There is little shade, and it gets very hot here. Bring tons of food and liquid; there is none available at the trailhead.
Trails here are ledgy, rocky, and perhaps newcomers sometimes find the ratings a little stiff. Take it easy if this is your first trip.
The full description is below, but there are some good shorter alternatives:
1. Ride Mary's Loop
to Horsethief Bench Loop
, then return the way you came and save about 9 miles.
2. Follow the ride as below, but skip Horsethief Bench Loop
and save 3.8 miles and a short but tiring hike.
From the main parking lot, follow the dirt road up and over the hill. On your way down, look for Mary's Loop
heading uphill on the right. It starts with a solid climb up a rocky dirt road and is not an inviting start, but this ride just gets better and better.
Continue on the doubletrack as you hug the rim above the Colorado River with some small technical obstacles and great scenery. You'll eventually reach the Horsethief Bench Loop
, which you'll descend into for this ride.
99% of riders get off their bike and carry their bike 100 yards down to the bench. It's large drop after large drop, with ledges, boulders, and a few slots thrown in to keep things complicated. If you get a chance to watch someone ride down, cheer them on!
Once down on the bench, take a left and ride the loop clockwise. Soon you'll come to a slickrock-like drop onto a sandy floor. The drop is tacky and pretty rideable by upper intermediate riders.
The trail meets the edge of the bench overlooking the river with several great viewpoints and a few small rock ledges as it pops in and out of small side canyons.
Once you turn in away from the bench edge, you'll come to many rock ledges including a four foot drop that most people have to hike up. Past this side canyon, the trail becomes much easier, smoother, and faster. You leave the rock behind and ride through a grassy section with smooth dirt singletrack along a huge wall as a backdrop. The trail climbs gently back to the entrance hike-a-bike. Huff it back up!
Continue on Mary's Loop
for 3 miles (passing Mary's Cutoff
and Wrangler's Loop to the right) until you get to Steve's Loop
(also signed as Steve's Cutoff). You'll descend a couple steps (some riders will walk them), then cruise down a nice, smooth, rolling trail to a bench a little lower than the one you've been riding. The trail is now very easy for the next couple miles, but there are wonderful desert features including slot canyons, big sandstone walls, and some shelf rock that you can ride above some major dropoffs to the canyon floor below.
The third canyon (which is the narrowest slot canyon) has a short section with broken rockfall that you'll have to carry your bike over. After than, it's smooth riding again almost all the way back up to Mary's Loop
on the higher bench. One final steep uphill stretch will not be rideable by most and you'll probably have to push it a short ways.
Back on Mary's Loop
, turn right on old doubletrack and start your way back to the car. Continue on Mary's (now retracing part of your route) until you reach Wranglers Loop
on the left. Take it up a nice, easy hill that wanders around smooth trail for 1.2 miles until you reach a saddle. Mary's Cutoff
will be to your right, but stay left/straight on Wranglers and rocket 1 mile down an old doubletrack to the road and trailhead below.