Wow! You are going to say that at least once on the North Rim. If you don't you have some issues. The Grand Canyon is a pretty impressive piece of natural artwork on this third rock from the Sun. Far away from the tourist trappings of the South Rim tour buses and fenced off canyon edges, you get a much closer interaction of the canyon edge here on the Kaibab Plateau. I first came here in the summer of 2006 and I must say ever bit as much of a life enriching experience as the first time. While this was my second time on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, it was my first time camping out here which added an entirely different dimension to the experience. I read a famous quote somewhere that fits for this place. "Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath taken away." I feel pretty confident that this place will certainly be a bookmark in the browser of your life.
So I am a frequent flyer with this trail. I first rode this trail in 2006 and have been back in 2015 and 2021. I will be back here again. Please use the related BLOG links as well as dig through the Arizona section of the menu to see those adventures.
After we got done with the morning ride in Flagstaff, Bill, Jeff and I decided to skip the afternoon ride and make a beeline for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were soon packed up and after a round of thanks, and hand shakes we said farewell to the Orange County contingent and headed north. It is a bit of haul to get around to the North Rim as there is this big pesky hole in the ground you have to drive around. Shortly after we left Flagstaff we got a call from Jeff. He got a flat that pretty much trashed his tire so he was going back to Flagstaff to have it fixed and would met us at the rim. This was probably not our best decision since navigating out to where we were going to be camping is tricky. We texted some directions to Jeff and made plans to get to the Fence Point and have camp setup by the time Jeff got there.
We made a pit stop at Navaho Bridge to check out the sites and were punched in the face with the heat as we stepped out of the truck into the 105 degrees of sweltering desert beat down heat. I was happy in the knowledge that were going to be well above this heat in the 7,000+ foot range. While here we got a call from Jeff and he was a little under two hours behind us.
DIRECTIONS: (Sorta) Getting to our campsite was interesting. At the town of Jacob Lake (which is already pretty much in the middle of nowhere) we stocked up on water, ice and a few other supplies before we turned south on Highway 67 and went 27 miles. And then turned right onto FS22 (Which about 1 mile past the Kaibab Lodge). FS22 for 2 miles, then turn left onto FS270 for a couple of miles. Then made a right onto FS222. Took FS222 for quite some ways. FS222 ends at FS206 where you will take FS206 for a few hundred yards at most and then hang a left onto FS271 where we you will almost immediately hang left onto FS294. You will take FS294 about 8 miles all the way out to Locust Point. (All together there is about 22 miles of dirt road to travel once you leave Highway 67) It is just about impossible to get lost on the Rainbow Rim Trail, but it quite easy to get turned around on the dirt roads getting out to Locust Point. Here is a GPS track to help get you from Highway 67 out to Locust Point.
Our adventure of getting to our campsite was quite interesting. We had originally planned on camping at Fence Point, but once we got there it was not the point I was thinking of so we left a note for Jeff and moved over to the Locust Point (The directions above are for Locust Point). Jeff got plenty turned around on the dirt roads and he did not make it to the site until almost 2AM. I spent some time driving around looking for him, but with such a large area our path never crossed. With no cell coverage we had to trust that Jeff would figure things out and he did.
Some additional shots from the evenings and early morning timeframe from the campsite. It is amazing to see how the colors changes as the light shifts. The pictures to the left and right are from when I was hanging dangling my feet over the edge when one of my flip-flops came off. Bill asked the question doe you think someone could climb down there. I replied "someone with two shoes sure could". Bill was gracious enough to scramble down and retrieve my wayward foot gear. What a bud!
Sleeping that night was simply fantastic. There were lots of wind currents whooshing up from the canyon but because of our proximity to the edge we were in a natural wind shadow that kept our tents from getting blown around much while the trees got their top tussled quite nicely. We had the benefit of the sound of the wind without getting pushed around by it. Adding to this was a perfectly clear sky with no moon. While there was a slight glow of light pollution on the horizon to the southwest from Las Vegas hundreds of miles away it was for the most part a completely dark place. What stretched out above my head heads was a magnificent tapestry of stars and galaxies that has only been bettered a couple times during my crossing of the Pacific Ocean during my Navy days. I felt so small and fortunate to be in such a special place as I fell off to a deep and restful sleep.
The following morning I awoke to find that Jeff had found his way to the campsite in the middle of the night and I slept out under starts sans tent. As quietly as possible I fired up my micro-stove with the coffee press kit and was soon enjoying my morning cup-o-joe. I had missed sunrise but the morning light had not yet gotten harsh so I grabbed the camera and went for a bit of a stroll.
The Rainbow Rim Trail is 18 miles long and easily rideable in a day as an out-and-back if you are “on the pedals”. Personally, I think you would be quite the bonehead to do so as this ride deserves to take plenty of time to stop and smell the flowers, take in the views and generally just soak the whole place in. You can hammer on any trail, but it's not everyday you get to cruise along the rim of the Grand Canyon. After Jeff and Bill rustled up we had some breakfast then leisurely got out stuff around for an out-and-back to Parissawampitts Point. It is a tricky name to say and we found unending pleasure from seeing how many ways we could butcher the name.
The trail undulates mildly for most of the time as you gradually descend out to the points and then climb back away from the points before contouring around through the mid-point drainage. When you do not have the Grand Canyon vistas, you have some sweet single track meandering through the mixed pine and aspen forest.
