The Colorado Front Range’s most technical trail gets an extension
—Guest blog by Evan Pilling, Executive Director of IMBA Chapter Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists
As an Arizona resident for more than a decade, I am spoiled when it comes to opportunities for amazing mountain biking in breathtaking landscapes. My home county alone (Pima County) has more than 400 miles of rideable trail, and within a half-day’s drive I can ride in everything from the Saguaros of the Sonoran Desert to the red rock spires of Sedona to pine and juniper forests at 9,000 feet. So, when IMBA Southwest Region Director Patrick Kell invited me to drive more than eight hours to help extend the Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I saw it more as an excuse to get out of the blast-furnace heat of Tucson’s summer than an opportunity to build and ride what is, for many, a once in a lifetime trail ride. I had no idea what I was about to experience…
The Rainbow Rim Trail, and the entire North Rim of the Grand Canyon, is a very, very special place. Especially for mountain bikers. It’s the only place where we can experience the Grand Canyon on two wheels—it’s literally a crime to ride your bike in the Grand Canyon, and there’s no mountain bike access on the crowded South Rim. There is free, dispersed camping where you can pitch your tent 50 feet from the Canyon rim. There are majestic, mind-blowing views. There is a perfect, 18-mile ribbon of singletrack that flows through Ponderosa forests and highland meadows, then explodes onto wide-open vistas of the Canyon rim before diving back into the forest. And there are no crowds. It is, quite literally, mountain bike heaven at 8,000 feet.
Sadly, like so many precious places, the Rainbow Rim Trail (located in Kaibab National Forest) is not entirely safe. The National Forest is “the Land of Many Uses;” uses which include not only recreation, but mining, logging, and other resource extraction. The lands around the Grand Canyon are littered with uranium deposits and hold bountiful timber resources. Under the current land designation, the North Rim could be opened to mining leases that would utterly destroy its unique character and recreational opportunities for not only mountain biking, but also hiking, hunting and camping.
Our public lands are one of our nation’s greatest resources, but once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. With the current political climate and the radical movement to privatize our public lands, trails like the Rainbow Rim Trail are more threatened than ever before. We need to fight for the lands we love, and protecting the North Rim through creation of the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument is not only the best way to preserve this special place, it’s the best way to preserve mountain bike access to the Grand Canyon.
I support creation of the Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, and I urge all mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts to do the same. Please contact President Obama to voice your support for the monument, and to ask him to create the monument before he leaves office in January.