Hiking the Rainbow Rim Trail – Pt. III

This is the last in a 3-part series on Hiking the Rainbow Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon
Part IPart II

Travel Considerations for the North Rim

Before going out to the points in the Kaibab NF, check with the Back Country Office in the North Rim Village. These folks really know their stuff and will be knowledgable about current back country travel conditions:  washouts, fire restrictions, forest fire danger, road conditions, suggested routes. They will provide you with a route description and map. Follow their advice.

Get a Forest Service map of the Kaibab NF. A good map may be obtained at any regional Forest Service District Office. There’s one in Fredonia, AZ, a few miles south of Kanab, UT heading towards the North Rim. They may be available at any Grand Canyon Book/gift store.

The North Rim officially closes around Oct. 15. All the services, the restaurants, the lodgings, the gas station will close. (Oddly the gift shop will remain open for the hikers). However, the park will stay open for hikers until the first major snowstorm closes it. Believe me, you don’t want to get caught on the North Rim of the Kaibab National Forest in a big snow storm. It’s a long winter and you will probably deplete your bag of Power Bars. The North Rim doesn’t reopen until mid May.

Transportation Preparations

You can, of course, drive directly to the start point in the Kaibab NF. I recommend, however, going to the North Rim Village first, checking it out, resupply, gas up, visit the Back Country Office for information. It certainly doesn’t hurt to inform the rangers of where you will be and how long you’ll be there.

Hopefully, you’ll have the time to explore the North Rim. You can do it some justice even in a day, if your time is limited. The hiking abounds. And by the way, the No. Rim gets one-tenth the visitation the So. Rim does.

Mountain Biking

Mountain bike in the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero. Flickr CC License.

Mountain bike in the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero. Flickr CC License.

Depending on your level of experience and fitness you can bike all the way from the North Rim Village to Timp Point. Or from a camp or camp grounds in the Kaibab NF itself, some twenty five miles closer than from the Village. Your call. If you bike from the Vill or the NF, I recommend stashing food and water along the way beforehand to lighten your load and extend your trip. Perhaps a support vehicle if you wish to bike corvette. Or simply drive to the trailhead.

The trip thought the forest is pleasant and full of choice camp spots.


You can get to most places in the Kaibab NF in a decent high clearance 2 wheel drive vehicle. Most. Ask at the Backcountry office if your type is suitable for where you’re going. There’s no way you can drive on some of the roads there without 4WD. If the map or the road signs says 4 wheel drive road, that’s exactly what it means. Some years even a 4WD vehicle can’t manage roads that have been badly damaged.

Check the legend on your map and access the roads carefully. It’s better to take a slightly longer route than hassle with a breakdown or multiple flat tires. There no longer is a automotive repair shop at the North Rim Village, only a gas station. If your vehicle is badly damaged and requires a tow it will cost you a $140/hr (That’s right) to get you out. The nearest tow service is in Kanab, UT, (once you’re able to get there) and you can count on a minimum of four to five hours if you’re very lucky. Much more if your really outback and on a gnarly road.

You will be driving on the hard-ass Kaibab limestone. It can be hell on tires. When I go out there now I take two spares. I started carrying two after an infamous doubles sidewall slashers on a trip to the aptly named Point Sublime. This goes for mountain bikers too.

And, by the way, I shredded one of my tires on a 4WD road on this trip that I should have avoided. Do as I say and not as I did.

So. Take what you need to hang out, if necessary, water and food, automotive needs and whatever else you need. You might have to stay out a bit longer than you had anticipated.

Getting there

I’m assuming the North Rim Village is your initial destination for the Rainbow Rim Trail. If you’re coming in on Interstate 40, head north from Flagstaff, AZ on Route 89, catch Rt 89A west across the Marble Platform to Jacobs Lake, then State Route 67 south to the North Rim Village. It will be about a four hour drive from Flagstaff. What the heck, go to the Grand Canyon Village and check out the South Rim while you’re in the neighborhood. Gas up and resupply there. You will get a better price than anywhere on the way. Same for Flagstaff. Tuba City, slightly off Rt 89 on the way in, will do too.

Coming in from the north: From the northeast, start from Page, AZ on Rt 89 to 89A to Jacobs Lake, then Rt 67 to the North Rim Village. From the northwest, Rt 89 (again) south to Kanab, UT through Fredonia, AZ to 89A to Jacobs Lake then Rt 67 to the North Rim. Resupply at Page or Kanab. It will be cheaper than anywhere in between. If beer is your beverage, then buy it in Arizona. Trust me.

Have fun.

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