Once out to the end of the trail we spent about 30 to 40 minutes hiking/scrambling out to the far-tip of the of point for an even better view of the canyon. We started off with a steep descent down into a draw and then back up to another plateau. From there we gradually lost a little elevation until we got out to the point. We did not start out with such a hike in mind, it just ended up a being a case of "It can't be that much farther" and we kept going.
Once out at the end of “Popabeertopitts Point”, we enjoyed a sandwich and a little something extra we had packed in our camelbak bladders. I can't take credit for this as an original idea but it sure was a good one to do on this day. Ahh still nice and cold.
With this far point being slightly lower than the rim, we had a more " surrounded by the canyon" feel than merely being along the rim of the canyon. We were all certainly in agreement that it did not suck to be us today. We took a very leisurely lunch before back tracking our way back up to the Rainbow Rim Trail.
The ride back from Parissawampitts Point went quicker than the outbound leg. While we made some stops for a couple of photos, for the most part we enjoyed the scenery on the way out and enjoyed the trail on the way back. The Rainbow Rim Trail really is a great bit of single track that would be enjoyable just about anywhere. The fact it is at the Grand Canyon is the icing on the cake. Back at camp we chilled and managed to see a Kaibab squirrel. From what I understand they are only found on this plateau. They feature a white tail and really long hair on their ears making them pretty cool critters to check out. Jeff would need to leave tomorrow, so over dinner we made plans for a crack of dawn ride out to Timp Point and back. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying the campfire, tasty micro-brews and good conversation. Once again I was serenaded to sleep to the canyon winds and the stars above.
I woke up shortly after the eastern sky started to lighten up in the pre-dawn hour. By the time I had the coffee going it was time to wake Jeff and Bill up. Jeff had went sans tent last night again. Yesterday, he had commented about how much better your hearing is when your are not in a tent which sparked some devilish mischief on my part. To wake Jeff up I stood near his bag and out of his line of sight but at an angle I could see his facial expressions. I made a deep but not loud growling sound. It took around 5 seconds for Jeff to wake up and I was quite surprised at how alert he seemed right from the get-go. Some snickers and laughs followed, mostly by me. Bill was still in a coma so the tent earthquake tactic was required. There were some additional snickers when watching Bill's facial expressions. When you are camping there are some many additional possibilities that your brain must process. Of course the worst case scenarios are the ones that a sleep idled brain are going to give priority. Funny to watch, but wrong, so very wrong (but damn funny).
We made up sandwiches, threw them in our packs and without too much delay we were off in the early morning light. Magpie Adventure Tours had their camp setup a couple hundred yards away from us and the Rainbow Rim Trail (just like ours) went right through their camp. They were just starting to rustle around and Maggie and Mike (the owners) looked to already be at work making the morning joe for their clients. After this it was just us and the trail as we got to witness the sun start it march across the sky. The long rays of light piercing through the trees was incredible. As a photo-geek, it is the kind of light I love as the colors are saturated and the shadows are dramatic. As a mountain biker, I love the early morning air as you somehow feel you are a little closer to mother nature at this time of day. As a human, I just marvel that I'm part of the whole process. We stopped a plenty and took pictures along the way.
We also came across at buffalo kill that was presumably made by a mountain lion. It is amazing to think about the power of these big cats to take down a buffalo. Armed only with cameras we were certainly not the apex predator out here. There are plans to formally reintroduce the Mexican Gray Wolf back into the plateau. While officially the powers state there are no wolves here, I personally saw one in 2006 and another mountain biker saw one as well. I have seen a ton of coyotes and know this difference. I read at least one report were a group of wolves that were released in New Mexico went missing shortly after their release (tracking collars went silent). Hmmm the conspiracy theorist in me could see an unofficial reintroduction occurring on the plateau and then later claiming the missing wolves found their own way here. After checking out the Buffalo kill we continued on and soon made our way Timp Point.
The views from Timp Point (the terminus of the trail) were once again impressive. The time of day can totally determine what you can see because of the way the light shifts along the canyon walls. We noticed a small speck of white in the distance and were able to determine that it was Thunder Springs, an impressive waterfall that comes right out of the side of canyon from an underground river. I did some Googling on this place and I might just have to dust off my hiking boots for a return trip here.
After enjoying our sandwich breakfast we made our way back towards Locust Point. The theme like yesterday was less stopping on the return leg and more just rolling and flowing along on this sweet trail. It was really interesting to see how one of the magically spots we stopped at in the early morning light had changed as the light shifted. I have got to start getting out earlier in my own back yard to see what magic is waiting to be seen in the wee hours of the day. While Bill and Jeff rolled on ahead I stopped and chit-chatted with Maggie from Magpie Cycling Adventures at their campsite. Bill and I would be here a little longer than Jeff and Maggie gave me some really good information on bits of the Arizona Trail to check out on the plateau. Back at camp, we had some brunch and Jeff started busting up camp. Jeff was soon on his way back to Kernville and Bill and I could not decide wither to go for another ride or just chill around camp. My legs were pretty well toasted at this point in the trip, but while enjoying some pre-lunch hoppy goodness (We were on vacation after all), Bill and I decided to drive over to the East Rim Viewpoint (about 24 miles of dirt roads to the east) to scope out and maaaybe ride a chunk of the AZ trail as an afternoon ride before heading to Jacob Lake for some ice, water, and grab some dinner at the lodge.