The Mountains of Arizona •
Kaibab Plateau • Peaks 9200 & 9165 • Highpoint: Kaibab Plateau
• Highpoint: Grand Canyon National Park
• Arizona Strip, Coconino County

Grassy meadows atop the Kaibab Plateau

We parked here

A thunderstorm

Edward Abbey's old residence, North Rim Lookout

The North Rim Lookout Tower

The Arizona Trail leads to the North Rim Lookout.

All images

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Dates: July 27 & 28, 2007 • Elevation: 9,165 feet (GCNP Highpoints), 9,200 feet (Kaibab Plateau HP) • Prominence: 3,580 feet (Kaibab Plateau HP) • Distance: 5.4 miles total • Time: 1 hour hikes for each • Gain: 430 feet total • Conditions: Cloudy with afternoon storms

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The Kaibab Plateau is a raised landform in northern Arizona whose southern cliffs form the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The top is flat, with low hills, ponderosa forests and grass meadows, canyons around its edges, and a few recent burn areas. The highest point on the plateau is a bump along a ridge near DeMotte Park, elevation 9,200 feet. Because the plateau drops off so dramatically in all four directions, this bump has a prominence of 3,580 feet. This is perhaps the most unmountainlike mountain in the country.

The southern half of the plateau is encompased within the Grand Canyon National Park, and a few bumps along this northern boundary rise to 9,165 feet, marking the highest points within the National Park. There is nothing remarkable about these spots either, although one is an actual hill that features an old lookout tower where Edward Abbey "looked out of" during his long career. Most people come to the Grand Canyon to look down, but these two "highpoints" are slightly fun to visit when in the area. They certainly do not present any challenges.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a long haul from Phoenix, over 450 miles, but I have been here twice before: once in 1996 when I hiked down the North Kaibab Trail about five miles to the Roaring Springs, then back out, then again in 2005 with βð. For this trip, we left on the 25th and arrived that evening, staying at the Kaibab Camper Village located about a mile from Jacob Lake (the village), and about five hundred feet from Jacob Lake the "lake", which is really just a small brackish depression. The night was peaceful and cool.

The next day, we got rolling about 9 a.m. heading south on State Route AZ-67. It's about 30 miles to the North Rim entrance station kiosk, but we turned early at the 25-mile marker onto Forest Road 611, planning a long backroads drive out to the Saddle Mountain trailhead and viewpoints. We followed FR-611 and FR-610 south and east and along the way, visited two of the four potential highpoints of the Grand Canyon National Park. Neither of these were interesting and we spent just a few moments at each.

Instead, we had much more fun with the drive and the incredible views from the end of the road near Saddle Mountain, After enjoying the views, we started the drive out, as storms started to build. We decided to head back to camp. Although it doesn't sound like we did very much, we actually spent nearly four hours on this leg of the journey. Back at camp we relaxed, ate all the cookies they sell at the Jacob Lake Lodge, and avoided the raindrops.

The next day we drove back south, this time to hike the actual plateau highpoint, then visit the Canyon itself. Driving south from Jacob Lake, we went 25 miles to FR-22, opposite FR-611 from the day before, then drove FR-22 for two miles to its junction with FR-270, which goes south. The highpoint is located along and beside this road, 1.2 miles south, and we could have driven this but we chose to park at the junctions with FR-22 & 270, and walk it instead.

When we started, the weather was blue skies with big puffy clouds developing. Twenty minutes later, we had walked to the highpoint, by which time we had mean-looking storms bearing down on us. The highpoint is easy to locate with a map, and we spent a little time stepping on mounds to make it count. I can't say exactly where I think the highest spots were, but I would vote for the south end of the little area, near where the road rises the highest. By the time we walked back to our truck, there was a light rain and nearby lightning. See the photo in the left sidebar. While it was sunny above us, the black thunderheads were on their way.

Back on AZ-67, we drove to the National Park boundary, when a bolt of lighting struck a camera apparatus no more than 20 feet from our truck as we waited in line to pay our fees. This bolt was tremendously bright, and the thunder loud and instantaneous. It knocked out power to the area, then followed with about twenty minutes of heavy rain, possibly an inch in that short period of time. We drove to the North Rim Lodge and had lunch, toured the Lodge itself, and watched the storms drift across the Canyon, south to north, dropping rain and lightning. We spent the better part of the afternoon here. In time, we returned to our camp at Jacob Lake, and had to deal with a full night of heavy rain and storms that never let up. The tent was drenched. I slept in the back of my truck and & in the cab.

The next morning started clear and calm. This was our last day on the plateau. We drove south to the entrance station, this time planning a hike the remaining two highpoint areas for the National Park. Both are located nearby one another, and the "summit" has a lookout tower. The ranger assured me that public access is allowed, despite the fact there's a Forest Service residence and service road nearby.

We parked at a viewpoint north of the entrance station. βð was feeling unwell, so she stayed behind, while I ran off to the highpoints. I walked up to the service road, then walked past a residence and onto the old road to the top, which is now part of the Arizona Trail. It was a fun, quick 1.5-mile hike with about 350 feet of gain to the broad top. The lookout looks active but I didn't climb it. An old dilapidated hut sits nearby. I took photos and returned to the truck, gone a total of about an hour. From here we drove into Utah, staying for a night in Kanab.

A few days later, I would climb West Mountain Peak in Utah, and narrowly escape certain death along the way.

(c) 2007, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.