North Kaibab National Forest
Linger and Cool Off on the Kaibab Plateau
By Patrick Lair
The Kaibab Plateau can be seen looming on the southern horizon from many vantage points in Kane County. Kaibab is a Paiute word that means “mountain lying down,” but the plateau offers visitors many reasons to get up and go! The North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest administers roughly 640,000 acres of forest that extends from the lower elevation lands of the Arizona Strip to the majestic ponderosa pine forests atop the plateau that reach elevations close to 9,000 feet. From the sweeping vistas of Houserock Valley on its eastern flank to the unique, wind-carved formations of Kanab Creek Wilderness on its western side, to its shared border with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the plateau offers a wide variety of sightseeing and recreation opportunities. The forest has nearly 1,200 miles of maintained and non-maintained trails, including sections of the Great Western and Arizona Trails.
Each year, thousands of visitors come from around the world to hike and ride mountain bikes, horses and recreational vehicles across the Kaibab landscape. The Rainbow Rim Trail offers 18 miles of stunning Grand Canyon scenery, and the East Rim Overlook and Jump Up Point are popular viewpoints. Visitors can also enjoy spotting unique wildlife species, such as the Kaibab squirrel, California condor, Northern goshawk, bison from the Houserock Valley herd and others.
The arrival of fall colors among abundant stands of aspen throughout the large meadows along Highway 67 from Jacob Lake to the North Rim also bring many sightseers out for leisurely drives. There are several historic cabins located across the plateau, including the Jacob Lake Ranger Station and the recently renovated Jump Up Cabin. Visitors are always welcome at the three fire lookout towers. There are two established campgrounds on the forest, although camping is allowed free in most places. Some popular spots include Mile and a Half Lake and Three Lakes, located among the old-growth ponderosa atop the plateau. In winter, there is also a snowmobile route from Jacob Lake to North Timp Point, as well as multiple cross-country skiing opportunities. The Arizona Department of Transportation closes Highway 67 at Jacob Lake, usually from Thanksgiving through May 15, due to heavy snow accumulations. Visitors can obtain tourism information about the forest from the Kaibab Plateau Visitors Center at Jacob Lake, which is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day from May 15 to October 31, or by calling (928) 643-7298. The North Kaibab Ranger District office in Fredonia is open year-round. The office is located at 430 S. Main Street, or call (928) 643-7395. For additional tourism information, visit the Kaibab National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab.