Traveler Tales: Kaibab National Forest

Exploring our Nation's National Forests
A panoramic view of sunset over Kaibab National Forest by Jeff Poe

Hi, I’m Jeff Poe, a professional photographer, adventure guide, and photography instructor. As a landscape photographer and hiking guide, I always seek out the most beautiful locations, epic viewpoints, waterfalls, and places of historical significance to explore. Kaibab National Forest has all those things, plus a ton of camping options. I spent four days camping in my Heartland Sundance travel trailer under massive ponderosa pines listening to birds chirping, hiking, photographing, and exploring. I enjoyed my time here immensely and was blown away at the outdoor recreation options Kaibab had to offer. Continue reading to find out what I got into and learn more about this expansive 1.6-million-acre forest.

About Kaibab National Forest

Nestled in the heart of Arizona, Kaibab National Forest stands as a testament to the state's diverse and awe-inspiring natural beauty.  Spanning over 1.6 million acres, this vast forest offers a myriad of natural wonders and recreational opportunities for visitors to indulge in. In this article, I will take you on a virtual tour of some of the highlights of Kaibab National Forest, including Sycamore Point, Sycamore Falls, Keyhole Sink, the abundant wildlife and camping options, and the exciting outdoor activities available.

A panoramic photo of mountain ranges in Kaibab National forest by Jeff Poe

Camping and RV Opportunities 

Kaibab National Forest offers a wide range of camping opportunities, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of this national forest. From developed campgrounds with amenities, to more rustic, secluded sites, there's a camping experience to suit every preference. I boondocked south of Williams, Arizona, not far from Bill Williams campground.  The dispersed camping options in this forest are endless and suitable for any size RV. The expansive dirt road network is very well maintained and there is so much space to spread out and enjoy some peace and tranquility.

There are also seven designated campgrounds in Kaibab. On the north side of the Grand Canyon, check out DeMotte and Jacob Lake campgrounds. I visited in mid-May and because of the snowy winter, some of these campgrounds were still closed and inaccessible, so be sure to check beforehand. Around Williams, check out Dogtown Lake and White Horse campgrounds.  You can rent kayaks at White Horse and even get food and snacks at the nearby food truck, Black Bear Snack Shack.

Jeff Poe holding up a hot dog in Kaibab National Forest

In addition to camping, the forest offers a wealth of other activities. Picnic areas provide the perfect setting for a relaxing outdoor meal, while scenic drives showcase the forest's splendor from the comfort of your vehicle. For those seeking a touch of history, the forest is dotted with remnants of old homesteads and historic sites that offer glimpses into the region's past.

Sycamore Canyon: A Wilderness Paradise

Sycamore Canyon, known as the crown jewel of Kaibab National Forest, beckons outdoor enthusiasts with its rugged trails and pristine wilderness. Hiking through the canyon rewards you with unparalleled views of towering cliffs, vibrant wildflowers, and diverse plant and animal life. The trail options cater to all levels of expertise, ensuring there is something for everyone. If you're up for a challenge, the 11-mile Sycamore Rim Trail offers a remarkable journey along the rim, revealing breathtaking vistas at every turn.

One of the most awe-inspiring viewpoints in Kaibab National Forest is Sycamore Point. Perched atop a lofty cliff, you are treated to a panoramic view of the surrounding wilderness, including the expansive Sycamore Canyon below. The dramatic vistas, characterized by deep canyons and rugged terrain, are a testament to the ancient forces of nature. This viewpoint was so amazing that I decided to visit it twice for sunset. I even grilled a delicious steak dinner and enjoyed it while gazing into the gorgeous Sycamore Canyon.

Jeff Poe grilling at an overlook in Kaibab National Forest

Sycamore Falls: A Picturesque Waterfall

For those seeking the soothing sounds of rushing water, Sycamore Falls is a must-visit destination within Kaibab National Forest. The falls, located within picturesque Sycamore canyon, offer a mesmerizing display of nature's power. During the spring snowmelt, the water cascades down the rocks, creating a breathtaking spectacle. Whether you choose to photograph the falls, enjoy a peaceful picnic nearby, or simply bask in the tranquility of the surroundings, Sycamore Falls is a hidden gem worth discovering.  A quick half-mile walk through lava rocks and Ponderosa Pines will lead you right to the edge of this quiet canyon where you can peer into this natural wonder.  If you’re unable to make it in the spring, time your visit after a heavy rain in monsoon season (June-August), otherwise it might not be flowing. 

Jeff Poe at a waterfall in Kaibab National forest

Keyhole Sink: An Ancient Hunting Ground

One of my favorite things about the Southwest is the rich ancient history and the natives who called this land home for centuries.  A true hidden gem within Kaibab National Forest is Keyhole Sink, a unique geological formation a mile deep within the forest. Park at a small roadside pull-off and take the 2-mile round trip hike to this ancient gathering place.  This sinkhole, formed by the dissolution of limestone over time, features an opening that resembles a keyhole.  Keyhole Sink serves as an important watering hole for wildlife, making it an excellent spot for observing native species in their natural habitat. 

An elk laying on the ground in Kaibab National Forest taken by Jeff Poe

For centuries, the Cohonina people used the natural dead-end canyon to corner prey and hunt.  There are hundreds of pictographs (ancient drawings) and petroglyphs (ancient carvings) scattered around this unique site.  The Cohonina people drew these images over 1,000 years ago and are believed to be the ancestors of today’s Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes.  When visiting these ancient sites, please treat them with the utmost respect and refrain from touching or drawing on any of the walls.

 photo of hieroglyphs  in kaibab national forest taken by jeff poe

Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation

Kaibab National Forest is teeming with wildlife, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of species, including mule deer, elk, black bears, mountain lions, pronghorns, and a multitude of bird species.  During my time there, I saw and photographed elk, pronghorns, longhorn cattle, and some colorful birds.

An pronghorn in Kaibab National Forest photo by Jeff Poe

Outdoor recreational activities are endless in Kaibab National Forest. Embark on a hiking adventure along the numerous trails, go horseback riding through the rugged terrain, or challenge yourself with mountain biking trails that cater to all skill levels. Additionally, anglers can try their luck at one of the many lakes and streams that are seasonally stocked with various species.  Whether you're an avid birder, a wildlife photographer, or simply a nature lover, the forest offers endless opportunities to observe and appreciate its diverse inhabitants.

Visit Kaibab National Forest

Kaibab National Forest is a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a multitude of wonders and activities to explore. From the panoramic vistas of Sycamore Point to the cascading beauty of Sycamore Falls and the wild serenity of Sycamore Canyon, every corner of this forest is an invitation to connect with the natural world. Whether you're seeking outdoor adventure, wildlife encounters, or simply a peaceful camping experience, Kaibab National Forest is a destination that will leave you with lasting memories of its pristine beauty.  Plan your visit today and discover the magic that awaits within this remarkable Arizona treasure.

Visit Kaibab
A panoramic photo of mountain ranges in Kaibab National forest by Jeff Poe

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you've seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jelly bean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to a full blown house-on-wheels with multiple slide outs and residential-sized appliances.

Find Your Perfect RV

Whether you're new to the world of RVing or you're ready to narrow your search, we're here to help you sort through it all and find the RV that's right for you. Explore RVs based off of your lifestyle and the features important to you.

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An travel trailer RV parked in a green field.