The Kaibab Plateau – A Grand Adventure

“It was the best of times, it was…” – no let’s just leave it at that.  This was a wonderful adventure.  Other than some strong wind on one day, we had perfect weather.  We enjoyed fun trails, incredible autumn foliage, and amazing views of the Grand Canyon.

I created two videos from this trip.  Since I was in the lead most of the time, the video is mostly of pretty autumn leaves.  Dave moved around within the group and created two videos that include riders much of the time.  I hope you enjoy them.

The plan was to explore the Kaibab Plateau in a clockwise direction, camping on the rim of the Grand Canyon each night.  We had to alter our route due to the Ike’s Fire, which closed much of the western rim.  Dave was lucky enough to snag a permit for five to camp at Point Sublime inside the National Park boundary.  We camped outside of the park the other two nights.

We staged near Jacob’s Lake at the fire lookout tower.  This seemed like a reasonable place to start.  There is enough parking for a few rigs, an outhouse, and it is just off Hwy 67 about one mile south of Jacob Lake Inn.

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Staging area

We mostly rode on the smaller dirt roads inside the Kaibab National Forest.  We rode on Hwy 67 when necessary, and a few times on the major dirt road #22 – but we didn’t enjoy that road – it was loose gravel and had a lot of washboard.  In general, the smaller the road, the more fun it was on a dirt bike.

We met at around noon, ate a quick lunch and got ready to ride.  We rode south, parallel to Hwy 67 until near the De Motte campground.  Most of the roads were fun and fast, except for one section that had recently been graded.  That one was loose and had hidden rocks in the dirt.  We passed through a mixture of lodgepole pine and lots of colorful aspen trees.  The aspen trees in old burn areas were particularly striking.

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Colorful leaves in an old burn area

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Riding through miles of colorful aspen trees

We eventually crossed over the highway and rode out to the eastern rim, camping near the Saddle Mountain trailhead.  The best campsites were already taken, so we ended up on a fairly slanted camp with lots of thorn bushes.  I worried that my air mattress would get punctured, but luckily, I avoided that problem.

 

It got pretty cold at night since we were at about 8800’ elevation.  I expected the sunset and sunrise to be spectacular on the rim of the canyon, but the canyon goes into shadow and it was difficult to see and to take decent pictures.  If I do this trip again, I would likely camp off the rim somewhere with a better primitive campsite.

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Cooking dinner and watching the sun set

After watching the sunrise and eating breakfast, we packed up and headed into the National Park.  We rode the paved road out to Cape Royal and Point Imperial.  Some say this is the best twisty pavement in the state of Arizona.  I don’t know about that, but it was a fun ride – even on a small dirt bike.

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Ross and Danny at Cape Royal

We spent more time at the overlooks than expected, and ended up having to postpone our visit to the North Rim Lodge and Bright Angel Point.  We bought gas near the campground, and headed out to Point Sublime.

Point Sublime is perhaps the best viewpoint in the park, but it is about 20 miles out on a rugged Jeep road.  A few years ago, I got a flat tire in my Jeep and remember it being pretty rough.  I worried that this would be a tough ride with our luggage, but it turned out to be pretty fast and super fun.  There are a few challenging sections with steep climbs and descents and quite a few rocks, but for the most part, it was a fun ride.  The last few miles reminded me of an Ewok forest from Star Wars.  What’s not to like about that!

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A scenic overlook on the way to Point Sublime

The campground at Point Sublime is a few hundred yards from the viewpoint, but it does have two picnic tables and an outhouse.  The elevation is lower, so it was a warmer night as well.

We enjoyed watching the sunset and sunrise, then packed up for more fun riding.  I think the ride out was even more fun than the ride in.

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Ross taking a sunset photo

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Sunrise panorama from Point Sublime

Our original plan was to ride north on road W4 and explore the points near the Rainbow Rim mountain bike trail.  Unfortunately, that entire section was closed.  We had to go all the way back to the highway, so we decided to visit the lodge and Bright Angel Point since we were so close.  This put us behind schedule, but it was worth the stop.

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Ross and Dave enjoying the ride back from Point Sublime

We then exited the park via Hwy 67.  The ride through the park isn’t bad on a dirt bike since the speed limit is only 45 mph.  But once you exit the park, the speed limit steps up to 65 mph.  The terrain opens up and we had a strong side wind, so this part wasn’t much fun on my small bike.  We gassed up at the North Rim Country Store (no water and no garbage cans) then headed back onto the trails.

We rode through Dry Park and ate lunch at the Dry Park fire lookout tower.  The ranger shack offered good shelter from the wind.

After lunch we found a really fun and twisty road that headed west towards Crazy Jug Point.  The view of the Grand Canyon from Crazy Jug is quite different from the other viewpoints we had visited.  From here you can see the canyon head in a fairly straight line to the west for miles and miles.

We then road out to Sowats Point.  This road was a little disappointing.  There were a lot of ruts in the road, and lot of hunters looking for turkey.  Plus, the view wasn’t all that great.  The elevation dropped as we approached the point, but we wanted to camp up in the pines so we headed back.

Our original plan was to camp at Jumpup Point, but it was getting late and we decided to find a decent camp as soon as possible.

On our final day, we rode out to Jumpup Divide, but didn’t have time to visit the point.  We then worked our way east, back toward Jacob Lake.  We missed a turn and ended up riding south parallel to the highway rather than east.  This added a dozen or so miles to our trip, but gave us one more look at some beautiful autumn leaves.

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More autumn grandeur

During our four days, we rode about 375 miles through some really fun and scenic areas of the Kaibab Plateau.  Everyone agreed this was one of the best adventure rides we have enjoyed.  I hope to return again someday.  It was amazing how much more spectacular the autumn leaves were if you get off the main paved highway and venture out into the wild.

About gardinerfamilyadventures

A really great family!
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