Cloaked by the conifers of Kaibab National Forest and the Saddle Mountain Wilderness, Dog Point juts into North Canyon.
© Jack Dykinga
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Editor's Note click to expand
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North Rim Back RoadsThere's no shortage of scenery on the road to the North Rim, but the views are even better along the back roads that lead to Saddle Mountain Wilderness.
Edited by Robert Stieve
Despite its remote location and broad expanse, most of the scenic back roads on the Kaibab Plateau are within striking distance of the North Rim Country Store, a good backup for deficiencies in planning. Three of those roads combine to make up this month's Scenic Drive.
The first, Forest Road 610, starts less than a mile to the southeast of the store, via Forest Road 22. The road runs in two directions (left and right), and before the day is done, you'll go both ways. However, begin the day by taking the southeast leg to the right, which intersects the Arizona Trail and passes the trailhead for the hike to Point Imperial, for several miles to the point where it dead-ends at the Nankoweap Trailhead. Both of those hikes head south into the park.
The last few miles of FR 610 are reminiscent of a sandy road in Maryland or South Jersey. Unlike the high, mixed conifer settings of the West Kaibab viewpoints, some of the roads on the east side — FR 610 included — are lower in elevation and hemmed in by locust trees and young aspens. According to Forest Service officials, FR 610 was built wide so land managers could fight and then clean up the 1960 Saddle Mountain Fire. The northern end of the road was made for logging, along with Forest Road 219.
FR 219 — the second of the three back roads in this piece — shoots north from FR 610, about halfway between the store and the road's southern end, and winds for about 3 miles to Marble Viewpoint. The road ends at a wide, grassy knoll overlooking the Saddle Mountain Wilderness. There, a two-track road shaded by huge overhanging firs meanders to a long sloping meadow and more views of the wilderness. The road isn't suitable for passenger cars, but over the years people have worn rough paths around the tree-falls. Use caution, and keep in mind that back-road travel, including the southern end of FR 610, requires some common sense.
The third road in this North Rim triumvirate is Forest Road 611, which begins just beyond the intersection of
The final leg of the day is a return to FR 610. After backtracking on FR 611, take FR 610 (a.k.a. Dog Point Road) northeast for approximately 6 miles toward an overgrown dead end. Just before that point, look for a small road to the right — it might be marked with a cairn. The road leads to an incredible overlook into Dog Canyon. Arguably, it's the best viewpoint on the East Rim. What's more, even in the middle of summer, you might have the place to yourself. Enjoy the solitude, and remember: Although it'll feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, the North Rim Country Store is just down the road. That's the beauty of the Kaibab Plateau.
Tour Guideclick to expand
Note: Mileages are approximate.
Length: Mileage varies depending on which routes are taken.
Directions: From Jacob Lake, drive south on State Route 67 for approximately 30 miles to the North Rim Country Store. From there, drive south for 1 mile to Forest Road 22, turn left, and continue 1.3 miles to Forest Road 610, which connects with all of the back roads in this Scenic Drive.
Vehicle Requirements: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don't travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Information: North Kaibab Ranger District, 928-643-7395 or www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.