Past years: 2003, 2007
Grand Canyon Tour September, 2010
Albuquerque, NM--Loop tour
Arrive: Albuquerque, NM, Friday September 18
14 riding days 1,065 miles, 76-115 Miles per day
The Grand Canyon Tour isn’t just about the Canyon. The journey there and back has highlights just as unique and beautiful. The tour begins in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is over 303 years old so visiting Old Town is a step back in time. Most of the buildings here have thick adobe walls with visible tree trunks for beams in the roof. Thus begins a tour that visits some of the oldest civilizations in the United States.
September is a perfect time of year for riding in New Mexico. The hottest summer days are past and the cold days of autumn have not arrived. The winds are typically from the southwest, bringing warm dry air across the region. Our circular route will have a balance of winds. The days are planned to fit into six to eight hours of cycling regardless of the weather.
As we head west from Albuquerque we climb from the Rio Grande valley. The terrain quickly changes from city to the desolate landscape of rural New Mexico. Big grades of three to four miles roll into the distance. The red rock cliffs here are beautiful. Near the town of Mesita - Old Historic Route 66 begins a scenic 35-mile section. The old road leaves the noise and view of the interstate and winds around mesas and plateaus. Landmarks such as "Owl Rock" and "Old Laguna Pueblo" are worthwhile photo stops. A few miles later Route 66 splits again with an option to take the original trail that basically is a one lane road. This is a perfect cycling road because only a few local ranchers go this way. Route 66 takes us into Grants, our first hotel where Mt. Taylor looms to the north standing 11,000’ tall.
Gallup is a classic town with more to offer than Grants. The El Rancho Hotel is the best place to stay in town. All the rooms are named after pre 1960's movie stars who stayed there while making Western films in the area. Many of the gifts shops sell excellent native crafts and jewelry.
We leave New Mexico on the old highway. The cliffs make this a very scenic ride. We see no traffic lights for another 100 miles when we enter Holbrook, Arizona. In Holbrook, Arizona we stay at the Wigwam motel, famous for their teepee shaped rooms.
We mainly follow the path of I-40 for 350 miles to Flagstaff. We will be riding on the interstate about 125 miles the first four days. There are many more old Route 66 gravel options that bypass I-40 if you want to ride them. We take these roads on our Rt. 66 tour. Bring wider 28 mm tires for off road sections, if you want to take them. The interstate is in good shape. The shoulder is wide and relatively clean.
Going toward Flagstaff, Humphrey's Peak stands 12,863’ tall—the tallest point in Arizona. After Flagstaff we climb through dense Ponderosa pine forests at over 7,000’ elevation. This takes us 100 miles to Grand Canyon National Park.
Depart: Albuquerque, NM Sunday, October 3
From where we stay it is a short, scenic walk to gift shops and restaurants and free shuttle busses loop points of interest every ten minutes. You choose your own activities these days. PAC Tour provides morning snacks and bottled water for the day's adventure. Due to the variety of different directions people take, PAC Tour does not be schedule lunches at the Grand Canyon.
We arrive at the Grand Canyon on a Thursday night and stay about a mile from the rim. It is a scenic walk to gift shops and restaurants. Free bus shuttles loop points of interest every ten minutes. You choose your own activities these days. PAC Tour provides morning snacks and bottled water for the day's adventure. Due to the variety of different directions people take, PAC Tour does not be schedule lunches at the Grand Canyon.
This tour has several days of hiking options. You may want to bring a small daypack, hiking shoes, binoculars, compass and other hiking supplies. All hiking supplies should fit in your daypack. Your daypack will be stored in the PAC Tour trailer during the rest of the tour. You don't have to put these items in your standard PAC Tour gear bag.
There are many day hikes to choose from in the Canyon from two to ten hours long. It is possible to camp overnight in the Canyon on Friday and return on Saturday. Some of these hikes require guides and extra costs for camping or equipment rental. You are responsible for the costs of these extended hikes. You should make these reservations directly with the rangers at the Grand Canyon at least three months in advance.
Serious cyclists need to remember that hiking uses different muscles than bike riding. Even if you are in shape to ride 100 miles per day, a five-mile hike can give you intense muscle soreness the next day. All cyclists should include cross training with jumping rope, jogging and carrying a 20-pound backpack up and down 30 flights of stairs each day.
Back on our bikes we coast downhill to Tuba City. The landscape changes from forest to dry rocks. Tuba City has a famous American Indian museum.
Expect southwest tailwinds continuing through Monument Valley. Wind carved plateaus reduced to gnarled shapes resemble giant chunks of red driftwood. Our hotel in Mexican Hat overlooks a gushing river. A sign on the cliffs reads "Watch for Falling Rocks".
We continue to historic Chinle, gateway to Canyon De Chelly. This canyon is much smaller than the Grand Canyon but just as beautiful. We have a day of hiking in Canyon de Chelly with a jeep tour option. PAC Tour provides hiking food before you depart. Extra costs for jeep tours or lodge lunches are additional. We can hike to a cliff dwelling that is located near the lush vegetation of the canyon floor. On our previous tour we took a jeep shuttle to the far rim of the Canyon and then walked ten miles along the floor of the Canyon. Our Navajo guides told us many personal stories of the life living in the Canyon.
Leaving Chinle, we return to Gallup. The final two days to Albuquerque follow a route different from the first days of the tour. We head into the land of Fire and Ice where ice caves were formed near the volcanic lava fields—very scenic and great for riding. Returning to Albuquerque we have a final dinner together in Old Town. This will is a fun way to celebrate an enjoyable two weeks together.