Destinations: The Grand Canyon, Arizona

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The beautiful Grand Canyon in Arizona.
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A motorcyclist enjoys Route 64, passing a sign you don’t see very often.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

What: The Grand Canyon, Arizona, offering great roads and incredible views. Really incredible views. Awesome scenery. Great riding. Did we mention the incredible views?
How to Get There: The South Rim is a cool 500 miles from Los Angeles. Grab Interstate 10 to Interstate 15 to Interstate 40. Continue east to Route 64, then point your front wheel north. The North Rim is about 550 miles from L.A. Take Interstate 10 to Interstate 15 north into Utah, then grab Route 9 east to Route 59 south to 389 south, then Route 89A south to Route 67 south in Jacob Lake. From points north, take Route 89 south to Route 64 to get to the east end of the South Rim. To get to the North Rim, take Route 89 to Route 89A to Route 67, but check to make sure 67 is open!
Best Kept Secret: If you’re coming from the north, you have to stop at Houston’s Trails End restaurant in Kanab, Utah. Nothing fancy, but the place has a great feel to it and the eggs, pancakes and bacon breakfast is wonderful.
Avoid: Starting any trip to the North Rim without checking the road conditions (Route 67 may be snowed in). It gets hot in these parts, so use sunscreen and stay hydrated. And don’t leave home without a camera!
More Info: National Park Service
More Photos: Moto Foto

The name sounds majestic, and the Grand Canyon surely is that and more. Majestic, mystical, and magnificent only begin to describe this wonderful region. And as motorcyclists visiting this incredible place, we have the advantage we always do: The trip can be more exciting than the destination.

There are two major parts of Grand Canyon National Park, the North Rim and the South Rim. The South Rim is by far the most heavily visited area and offers the best views, but the North Rim is a better ride, especially the last 50 miles or so along Arizona Route 67, also known as the North Rim Parkway. Getting to the South Rim involves riding through a spectacular desert to get to Grand Canyon National Park, at which point you enter into a beautiful pine forest. And when you visit the South Rim, you can continue on in the direction you were traveling when you leave — you don’t have to backtrack. The North Rim is different: There’s one way in, and one way out. It takes longer to get to the North Rim along the magnificent pine-forested Route 67, and the road shuts down when it snows, but wow, what a ride!

My first Grand Canyon visit brought me and my riding buddy Richard to the North Rim on a couple of old Harleys 20 years ago. It rained all the way in. We both were thoroughly soaked and chilled, but I still vividly remember how I never felt more alive. The Grand Canyon Lodge is the pot of gold at the end of Route 67. It’s a magnificent place to stay or just have lunch, and the view is awesome, but that’s pretty much it. Like I said, the ride in to the North Rim is the story here.

The South Rim is different. You can approach the South Rim from either the east or the west via state Route 64, which runs along the canyon’s periphery. On my last trip, we came in from the eastern end, paid our fees to enter the park, and a helpful Ranger explained that there were a series of viewpoints along the way. We hit every one, and each was beyond stunning. It’s hard to believe what you see when viewing this magnificent region, and it’s easy to understand why the Spanish explorers concluded it was impossible to reach the Colorado River a mile below. You can see all the way to the North Rim (10 miles away as the hawk flies, but the better part of a day on a motorcycle). On a clear day, the views from the South Rim extend to 100 miles.

The Grand Canyon’s history is fascinating. The earliest known human habitation occurred during the Paleo-Indian period nearly 12,000 years ago, but the emphasis here is on “known.” Archeologists are still discovering ancient dwellings. The Grand Canyon is thought to have started about 20 million years ago as the Colorado River, flooding, ice, wind and seismic shifts worked their magic. The resulting Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 15 miles wide, and, as mentioned above, a mile deep.

There are more things to do at the Grand Canyon than just see the sights (you can take a helicopter tour or ride a mule to the bottom), but if you’re on a motorcycle, why would you want to? The real adventure, as you well know, is the ride!

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