Kaibab National Forest

Mountain Biking North of the Grand Canyon
Gorp.com
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The North Kaibab Ranger District provides some of the most spectacular mountain biking to be found anywhere. That should come as no surprise considering that the district is neighbor to one of the world's most scenic natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. A number of forest roads lead to little known overlooks of that World Heritage Site. Most of those roads are sparsely traveled, so there's not much in the way of some great biking.

For the most part, the terrain of this high plateau is gently rolling, with an occasional short, steep climb. The scenery is varied, ranging from tall stands of old growth ponderosas, to grassy canyon bottoms and alpine meadows dotted with aspens. At road's end there are the unmatched panoramas of the Grand Canyon. The ridge tops that lead there offer clear views as far away as Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah. Throw in the fact that this area is almost totally undiscovered as a mountain biking haven and it all adds up to unmatched riding enjoyment.

The best time to ride the lower desert areas of the North Kaibab is in the fall, after the heat of summer has subsided, or in the spring before it arrives. Higher locations in the ponderosa pine forests are comfortable throughout the summer. During winter months, the roads are often snow covered or too muddy to ride, especially after large storms. At any time of the year, the best word that can be used to describe the weather on the North Kaibab is unpredictable. The wisest strategy is to come prepared for just about anything. Bring a variety of clothes to wear and always be sure to carry plenty of water. During the transition seasons you may be faced with anything from driving cold to wilting heat. Late summer brings violent thunderstorms with much wind, blowing dust and lightning.

But enough worrying. Let's hit the trails...

The Loops & Overlooks:
Loop Rides . . . The ins and outs and arounds and arounds
Snake Gulch/Kanab Canyon Overlooks . . . See far, far away
Grand Canyon Rim Rides . . . Through remote valleys to views of the canyon that most people don't see

The Trails:
Buck Ridge Point . . . Overlooking the lonesome Arizona strip
Willow Point . . . Best views of the Snake Gulch hoodoos
Slide Point Loop . . . Along a jeep track to good canyon views with lots of side routes
Horse Spring Point . . . Along a high, rocky ridge
Jensen Point . . . First glimpse of the Supai formations
Jumpup Point . . . Strenuous, but arguably the best views
Forest Road 427 . . . Some of the best old-growth ponderosa pine forest anywhere
Sowats Point . . . Good ride, good views
Crazy Jug/Fr 425 . . . View of Crazy Jug Point plus lots of other interest
Timp Point. . . Catch sight of desert bighorn sheep, if you're lucky

Loop Rides
Although most of the mountain biking routes in the District are out and back rides on spur routes that lead to canyon overlooks, there are opportunities for loop rides. This guide only outlines or suggests a few of the many possible loop routes that exist on the North Kaibab; however, if you have a lot of time and can camp off your bike, a real long-distance adventure can be put together quite easily. If that is your preference, use this guide along with the North Kaibab District Forest Map available at the USFS District Office at Jacob Lake and topographic maps which may be purchased at the Jacob Lake General Store to help you plan your trip.

A significant drawback of most loop routes is that they involve roads that are more frequently traveled by motorized vehicles. Additional care must be taken along these routes and even more so when the route is being used by logging trucks. If you encounter a logging truck, the best policy is to pull off the road and wait for it to pass. Chances are the driver can't see you and couldn't slow down if he wanted to.

Snake Gulch/Kanab Canyon Overlooks
All the routes under this heading lead to viewpoints overlooking Kanab Canyon and its tributary Snake Gulch. Kanab Canyon is itself a major tributary of the Grand Canyon. This is a fascinating area known for bizarre rock formations, high concentrations of cultural sites, historic cattle ranches and uranium mines. Snake Gulch's upper stretches are dotted with unique pinnacles called hoodoos that bring to mind stone images of south sea island gods. Willow Point is one of the best places to see the hoodoos.

The overlooks offer some breathtaking long distance scenery also. The view from any of these points extends all the way to the petrified dunes of Zion National Park, the butterscotch buttes of Bryce National Park, and the Vermillion Cliffs north of Fredonia. Stretching into the distance in the west is the high, wide and lonesome Arizona Strip. Mt. Trumbull, Mt. Logan, and the Uinkarets stand marooned on its broad desert tablelands.

