We Saw 21 Animals in Kaibab National Forest: Bison to Rattlesnakes, Trails & Tips for Wildlife Enthusiasts. A Must-Read Adventure Guide
In the sprawling expanse of Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest, a world of wildlife wonders awaits.
Here we give you a snapshot of 20 remarkable animals that call this forest their home, as seen on our hikes.
Picture the mighty Bison in its natural habitat, the elusive American Black Bear foraging through the underbrush, or the majestic Elk roaming the open meadows.
Our journey through Kaibab’s diverse landscapes brings us face-to-face with creatures great and small. From the skies where Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons reign supreme to the forest floors frequented by Bobcats and Coyotes, every corner of this forest teems with life.
We even get up close with the unique Gila Monster and the exclusive Kaibab Squirrel, a species found nowhere else in the world.
Join us as we unveil the rich tapestry of wildlife in Kaibab National Forest, a true testament to nature’s splendor.
In a Hurry? Here’s a Snapshot
Quickly dive into the diverse world of Kaibab National Forest’s wildlife with our compact guide. We’ve encountered 20 remarkable animals: the robust Bison, stealthy American Black Bears, graceful Elk, elusive Mountain Lions, soaring Bald Eagles, swift Peregrine Falcons, mysterious Great Horned Owls, agile Bobcats, clever Coyotes (twice!), the rare Gila Monster, swift Pronghorn, soaring Turkey Vultures, the prickly North American Porcupine, sun-loving Plateau Fence Lizard, playful White-Tailed Antelope Squirrel, nocturnal Ringtail, gentle Mule Deer, unique Kaibab Squirrel, enigmatic Mexican Spotted Owl, and the cautious Arizona Black Rattlesnake.
Explore the best trails for wildlife sightings, like the Arizona Trail and Sycamore Rim Trail, and arm yourself with our top 10 wildlife viewing tips. This guide is your quick ticket to experiencing the splendid nature of Kaibab National Forest.
The Bison, often referred to as the American Buffalo, is a majestic presence in Kaibab National Forest. These massive creatures, weighing up to 2,000 pounds, are a symbol of the American West’s wild past. With their shaggy brown coats and powerful build, bison are an awe-inspiring sight for hikers.
In Kaibab, these gentle giants are often seen grazing in open fields or moving in herds along the forest’s grassy areas. The Ken Patrick Trail and the Arizona Trail are excellent spots for bison watching. These trails offer expansive views where bison herds can be seen in their natural habitat, often at a safe distance. The Ken Patrick Trail, in particular, provides a mix of forest and open meadow environments, ideal for bison.
While observing these magnificent animals, it’s important for hikers to maintain a safe distance. Bison, despite their calm appearance, are wild and can be unpredictable, especially if they feel threatened.
A sighting of these iconic animals is a reminder of the rich biodiversity and the conservation efforts in Kaibab National Forest. It’s an experience that connects hikers not only with nature but also with a significant part of American natural history.
American Black Bears
The American Black Bear is a captivating species found in the dense forests of Kaibab National Forest. These bears, typically weighing between 200-600 pounds, are primarily black, although some may have brown or cinnamon fur. They are known for their strong climbing abilities and are often spotted in tree branches or foraging on the ground.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse, the North Canyon Trail (variable lengths) and Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) are prime locations. The North Canyon Trail, with its varied environments, offers a chance to see bears in various natural behaviors, from foraging for berries and nuts to possibly catching fish in nearby streams.
While black bears are generally shy and avoid humans, it’s crucial for hikers to exercise caution and respect their space. Always store food properly and observe from a distance. Encounters with these bears, while rare, are memorable and offer a unique connection to the wilderness of Kaibab.
The presence of American Black Bears in Kaibab is a testament to the forest’s healthy ecosystem and the success of ongoing conservation efforts. Spotting one of these magnificent creatures is a highlight for any wildlife enthusiast and adds an element of excitement to the hiking experience.
The Elk in Kaibab National Forest are a majestic sight, with their impressive size and elegant antlers. Adult elk can weigh between 500 to 700 pounds, and their antlers can span up to four feet. These magnificent creatures are most commonly seen in open meadows and along the forest’s edge.
