Grand Canyon’s Rainbow Rim Trail is Worth the Trip

Karl Munford enjoys the view from Timp Point
Karl Munford enjoys the view from Timp Point. Photos: Shelby Meinkey, Shelbymeinkeyphoto.com

By Lukas Brinkerhoff

I'm not sure if it's a Native word or an angry Frenchman named this place, either way we were headed to Parissawampitts.

Our destination was a lonely point at the end of a long dirt road. The wind was pushing around the half ton Chevy that was transporting us. The weather predicted that it would stay windy and the temperature was to drop significantly. We were drawn by what was next to this Paris like pit of a swamp, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. More precisely, the Rainbow Rim with its 18 miles of flowy singletrack made the adverse weather conditions worth it.

Munford and Cami Meinkey. Never ending sunsets make for great views and rides.
Karl Munford and Cami Meinkey. Never ending sunsets make for great views and rides.

We arrived at our camp a little before sundown and then spent 20 minutes trying to put up tents in 30 mph winds. I was proud of myself, it was the first time I ever remembered a hammer for the tent stakes and it was absolutely necessary to stake the tent down. Leaving St. George at just 2,700 feet and climbing to the edge of the Grand Canyon right around 7,500 feet in the middle of a extreme wind warning and dropping temperatures, created a bit of a weather shock for all of us. Top this off with a fire ban, and we spent a lot of time around the Camp Chef making up reasons to keep it lit.

The Rainbow Rim has held my attention for too long. I first learned of the trail in the early 2000s but there was always some obstacle that kept me listening to the riding stories instead of enjoying my own memories. So when the chance came to go, I made the appropriate changes to my schedule and jumped on board. The plan was to leave after work on Friday, bust tail up to the Parissawampits trailhead, camp the night and then ride the entire trail in one day.

The sun came peaking throw the tent just after 6. It was about 6:03 when I first heard someone come out of the tent and start screwing around with the Camp Chef. I was feeling cozy in my down cocoon. The thermometer read 47 degrees. We apparently had not had the temperature drop that we expected. The wind was still whipping making breakfast a bit of a hassle. We finished off the French toast and eggs, cleaned up and then the procrastinating began.

With the wind ripping through camp and the clouds covering any semblance of warmth from the sun, the idea of suiting up and heading away from the Camp Chef was a daunting thought. I checked the thermometer again, it had dropped to 35. Oh this is good, it's getting colder as the day proceeds. I then checked the clock and realized that we had been so efficient that it was only 7:30. Everyone felt better about the time and it was agreed we would procrastinate a little longer.

The mercury slowly climbed back up around 40 and we began to suit up around 9:30.

Despite my long held desire to ride this trail, my motivation to actually do so was non-existent at this point. Had it been just my wife and I, I would have petitioned for going home. Luckily, Danny Christensen had planned the trip and he was going riding. He also had the keys to the truck so it was difficult for us to mutiny. And I'm glad that we didn't.

Once we started pedaling, the cold filtered out of our bodies and the trail was amazing. The wind was still trying to push us off of every view point and impede our progress, but we had come to ride and we were riding.

As I mentioned, we had planned to ride an out-and-back of the 18 mile trail. One of the great things about the Rainbow Rim trail is the multiple access points that coincide with view points. There are five separate trailheads, Parissawampitts, Fence, Locust, North Timp and Timp. Locust is close to being the middle point of the trail and where we had planned on eating lunch. We ate lunch and then the decision of whether to continue or return to the comfort of our Camp Chef had to be made.

Fortuitously, we had another day before we had to be back to St. George so turning around and then finishing the next day was a possibility. We all agreed this was a good plan and we flipped around.

The sun had finally found its way through spots of cloud giving us some heat. The wind had not slowed but with the trail going the way it does, we never had a sustained headwind. Rather it was more of a constant swirling wind. With the sun poking out, we were more inclined to stop and view the amazing scenery around us. The Rainbow Rim goes from point to point along the Grand Canyon. From each view point, the trail cuts inland and winds its way through Ponderosa Pine trees and around the edge of the canyon until you suddenly pop out at another view point. The trail is well built and well maintained. Even with the crazy wind we were experiencing, we only had to drag the bikes over one downed log. I was impressed by the lack of ruts in the trails and there was only one short climb that was too stiff for me on my singlespeed. Most of the trail was perfect for spinning and flowing through the forest.

After a much enjoyed second lunch at camp and a few brews, we finally felt comfortable saying that the wind had died. The clouds moved along and we chased the sun from shadow to shadow.

And then the temperature did drop. It was 28 when I rolled out of my sleeping bag the next morning.

If I've experienced heavenly riding, it was that second day. The wind had completely died. The temperature hovered around 65 and we were immersed in the forest and canyon views. The last half of the trail went by too fast. Without the wind, we made good time. When I saw the truck over my handlebars I was tempted to miss the turn off and just keep pedaling. I would bet that, had I kept going, everyone else in the group would have been stoked to follow.

Trail Information is available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/kaibab/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=32207&actid=50. This trail is not technical. It is a great ride for beginners due to the easy access points, great scenery and lack of obstacles. For beginners, ride the section from North Timp to Timp. It's six miles round trip and is a blast.

Due to the relatively high elevation of this trail, it is recommended for Summer and early Fall riding.

As mentioned, there are five access points for this trail. Camping is available at all five. Many users will camp at Locust, the midpoint, and ride the trail in two days. Water is not available, so bring your own.

 

 

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