The southern edge of the Strip is fractured and eaten away by the Grand Canyon. As you move in that direction the views from the overlooks take on the unmistakable appearance of the World Heritage Site. At Slide Point, Horse Spring Point, and Jensen Canyon Point, the views become progressively dominated by the world's most celebrated chasm.

The progression culminates at Jumpup Point. This is one of the most unique views in all of the Grand Canyon. The overlook stands at the end of a long narrow ridge of rock that juts well away from the main body of the rim. It offers the viewer a perspective literally surrounded with breathtaking scenery. It's easy to see why this point is named Jumpup.

The list of landmarks visible from here is impressive: Fishtail Mesa, the Great Thumb, Racetrack Knoll, Mt. Sinyella, Mt. Akaba, Gramma Canyon, Hack Canyon, Steamboat Rock, Kwagunt Canyon, Indian Hollow, Monument Point, to name a few. Take a map and you'll be able to name many more.

Grand Canyon Rim Rides
The North Kaibab District skirts the rim of the Grand Canyon along the District's southeast edge. Here, forested byways provide pleasant routes of access right to the brink of the world's most splendid abyss. From the overlooks easily accessible here you'll see some of the Grand Canyon's most notable views. Thunder River, Vulcan's Throne, Sinyella Butte, Steamboat Rock, all are visible from at least one of the promontories.

If that's not enough, along the way to the magnificent views, you'll meander along remote valleys lined with clumps of old-growth yellow pine interspersed with clusters of scrub Gambel oak and stands of aspen. In many places the countryside is virtually undisturbed, giving the rider a glimpse of the forest magnificence that once covered the entire North Kaibab. In the fall, this area provides a colorful display that begins with the gold of aspens in mid-September and continues with the reds, oranges, and ambers of the oaks throughout the month of October.

Keep an eye out for the area's famous Kaibab mule deer, reputedly they are some of the largest in existence. And don't forget to watch the trees for the area's most unique resident, the black-bodied, white-tailed Kaibab Squirrel. Ages ago, the Grand Canyon cut these tassel-eared tree dwellers off from their southern cousin, the Abert squirrel. Left to evolve by themselves, these striking animals have developed into a separate species that lives here and nowhere else.

Buck Ridge Point
This ride is short and easy but nevertheless offers high rewards. The route starts from a point a mere 4 miles from the Jacob Lake Campground and leads to an overlook where the views stretch all the way to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah.

Buck Ridge Point is located on the western edge of the Kaibab Plateau. Stretching out from the base of the escarpment that drops off from the plateau, the high, wide and lonesome Arizona Strip is one of the most remote areas in the Southwest. The Strip is a place of cattle ranching and prospecting, of vast flatlands and marooned mountains, of deep, twisting canyons and distant escarpments. Serving as a backdrop for all this scenery and all this history, the Vermillion Cliffs north of Fredonia, the amber buttes of Bryce and the petrified dunes of Zion are all visible along the horizon. To the southwest Kanab Creek and its tributaries nibble at the edge of the strip and create a tear in its fabric that gives a hint of the fact that the Grand Canyon lies just out of sight around the corner.

The road and therefore the ride ends in a stand of pinyon juniper trees at an old abandoned mine site. It's a good place for a picnic, and you can test your awareness of southwest geography by trying to name all the landmarks visible from this point.

Length: 5 miles round-trip
Season: April through November
Use: Moderate
Difficulty: Easy
USGS Maps: (15' Quad) Big Springs

Route Conditions: Though the road is a primitive jeep track with a grassy median, its surface is good, mostly hard-packed sand. There are a few soft spots, however, that can slow you down and make you work a bit to reach road's end. There is a turn-around at the confluence of Nail Canyon and Snake Gulch.

Access: Follow Forest Highway 67 south from the Jacob Lake intersection 0.25 miles to FR 461 Turn west on FR 461 and drive about 4 miles to FR 264, Buck Ridge Point Road. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time from Jacob Lake is about 5 minutes.

