This huge 1.6 million-acre National Forest park, divided into three distinct sections both north and south of the Grand Canyon, is more than just juniper, spruce and pine forest as the name implies—it is also comprised of grassland prairies, rocky riverbeds, scrubland and peaks like Kendrick Mountain at 10,418 feet.
Popular for its Grand Canyon-esque ecosystems without the crowds, the first decision visitors will have to make is which section to visit. The Williams District in the far south is home to the park’s visitor, which carries maps and brochures of area activities, while the Tusayan District abutting the southern edge of Grand Canyon National Park has popular hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails through its varied elevation. The North Kaibab District—bisected by the Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Scenic Byway (State Highway 67), past sinkhole ponds and Ponderosa pines—is the largest area and stretches most of the way to Utah.
In total, the forest area boasts six campgrounds and more than 300 trail options affording chances to glimpse whitetail deer, elk, turkey or coyote. Three historic cabins—Hull Cabin in the Tusayan District, Jumpup Cabin in North Kaibab and Spring Valley Cabin in the Williams District—are available for rent. Several Grand Canyon helicopter and plane tours departing from the airport in Tusayan afford the chance to double-dip and take in the National Forest en route to the Grand Canyon’s grandeur.
Unless you have a specific trail or activity in mind, the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center is a good place to start. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. til 6:30 p.m. in the summer and from 8 a.m. til 5 p.m. in the off-season.