A high elevation, remote, and iconic singletrack trail that hugs the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.”
— Kevin League
The trail is usually dry and snow-free from late spring (mid-May) through late fall (mid-October). Access roads to the trail are open during this period as well. Roads are closed and the trail is buried under snow in winter. Check in with the National Forest before making the trip.
Located in the Kaibab National Forest of northern Arizona, the remote and aptly named Rainbow Rim Trail follows along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, connecting five large overlooks that peer into one of the largest and most fascinating canyons on Planet Earth!
Need to Know
The trail is located in a very remote area, the nearest services are many miles away, so be prepared for backcountry conditions. Because of the trail's remoteness, many riders will take advantage of the plentiful primitive camping at one of the five overlook points and spend a couple of days exploring the area. Bring everything you might need including water and food, no services are available. The forest roads out to the Rainbow Rim are ok (not great) for two-wheel drive cars.
Many riders prefer the flow of the trail from north to south, but it rides well either way. Setting up camp at Locust Point for example, which is the midpoint of the trail, enables you to divide up the trail as two separate out-and-back rides: 1) Locust Point south past Timp Point and back and, 2) Locust Point north to Parissawampitts Point and back.
Even though it is purported that up to 90% of the Rainbow Rim's users are mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riders commonly use this trail as well.
The Rainbow Rim Trail offers 22.5 miles (one-way) of exceptional solitude on a remote rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail offers an extremely unique experience; it is the only singletrack trail on the rim of the Grand Canyon open to bikes. Trails in nearby Grand Canyon National Park are closed to bicycles.
While riding the Rainbow Rim, the views are fantastic, but somewhat infrequent, which make you appreciate every time you come across a glimpse into the great abyss. In fact, you never are very far from the rim, but the majority of the riding is spent traveling on a well designed and sustainably built trail through forest, up and down shallow drainages, and across flower-filled meadows.
Each of the trail's five overlooks offer a distinct view and perspective of the Grand Canyon's features including the Powell Plateau, Steamboat Mountain, Tapeats Amphitheater and Great Thumb Mesas.
Mileage from each Point are as follows:
Parissawampitts to Fence = 5.5 miles
Fence to Locust = 3.0 miles
Locust to North Timp = 6.5 miles
North Timp to Timp = 3.0 miles
Timp to Forest Road 271= 4.3 miles
Total = 22.5 miles one-way
History & Background
Due to the popularity and uniqueness of the trail, IMBA and the Kaibab National Forest have agreed on a plan to extend the trail by a total of 8 miles! The district signed a decision memo in November 2012 to allow for construction of up to 8 miles of trail. The expansion will extend east off of the existing trail, consisting of 3 miles of new construction and 4 miles of road-to-trail conversion, turning the out-and-back trail into a lollipop. As of 2016, a few miles of the planned expansion have been completed and the trail now reaches to the intersection of FR 271 and FR 271A.