Willow Point
Best views of the Snake Gulch hoodoos and upper Snake Gulch, good views of the Arizona Strip, Bryce, and Zion, moderate ride.

Length: 12 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Season: Spring through Late Fall
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Big Spring, Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: The road to Willow Point (FR 237) is an infrequently traveled jeep track that makes an excellent bike route. There's not a lot of gradient, nor much sand. It's a bit rocky in places but not enough to cause problems. This is an out and back ride. There is no possibility of a loop.

Access: Follow Forest Highway 67 south from the Jacob Lake intersection .25 miles to FR 461 Turn west on FR 461 and drive about 8 miles to FR 462. Continue west on 462 to the intersection with FR 422. Turn south on FR 422 to Oak Corrall Road (FR 423). Follow FR 423 2 miles to FR 235. Turn northwest on FR 235 4 miles to Willow Point Road (FR 237). These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is about 30 minutes from Jacob Lake.

Slide Point Loop
Loop ride, good canyon views, good distance views, side routes for exploring

Length: 16.8 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Season: April through November
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Big Spring, Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: For the most part, the Slide Point Loop follows an infrequently traveled jeep track that makes an excellent bike route. There are a few rocky places on the primitive stretches, but nothing that you can't easily walk around. Some parts of the ride are on more developed roads, but traffic is sparse along these stretches during most of the year.

Access: From the Willow Canyon ride access, continue 1 mile along FR 235 to FR 267, the Slide Point Loop road. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is a little over 30 minutes from Jacob Lake.

Horse Spring Point
Great views of the confluence of Snake Gulch and Kanab Canyon, views of southern Utah and Arizona Strip from high points along the route.

Length: 10.3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Season: April through November
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: The ride to Horse Spring Canyon undulates along a high ridge where the road is somewhat rocky but the views are excellent. About 2.5 miles from the beginning there is a trick tank with a fence around it. Keep to the left here. As you near road's end there is a steep, rocky place that most will walk around.

Access: From the intersection of FR 235 and FR 267 (the access point to the Slide Point Loop Ride), follow FR 235 a little over 3 miles to FR 423. This intersection can be a bit hard to find, but drive past the entrance to the old campground down over the hill to Slide Tank. Turn south on FR 423 about 5 miles to Jumpup Divide and FR 236 - Horseshoe Spring Point Road. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is about an hour from Jacob Lake.

Jensen Point
The Supai formation with its organic layers of rich red sandstone makes its first appearance here. The view is big, deep and breathtaking—unmistakably Grand Canyon.

Length: 8.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Season: Late Spring to Late Fall
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: The route to Jensen Point follows FR 201A (Little Spring Road) for 1.3 miles then continues along FR 648 for about 3 miles to the overlook. The ride is short but has a couple of big hills, some rocks, and deep sand. All obstacles are easy to negotiate or walk around. The drops are steep but not precipitous, mostly a problem for coming back up. You may choose to ride out FR 201A also and hike down the trail to Little Spring.

Access: From the Jumpup Divide (see Horse Spring Point access) drive 1.3 miles on FR 201 to FR 201A - Little Spring Road and the beginning of the Jensen Point Ride. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is a little over an hour from Jacob Lake.

Jumpup Point
Breathtaking views all along the ride, unmatched overlook at the end, length of ride can be adjusted to suit your conditioning.

Length: 20.6 miles round-trip
Season: Late spring to late fall
Use: Light
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: This is a curving, rolling road that attracts a considerable amount of motorized traffic. Numerous blind spots exist where loose gravel and steep grades could make an encounter between a motor vehicle and a bike a hazardous one. The most scenic part of the ride actually begins just beyond where FR 649 forks off to the west. You may choose to start from here and cut the length of the ride to 17 miles round-trip.