For the best elk-viewing opportunities, explore the Arizona Trail and the Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles). The Arizona Trail traverses diverse habitats, increasing your chances of spotting elk, especially at dawn and dusk when they are most active. The Rainbow Rim Trail, known for its breathtaking views, also provides ample opportunities to observe elk in their natural surroundings.
Elk are herbivores, primarily feeding on grasses, leaves, and bark. During your hike, you might witness them grazing or hear their distinctive bugling calls during mating season.
As with all wildlife, it’s important to keep a respectful distance from elk. While they are generally not aggressive, they can be protective of their young and during the rutting season.
These large cats, weighing between 120 to 220 pounds, are known for their powerful build and graceful movements. Spotting a mountain lion is rare and thrilling, as they are solitary and stealthy creatures.
Hikers might have the best chance of encountering these majestic animals on the Ken Patrick Trail (10 miles) or while traversing remote sections of the Jacob Canyon Trail (6 miles). These areas, with their rugged terrain and dense foliage, provide ideal habitats for mountain lions.
Mountain lions are carnivores, primarily hunting deer, elk, and smaller mammals. Their presence is often indicated by tracks or scat rather than direct sightings.
When hiking in areas known for mountain lions, it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings and follow safety guidelines to avoid encounters. Seeing a mountain lion, even from a distance, is a unique and unforgettable experience, showcasing the wild heart of Kaibab.
The Bald Eagle, America’s national bird, is a majestic sight in Kaibab National Forest. With their distinctive white head and tail contrasting against a dark brown body and wings, adult bald eagles are easily recognizable. They have a massive wingspan, reaching up to 7 feet.
For eagle enthusiasts, the Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles) offers excellent opportunities to spot these birds, especially near large bodies of water where they fish. Bald eagles build large nests, or eyries, atop tall trees or cliffs, and these can often be seen from a distance.
Bald eagles primarily feed on fish, but they will also scavenge carrion or snatch other birds’ prey. Observing these powerful birds in flight, with their steady, strong wingbeats, is a breathtaking experience for any nature lover.
The Peregrine Falcon, known for being the fastest bird in the world, is another exciting avian species in Kaibab National Forest. These falcons are recognized by their blue-gray backs, barred white underparts, and a distinctive black “mustache” mark.
The North Canyon Trail (variable lengths) is a great place to observe Peregrine Falcons, particularly when they are in flight, diving to catch prey at incredible speeds. Their flight patterns are a marvel, showcasing their agility and precision.
Peregrine Falcons feed primarily on smaller birds, which they catch in mid-air. Their presence in the forest is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, as they are top predators in the avian world.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is an impressive nocturnal predator of Kaibab National Forest. These owls are known for their tufted ears, intimidating yellow eyes, and deep hooting call. They have a varied color palette, generally mottled gray-brown, with a reddish-brown face.
The Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) provides potential sightings of Great Horned Owls, especially in the twilight hours or at night. These owls prefer roosting in hidden spots within dense tree cover during the day.
Great Horned Owls are versatile hunters, preying on a range of animals from rodents to other birds. Spotting or hearing one in the forest adds a layer of mystique to any night hike, reminding us of the forest’s vibrant nocturnal life.
The Bobcat is a stealthy and elusive predator in Kaibab National Forest. These medium-sized cats, with their distinctive tufted ears and spotted fur, blend seamlessly into the forest environment. Bobcats are smaller than mountain lions, typically weighing between 15 to 35 pounds.
For a chance to spot these secretive felines, the Jacob Canyon Trail (6 miles) and Ken Patrick Trail (10 miles) are promising. These trails’ varied terrain, including rocky areas and dense underbrush, provide ideal habitats for bobcats.
Bobcats are solitary animals, primarily hunting rabbits, rodents, and birds. Their presence is often indicated by tracks or the remains of their prey. Spotting a bobcat, even for a brief moment, is a rare and exciting experience for any wildlife enthusiast.
The Gila Monster is a rare and fascinating reptile in Kaibab National Forest. These large, heavy-bodied lizards, known for their beaded black and pink or orange skin, are one of the few venomous lizards in North America.
Gila Monsters are most likely to be encountered in the warmer months on the Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles). They are typically found in rocky foothills and scrubland areas, often under rocks or in burrows.
