Is the Grand Canyon on your bucket list? Why not make it a true adventure by turning your trip into a Grand Canyon Gravel Bike Adventure? Access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is via the Kaibab National Forest. The Kaibab has a huge network of gravel roads just waiting for you to explore.
We started our adventure by traveling up Forest Service 22 past Big Springs Cabin to the mouth of Lookout Canyon. FS 22 is very remote, don't expect any services for the entire length of the road. Just as you turn onto Forest Service 226 you will see a small turnout on the left side of the road. This would also make for a nice camping area if you were so inclined. Luckily for us, we were staying at Zion Adventure Home in Kanab, Utah, and all woke up well-rested and ready to ride.
From the turn-off to FS 226 we followed Lookout Canyon to its head and eventually climbed into Dry Park. The road in Lookout Canyon is a lightly used double track. It is so infrequently used it has a single-track feel to it. Lookout Canyon is a lovely canyon. It is not very deep or wide, but the canyon is like a continuous small park. Just to be clear, the word park refers to open areas in the forest. There was some loose chunky gravel in Lookout Canyon, especially on the climb out of the canyon. Overall, the canyon was not too difficult, but it was not too easy either. Some riders may prefer a mountain bike for this route over a gravel bike.
The lower end of Lookout Canyon is at 7,100 feet of elevation and the forest is made up mostly of shorter conifer trees, I think they were ponderosa pines. As you make your way up the canyon, you will notice you are on a never-ending gradual uphill grade. The higher you get, the more you will start to notice aspen trees appearing on the edges of the park.
At mile 9.5 the road makes a steep up turn and you must make a strenuous climb of about 400ft over three-quarters of a mile on loose gravel. Once you reach the top of the climb at 8,300 feet you will be firmly in aspen country. We road in the first week of October and the aspen trees were at peak color.
After a short descent, you will enter Dry Park. I have to admit, Dry Park was the highlight of the ride for me. Maybe if you rode through here in the summer, you might not think much of it. However, in the fall with the golden aspens ringing the park, it is a breathtakingly beautiful area. By this point, the climbing is over and the riding becomes much easier.
Not only is Dry Park beautiful, but this remote area sees very few visitors. Due to its low visitation, you are likely to spot wildlife. I've been lucky enough to see hawks, ducks, buzzards, turkeys, foxes, coyotes, and bison in the many parks of the Kaibab Plateau. I spotted the bison pictured here in Pleasant Valley, about 5-6 miles east of Dry Park.
The elevation on this route reaches 8,500 feet and it actually snowed the morning of our ride and most of the day was in the low 40s. Be sure to dress appropriately and check the forecast even if the weather is nice in Kanab, Utah. You will want to search for Jacob Lake on weather apps. If the road is wet, like it was on our ride, you can expect this route to be difficult. If the road is dry, I would rate the route as moderate. We were only able to average about 8 mph on the ride up Lookout Canyon and Dry Park. However, you will not hear me complain, the slow going actually meant I could admire the wonderful vistas longer. Fall on the Kaibab is very underrated.
After reaching the high point of the ride at the head of Dry Park, you will turn west on Timp Point Road for an awesome downhill. Gone are the short aspen trees, they have been replaced by towering conifers, I think Douglas-fir. Cycling this road is truly an awe-inspiring ride that you will remember forever.
Timp Point Road dead ends on the very edge of the Grand Canyon. Yes, you can ride your bike directly to the edge of the canyon. If you have never seen the canyon, words can't express how large it is. The Grand Canyon is huge. If you are on a mountain bike you could actually ride on the Rainbow Rim Trail to one of several different viewpoints, then return via a different route instead of backtracking on Timp Point Road.
After visiting the canyon you will climb back to FS 22 for the straight shot back to your starting point. FS 22 is parallel to FS226 and is only about one-half mile away but the character of the road and forest are much different. Instead of double track, you will be on a wide well-traveled road. Don't worry, by now you will likely be worn out and want to make quick time back.
This route is very remote. We actually never saw another person on this entire ride until halfway back on FS 22. I think nine times out of ten you will never see anyone on FS 226. If you choose to do this ride, go prepared and with prepared friends if possible. Either way, be sure to carry a satellite locator, you never know what could happen. Our four-person group consisted of very experienced gravel bike/mountain bike riders, and we still had one injury that resulted from a very minor fall. If you like this type of adventure, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more Southern Utah gravel adventures. Also, please consider making Zion Adventure Home your base camp while on your vacation.
View this route on Strava, Hardest 48 miles to the Grand Canyon | Ride | Strava.