In late June we packed our bikes and camping gear and headed to the Kaibab Plateau so we could mountain bike on the Rainbow Rim Trail. We’ve done this trail before but it’s such a great ride with amazing views that it’s always worth the long drive.
It takes about four hours to get to the trail head from Flagstaff. The last hour of driving is on Forest Service gravel roads through the aspen, pine, spruce, and fir forests of the high plateau of the Kaibab. We went to the south end of the trail at Timp Point and set up camp on the edge of the rim overlooking the Grand Canyon. After a quick lunch we were on the trail heading north.
The Rainbow Rim Trail (RRT) is about 18 miles from end to end with five points along the trail. From south to north they are Timp Point, North Timp Point, Locust Point, Fence Point, and Parissawampitts Point.
Each point delivers you a stunning view of the Grand Canyon. Between the points the trail heads in a generally eastward direction as it contours around side canyons. And it is these side canyons that are the most interesting. Because they are oriented east-west there is substantial shade in the canyons resulting in a cooler micro-climate. The south and shady sides of these canyons are filled with aspen groves as well as spruce and fir trees while the sunnier north sides have ponderosa pine and even juniper and pinyon trees. We even found some wild strawberry plants.
There are no large cities near the Kaibab Plateau hence there are no city lights. The nights are exceptionally dark and the stars are brilliant. Take some time to just lie back and stare up at the sky. It’s good for your soul.
The Arizona Trail (AZT) also traverses the Kaibab Plateau. Whereas the RRT is along the west edge of the Plateau the AZT is closer to the east edge but only overlooks the edge of the canyon in one location. In that regard, the RRT trumps the AZT.
The Jacob Lake District of the Kaibab National Forest has an informational page about this trail including access points, maps, and mileage.