These lizards feed on eggs, small birds, and mammals. Due to their slow metabolism, Gila Monsters eat infrequently. Spotting one of these unique reptiles is a special treat for hikers, offering a glimpse into the diverse reptilian life of the forest.
The Pronghorn is an iconic and fleet-footed mammal of the Kaibab National Forest. Recognized by their tan coats and distinctive white markings, pronghorns are celebrated as the fastest land mammals in North America, capable of reaching speeds up to 60 mph. Adult pronghorns weigh between 90 to 150 pounds.
For wildlife watchers, the Arizona Trail (800 miles, with variable segments) and Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles) offer great opportunities to spot these graceful animals. Pronghorns prefer open terrains like grasslands and deserts, where they can use their speed to evade predators.
Pronghorns are herbivores, grazing on a variety of grasses and plants. Their unique physiology allows them to consume plants that are unpalatable to other animals. Observing these animals in their natural habitat is a testament to the diverse wildlife of Kaibab National Forest.
Turkey Vultures are a common yet remarkable sight in the skies of Kaibab National Forest. These large birds, with their red heads and dark bodies, are often seen soaring gracefully on thermal currents. Turkey Vultures have a wingspan of up to 6 feet, making them one of the larger birds in the forest.
The North Canyon Trail (variable lengths) and Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) are excellent places to observe Turkey Vultures, especially when they are riding thermals or searching for food. These birds are scavengers, primarily feeding on carrion, and play a vital role in the ecosystem as nature’s cleanup crew.
Despite their somewhat grim diet, Turkey Vultures are fascinating to watch, especially when they gather in large numbers in communal roosts. Their presence adds to the dynamic avian community of Kaibab National Forest.
The Coyote, a clever and adaptable mammal, is a common sight in Kaibab National Forest. These animals are easily recognized by their grayish-brown fur, slender bodies, and bushy tails. Coyotes are smaller than wolves, typically weighing between 20 to 50 pounds.
For those interested in observing coyotes, the Arizona Trail and Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles) are excellent choices. These trails offer diverse habitats, from open meadows to forest edges, where coyotes are often active, especially during dawn and dusk.
Coyotes are omnivores, feeding on a diet that includes small mammals, fruits, insects, and occasionally carrion. They are known for their resourcefulness and adaptability, thriving in various environments within the forest.
While coyotes generally keep their distance from humans, their distinctive howls and yips can often be heard, adding a wild and haunting ambiance to the forest. Observing these intelligent animals in their natural habitat is a fascinating experience, showcasing the rich tapestry of wildlife in Kaibab National Forest.
North American Porcupine
The North American Porcupine is a unique and intriguing resident of Kaibab National Forest. These slow-moving rodents are easily identified by their coats of sharp quills. Porcupines are relatively large, weighing up to 20 pounds, and are mostly nocturnal.
Hikers on the Ken Patrick Trail (10 miles) and Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) might spot these creatures, especially near trees where they feed on bark, leaves, and fruit. Porcupines are excellent climbers and often spend their time in trees to avoid predators.
Despite their prickly defense mechanism, porcupines are gentle and pose little threat to humans if left undisturbed. Spotting a porcupine, with its unique appearance and behavior, adds a special touch to any wildlife exploration in Kaibab.
Plateau Fence Lizard
The Plateau Fence Lizard is a common reptile in the diverse habitats of Kaibab National Forest. These small lizards, with their spiny scales and patterned skin, are often seen basking on rocks or scampering through underbrush.
The Jacob Canyon Trail (6 miles) and areas around the Arizona Trail are good places to observe these agile lizards. Plateau Fence Lizards are active during the day and feed on insects, making them an integral part of the forest’s ecosystem.
Their quick movements and ability to blend into their surroundings make them a delightful discovery for hikers and nature enthusiasts exploring the forest’s trails.
White-Tailed Antelope Squirrel
The White-Tailed Antelope Squirrel is a small, energetic mammal found in Kaibab National Forest. Characterized by their light-colored bellies and distinctive white tails, these squirrels are a common sight, especially in arid and semi-arid environments.
Trails like the Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles) and open areas along the North Canyon Trail (variable lengths) are great for spotting these lively creatures. White-Tailed Antelope Squirrels are active during the day, foraging for seeds, fruits, and insects.
