So last weekend we went camping in Kaibab National Forest. As usual, we’re not very good at planning despite traveling full time, so we get about an hour into the drive towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to find out that Hwy 67 is closed for the season (still). That’s the highway that goes to the Grand Canyon. We look it up online and find that it doesn’t open til May!
We weren’t going camping with our bikes to see the Grand Canyon anyway (we’ve been to both sides a few times), however we did plan on camping at the campsite we used last year, which is on highway 67 about halfway down. Some of the roads from the campsite lead all the way to to the Canyon, to parts that most people will never see. What we also didn’t realize, or forgot, is that the area from Jacob Lake Inn to the visitor center ranges from 7,900 t0 8,500 feet in elevation. I thought we just escaped that when we left Colorado?! We had checked the weather at Jacob Lake at least, and we knew we were in for a cold night.
We reached the beginning of Kaibab National Forest around 10am and took the first good looking road in, heading south towards the canyon. The elevation was only about 6500ft there, and the trees are short, high-desert types, like juniper trees. There wasn’t much shade and the road was a bit sandy… We decide we want to camp in the tall pine trees, which would also give us more shade for Sherlock while we were out riding. The next good road was only about another 10 miles, and 1200 feet, up the highway, Forest Service Road 225. After a couple miles we found a great campsite with a view of the Vermilion Cliffs. Can’t get much better than that! On the way there we had to drive the truck through some fairly deep and slippery snow so we started to get an idea what we were in for.
After setting up camp, we had lunch and headed out. We looked at google maps to decide what roads to follow. My portable charger was crammed in my headlight (until I come up with a better plan) and phone in my Ram Mount, available for double checking maps all along the way. 4G was surprisingly good the entire time, even better than at our RV spot in Page, oddly enough.
Our vague goal was to head down elevation to Burma Road and possibly make it to some interesting canyon area. We took 225 south to 224 east. The road started out normal enough with small patches of snow, mud and one big ugly patch of snow that we managed to paddle our way through. Then the road quickly dropped in elevation with a steep loose gravel and stone hill that went on for miles. The views were amazing, despite much of the ride being surrounded by burnt trees. We came across a couple fallen trees in the road, and had to ride over a couple small logs. We eventually came across some looser sand and sharper turns as well, making it a great first road of the year after 5 months of not riding.
The actual Grand Canyon from our campsite, looked about 40 miles each way on the map. We were sure to run out of gas if we attempted it, and we would no doubt run into more snow so we rode as far as we felt, which took us deep into some burnt forest grassland that was now primarily used as grazing range. After it all started to look the same, we turned back and just lazed about camp for the evening.
The next morning we rode over to Jacob Lake, via the highway, for hot coffee and some pancakes. It was a bit cold for going 50, but at least it was only for a few miles and on the way back we weaved up and down roads on the north side of the highway and found our way back to our road without having to take any highway at all. Those roads were a mix of really easy 30mph roads (or faster if you like) and rutty, more challenging roads. Another great ride and we were home by late afternoon, stopping to see Marble Canyon along the way and having a beer at State 48 Taven in Page to finish off the weekend.