Access: Follow Forest Highway 67 south from the Jacob Lake intersection .25 miles to FR 461 Turn west on FR 461 about 8 miles to FR 462. Continue west on 462 to FR 422. Turn south on FR 422 to Oak Corrall Road (FR 423). Follow FR 423 to FR 235. Turn northwest on FR 235 to FR 423 again. This intersection can be a bit hard to find, but drive past the entrance to the old campground down over the hill to Slide Tank. Turn south on FR 423 about 5 miles to Jumpup Divide and FR 201. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they frequently become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is about an hour from Jacob Lake.

Forest Road 427
Some of the best old-growth ponderosa pine forest anywhere, plentiful wildlife, great campsites, long lasting fall colors, easy rides out to Grand Canyon overlooks.

Length: 14.8 round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to easy
Season: April through November
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: This is an infrequently traveled forest lane with grass growing between the tire tracks. It's a good place for a leisurely ride and a good place to set up a base camp for a ride out to Sowats. The best scenery starts at the FR 233/FR 425 intersection.

Access: Follow Forest Highway 67 south from the Jacob Lake intersection .25 miles to FR 461 Turn west on FR 461 about 8 miles to FR 462. Continue west on 462 to FR 422. Turn south on FR 422 and drive past Big Springs to FR 447. Go west on FR 447 for 4.0 miles to FR 427 and trailhead. Or, if you're coming from Jumpup, follow FR 234 from the Jumpup access point to FR 427. These roads are gravel, all-weather roads, but they frequently become impassable during the winter or after spring and fall storms. Travel time is about an hour to an hour and a half from Jacob Lake.

Sowats Point
Excellent views of the Grand Canyon and Arizona Strip, lots of spur rides to alternate overlooks and hiking trails, some fall colors.

Length: 18.6 round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Season: April through November
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: This is a rolling, open road where the riding is fast and easy. Watch out for high speed motor vehicles. A number of spur roads fork off of the main route and lead to less frequently visited overlooks.

Access: See FR 425 (above) access. From the intersection of FR 234 and FR 425 ride or drive to the turnoff of FR 233, the Sowats Point Road.

Crazy Jug/Fr 425
Great views at Crazy Jug Point (Sinyella Butte, Vulcan's Throne, Tapeats Canyon), tree-lined valley, wildlife, old corral, interesting spur roads.

Length: 14.2 miles one way
Season: Late Spring to Late Fall
Use: Light
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: FR 425 is a sparsely traveled, primitive road through a valley of oak, aspen and ponderosa stands. Interspersed among those stands are a number of sunny, upland meadows and several excellent campsites. This is an excellent place to see deer, eagles, and coyotes as well all of those smaller but just as interesting critters that frequent transitional habitats. Near Big Saddle point there is a large stock corral and FR 292 heads south to Crazy Jug point. The ride here is uphill and washboarded, but the view will make you forget the effort. A number of loop rides are possible off the main route using different combinations of roads Fit's 425, 214, 272, 272A and 292.

Access: Drive 25 miles south of Jacob Lake on Forest Highway 67. Turn west on FR 422 for 1.5 miles then south on FR 270 for 1.0 mile. Turn west on FR 222 about 7 miles to FR 206, then 5 miles north to FR 425. Park here.

Timp Point
Pleasant ride through a valley lined with forests and meadows, great views at Timp Point of Tapeats Canyon and Thunder River and the Grandest of Canyons. The overlook at Timp Point is unsurpassed, good views of Vulcan's throne, Muav Saddle, and Powell Plateau, too. Watch for the herd of desert bighorn sheep that lives in the area.

Length: 16.5 round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Season: Late Spring to Late Fall
Use: Light
USGS Map: (15' Quad) Jumpup Canyon

Route Conditions: The road to Timp Point (FR 271 ) is, for the most part, an infrequently traveled forest lane through a small valley lined with aspen-rimmed meadows. There's one steep climb along the route, but the rest of the road is easy.

Access: Drive 25 miles south of Jacob Lake on Forest Highway 67. Turn west on FR 422 for 1.5 miles then south on FR 270 for 1.0 mile. Turn west on FR 222 about 7 miles to FR 206. Go south on FR 206 for 2 miles to the intersection of FR 239. Park here and ride FR 206 and FR 271 Timp Point. Get off your bike and hike 0.25 mile to the magnificent view at the end of the point.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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