Their playful antics and quick movements provide an amusing spectacle for hikers. Observing these squirrels offers a glimpse into the smaller, yet equally fascinating, wildlife of Kaibab National Forest.
The Ringtail, often referred to as the ringtail cat, is a small, nocturnal mammal native to Kaibab National Forest. These elusive creatures are characterized by their long, bushy tails with black and white rings, and resemble a mix between a fox and a raccoon. Ringtails are adept climbers and are often seen in rocky areas and canyons.
For those hoping to spot a ringtail, the Jacob Canyon Trail (6 miles) and the Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) are good bets, especially around dusk or dawn. Ringtails are omnivores, feeding on a variety of fruits, insects, and small mammals.
Despite their shy nature, the sight of a ringtail can be a delightful surprise for night hikers, adding a touch of mystery to the forest’s nocturnal life.
Mule Deer are a common and graceful presence in Kaibab National Forest. These deer are easily recognized by their large ears, which resemble those of a mule, and their black-tipped tails. Adult mule deer can weigh between 130 to 280 pounds.
The Rainbow Rim Trail (18.6 miles) and Arizona Trail (800 miles, with variable segments) offer excellent opportunities to observe mule deer, particularly in meadows and open woodland areas. Mule deer are herbivores, grazing on a wide variety of vegetation.
Observing these elegant animals, whether they’re quietly grazing or bounding through the forest, is a peaceful and enchanting experience for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts.
The Kaibab Squirrel is a unique species found exclusively in the Kaibab National Forest. This squirrel is distinguished by its fluffy white tail and tufted ears. The Kaibab Squirrel is a subspecies of the Abert’s squirrel and is adapted to live in the ponderosa pine forests of the region.
One of the best places to spot the Kaibab Squirrel is along the North Canyon Trail (variable lengths), where their primary habitat, the ponderosa pine, is abundant. These squirrels are active during the day, feeding mainly on pine seeds, buds, and twigs.
The Kaibab Squirrel is not just a symbol of the unique biodiversity of the forest but also an important part of the ecosystem, playing a role in seed dispersal for ponderosa pines. Spotting this rare and charming creature is a special treat for visitors to Kaibab National Forest.
Mexican Spotted Owl
The Mexican Spotted Owl is a rare and elusive bird found in the dense forested areas of Kaibab National Forest. This owl is distinguished by its dark spots on a pale background and its large, round head with no ear tufts. They are medium-sized owls, known for their haunting calls that echo through the forest at night.
The North Canyon Trail (variable lengths) and the Sycamore Rim Trail (11 miles) provide good opportunities to spot or hear these nocturnal birds, especially in areas with old-growth forests. Mexican Spotted Owls nest in tree cavities or on cliff ledges and are most active during the night.
These owls primarily feed on small mammals and birds. Spotting a Mexican Spotted Owl is a rare and memorable experience, offering a glimpse into the secretive nocturnal life of Kaibab’s forests.
Arizona Black Rattlesnake
The Arizona Black Rattlesnake is a venomous snake native to Kaibab National Forest. Recognizable by its dark coloration and distinctive rattling sound, this snake is often found in rocky areas and woodlands.
Hikers on the Jacob Canyon Trail (6 miles) and Ken Patrick Trail (10 miles) should be aware of their surroundings, as these snakes can be camouflaged in their natural habitat. Arizona Black Rattlesnakes feed on small mammals, birds, and lizards.
While these snakes are venomous, they are generally not aggressive unless provoked. Hikers are advised to give them a wide berth and admire them from a safe distance.
7 Favorite Wildlife Trails in Kaibab National Forest for Better Sightings
Discover the best of Kaibab National Forest’s wildlife through these seven exceptional trails. Each path offers a unique glimpse into the habitats of Arizona’s diverse fauna. From elusive birds to majestic mammals, these trails are your ticket to unforgettable wildlife encounters.
Arizona Trail – North Kaibab Section
The North Kaibab section of the Arizona Trail offers a journey through diverse ecosystems. Stretching over various lengths as part of the extensive 800-mile Arizona Trail, this section starts near Jacob Lake.
It’s a wildlife enthusiast’s dream, with chances to see a wide array of animals from majestic elk and deer to an assortment of birds and smaller forest creatures.
