Kaibab National Forest Overview

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The Kaibab National Forest sits on the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon—its two halves forever separated by the mile-deep ravine. This split personality is reflected in the forest's seemingly improbable juxtaposition of terrain. The lower desert areas of the North Kaibab differ drastically from the alpine slopes of Kendrick's Peak in the South Kaibab. Rolling fields of pinyon-juniper give way to the striking symmetry of aspen groves and lush pine forests.

The Kaibab Plateau is an "island" of forested land surrounded by a sea of sage and grasslands. "Kaibab" is a Paiute Indian word that translates to "mountain lying down." Most of the plateau was set aside in 1893 as part of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve. In 1908, the Forest Reserve north of the Grand Canyon was renamed the Kaibab National Forest. In 1934, the Tusayan National Forest south of the Grand Canyon was consolidated into the Kaibab National Forest.

Hike the Snake Gulch
You'll need two to three days to hike the 21.5 miles that weave their way through multicolored cliffs, streamside cottonwoods, and oak thickets. Along the way, you'll pass red and yellow painted petroglyphs as well as a few old homesteads. The trailhead, at 5,860 feet, is located in the Kanab Creek Wilderness at the end of Forest Road 642. There are approximately 370 miles of trails in the Kaibab National Forest.

Bike the Northern Rim
The North Kaibab is the mountain biker's secret—this gentle rolling high plateau is peppered with short, steep spurts and remains largely undiscovered by the fat-tire community. The forested byways that lead to the canyon are lined with aspen, old-growth yellow pine, and scrub Gambel oak. As you skirt along the northern rim of the canyon, you can see Vulcan's Throne, Sinyella Butte, and Steamboat Rock. As you crest the tops of ridges, you'll have clear views of Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah.

Land a Seven-Pound Brown Trout
Oak Creek is stocked with pan-size rainbows, but you can also reel in browns up to seven pounds. The upper third of the creek provides the best fishing.

Drive the "Mother Road"—Route 66
Get your kicks on Route 66—this historic route was immortalized in John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath as well as in Bobby Troup's 1946 song. The U.S. Highway passes through the Kaibab National Forest along sections listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This cross-country road was called America's Main Street and offered easterners the hope of starting a new life in the west.

Go to the Edge at Crazy Jug Point
The road that leads to Crazy Jug Point winds its way through ponderosa pine before it stops at the edge, where you'll ask yourself many of the great existential questions as you ponder the Grand Canyon. The view overlooks the canyon's Tapeats Amphitheater and provides a panorama that includes Fishtail Mesa to the west, and Steamboat Mountain and Powell Plateau to the south.

Explore the Kanab Creek Wilderness
The Kanab Creek Wilderness is rugged, remote—and without question—wild. The Kanab Creek, one of the major tributaries of the Colorado River, cuts through a labyrinth of vertical-walled gorges that display Nature's baroque and avant-garde sandstone carvings—intricate knobs, fins, potholes, and a variety of weird nameless shapes are exhibited in this cavernous gallery. During the high summer months, water is scarce as temperatures soar upward of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The Kanab Creek Wilderness is located in the southeast corner of the North Kaibab Ranger District.

Camp in the Kaibab Backcountry
Seekers of solitude can camp in Kaibab's backcountry, permitted throughout most of the forest. Or, if you prefer, you can try one of the nine developed campgrounds. Dogtown, Whitehorse, Cataract, and Kaibab Lake offer great trout fishing. If you want to be close to the Grand Canyon, try South Kaibab, Jacob Lake, Demotte Park, Indian Hollow, and Ten X. After you've pitched your tent in the Kaibab, shish kebab some toasted marshmallows over the fire pit.

Move on to Kaibab Campground Guide

Cross-Country Ski Old Logging Roads
On the Spring Valley Cross-Country Ski Trail, you can ski along old logging roads that weave their way through a ponderosa pine forest. Cross-country skiing is also popular in the Williams Area in undeveloped areas like Sevier Flat, Barney Flat, and the White Horse Lake Area. Alpine skiing is available in the Williams Area and Oak Creek—both areas are small and geared toward beginners.

Watch Birds on Bixler Mountain
On Bixler Mountain, bird watchers can spot the hairy woodpecker, mountain chickadee, common flicker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, pygmy nuthatch, red-faced warbler, and the Townsend's solitaire. The best time for birding is during breeding season from mid-May through July.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 16 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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