the park boundary have good shoulders. Once inside the park, the shoulder mostly disappears. Traffic was generally courteous, not very fast, and not very heavy inside the park. However, there are some gigantic RV's and buses that aren't entirely sure how to share the road with bikes. Pay attention.

Near Yaki Point, the paved "greenway" trail appears parallel to the rim road, and bikes are allowed on it. The path runs all the way to the visitor center and Grand Canyon Village. Very nice.

The Desert View campground has no hiker-biker site, and the 50 campsites fill up fast. Don't rely on getting a spot unless you're there before noon or you're very lucky. The main campground near Mather Point has hiker-biker facilities.

We ended our tour at Grand Canyon Village. Originally, we planned to continue riding south on Highway 180 and cut across at Valle in order to return to our cars in Flagstaff. That ended up not happening, because our cars weren't there (they were with our wives instead, after they decided to spend the week in Arizona), but that route should be very doable.


We expected a hot day or two, but it never warmed up much, giving us pleasantly cool riding conditions despite considerable variations in temps at different elevations. The first night went down to 26 F, but the other nights weren't nearly so cold. The winds were almost 100 percent favorable. All in all, the weather conditions could hardly have been better for bicycle touring. 

However, as always, it's the luck of the draw. The day after RJ and I pedaled from Desert View to Bright Angel in ideal conditions, I drove the same route with my ace support crew. While driving that day we encountered thunder storms, lightning, heavy rain, sleet, snow, and even a dose of thunder snow. The shoulders were white with accumulation and the road was slushy. On top of all that, the park was conducting controlled burns along the rim, and acrid smoke blanketed the road where we had been peacefully pedaling 24 hours earlier. 

You pays your money and you takes your chances.


Although these are not extremely long stretches without services, you won't find a Circle K on every corner.

Carry plenty of water, and top off whenever the opportunity presents itself, because this is a thirst-inducing route, and there aren't many sources of water. That's especially true on the long climb from Cameron to Desert View, where you should start with all the water you'll need until evening.

Water: Flagstaff, Bonito Campground / Sunset Crater Volcano visitor center, Wupatki visitor center, Gray Mountain, Cameron, Desert View, Mather Point / Grand Canyon Village.

Food: Flagstaff, Gray Mountain, Cameron, Desert View, Mather Point / Grand Canyon Village.


Some high elevations. Be prepared with the proper clothing for inclement weather. Snowed on me at the south rim the day after the bicycling part of the tour ended.

For me, an ample supply of sunscreen was a must.

We found handy outdoor electrical outlets at the Bonito Campground amphitheater, the Sunset Crater visitor center, the gas station at Desert View, and the Desert View snack bar. Didn't look anywhere else.

Verizon's signal was spotty at best, but far superior to AT&T's non-existent network.

They might make me look old and ridiculous, but I continue to find lycra riding shorts to be the most comfortable attire for pedaling long distances. The other options I tried this time around worked out okay, but not quite as well.

Bright Angel Bikes and Cafe near the visitor center mostly rents bikes, but they also have some useful bike-related gear and parts for sale. Also nice t-shirts.

All of our gear seemed to work pretty well. No flats! But we had a couple of issues.

First, probably due to the evening rainfall that froze overnight, my rather ancient cyclocomputer crapped out Tuesday morning. I checked all the connections, cleaned up everything, recited some four-letter incantations, and finally resuscitated it.

Second, near the end of the long climb from Cameron to Desert View, RJ mentioned he couldn't shift to his small chain ring. What!?! He must be one strong guy, because I would have fallen over during that climb if I couldn't shift all the way down. We were almost at the end of the day, so he didn't want to mess with it. The next morning we adjusted the shifting so he could get to the small chain ring when needed.

Other considerations

Setting your watch in northern Arizona can be tricky. Most of Arizona does not observe daylight savings. In May, most of Arizona (Mountain Standard Time) is aligned with California (Pacific Daylight Time). However, the Navajo Nation lands within Arizona do observe daylight savings. Gray Mountain is not part of the Navajo reservation, so it remained on MST. A few miles north, Cameron is part of the Navajo Nation, so it was on Mountain Daylight Time (which is an hour later than Pacific Daylight Time.) Thus, rolling up Highway 89 and crossing into the reservation should mean resetting your watch, then changing it back upon leaving Cameron to head up Highway 64 to the national park. However, the Cameron Trading Post—within Navajo Nation territory—does NOT use daylight savings, making it out of step with the rest of the Navajo reservation, but aligned with Gray Mountain, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon. RJ had a Verizon connection in Cameron, and it automatically changed the time on his iPhone to MDT, even though we were at the Cameron Trading Post (MST). All this made it exceedingly difficult to determine when to turn on the television on Tuesday night in order to watch the Warriors game. More info on Arizona time zones here.

I almost always tour solo, making it a big change of pace for me to ride with a partner. RJ was great to ride with—I think we were fairly evenly matched for speed and endurance—and having him as part of the trip made it all the more enjoyable. (Thanks, RJ.) I hope I didn't scare him off with my terrible singing ("Saddle up boys, the governor said….") and iffy assertions that I always knew exactly where we were going and how we should get there. ("Oh, just a couple more miles….") Heck, without RJ along this Old Grumble-Face will probably never have another attractive neighboring camper offer a pork tenderloin dinner.

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On the road south from the Grand Canyon to Williams on Thursday, I snapped this shot from the car. Turned out to be Alex, previously encountered at Desert View.

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On the road from the Grand Canyon to Williams on Friday, this unidentified rider and the one below were together, hauling south in the rain. I only managed a blurry shot out the car window.

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On the road from the Grand Canyon to Williams on Friday, this unidentified rider and the one above were together, hauling south in the rain. I only managed a blurry shot out the car window.

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Old Grumble-Face and the Surly, ready for the drive back to California on Saturday.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay.

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Ride the rim!

Purchased at Bright Angel Bikes and Cafe near the visitor center at Mather Point. A snazzy addition to my unnecessarily large collection of cycling T's.

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Thanks to Emily and family, especially from my buddy RJ "Pork Chop" Whitworth.

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Special thanks to our lovely senoritas for allowing us to ride.

More tours, day rides, articles, photos, information, resources, and links at Bill Bikes.

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