The varying landscapes, from dense forests to open meadows, provide a rich tapestry for wildlife observation.
Big Springs Trail
Big Springs Trail, approximately 5 miles long, begins at the Big Springs Environmental Study Area. This trail is a blend of scenic beauty and potential animal encounters.
As you walk through lush meadows and dense forests, keep an eye out for the playful squirrels, various bird species, and perhaps even a deer in its natural habitat.
The tranquility of this trail makes it perfect for those who appreciate nature’s quieter moments.
Rainbow Rim Trail
The Rainbow Rim Trail, with its 18.6 miles of stunning vistas, offers more than just a view of the Grand Canyon; it’s a sanctuary for forest animals.
Accessible from multiple points like Timp, North Timp, and Locust, this trail is a haven for spotting wildlife.
Mule deer, coyotes, and an array of birds are commonly seen against the backdrop of one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders.
North Canyon Trail
The North Canyon Trail, with its variable length up to 10 miles, is accessible from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, near the North Kaibab Ranger Station.
This trail is a showcase of diverse landscapes, ranging from dense forests to sprawling meadows. It’s an ideal spot for wildlife enthusiasts to observe birds of prey, small mammals, and the intricate beauty of the forest’s ecosystem.
Jacob Canyon Trail
Jacob Canyon Trail, a 6-mile path located off Forest Road 461, is perfect for those seeking to encounter the forest’s more elusive creatures.
The trail’s remote and rugged terrain is a likely place to spot wildlife like mountain lions or bobcats. Its less-traveled path offers a sense of adventure and the possibility of unique wildlife sightings.
Ken Patrick Trail
The Ken Patrick Trail, spanning 10 miles and starting from Point Imperial on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, winds through pine forests and open areas.
This trail is a wonderful opportunity to observe a variety of forest wildlife in their natural surroundings.
From deer grazing in the meadows to squirrels darting through the trees and an array of birds, this trail offers a serene wildlife watching experience.
Sycamore Rim Trail
The Sycamore Rim Trail, an 11-mile loop with access points like Dow Spring and Pomeroy Tanks, is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Encircling the Pomeroy Tanks, the trail passes through habitats ranging from dense woods to open spaces.
It’s an excellent spot for observing different bird species, including the rhythmic drumming of woodpeckers, the silent flight of owls, and the soaring of raptors.
10 Tips to Successful Wildlife Vieweing in Kaibab National Forest
- Kaibab Squirrel Habitat: Focus on the ponderosa pine forests, especially around the North Rim, to spot the endemic Kaibab squirrel.
- Elk Viewing: The meadows near the North Kaibab Ranger Station are prime spots for elk, especially during early mornings and late evenings.
- Birdwatching on Sycamore Rim Trail: This trail is excellent for spotting unique bird species like the Mexican Spotted Owl and Peregrine Falcon.
- Mule Deer Hotspots: Explore the areas around Jacob Lake and the Rainbow Rim Trail for frequent mule deer sightings.
- Bison Sightings: The open grasslands along the Arizona Trail are known for occasional bison sightings, a rare treat in this region.
- Nocturnal Wildlife: For a chance to see nocturnal animals like the ringtail or bobcat, plan a dusk hike along the North Canyon Trail.
- Water Sources: Check out ponds and streams, especially during dry periods, as animals like the Gila Monster and various bird species frequent these areas for water.
- Wildlife Photography: Bring a zoom lens for your camera; the diverse habitats in Kaibab offer excellent opportunities for wildlife photography.
- Seasonal Changes: Visit during different seasons; spring and fall migrations bring varied bird species, while summer is great for reptile sightings.
- Rattlesnake Awareness: Be cautious on rocky, sun-exposed trails like the Ken Patrick Trail, where the Arizona Black Rattlesnake may be encountered.
These tips are specifically designed to enhance your wildlife viewing experience in the unique environments of Kaibab National Forest.
As we wrap up our wildlife journey in Kaibab National Forest, we’re left with unforgettable memories of 20 extraordinary animals.
From the stately bison to the unique Kaibab squirrel, each encounter has been a testament to this forest’s rich biodiversity. Our trek across the top trails has deepened our connection with nature, offering glimpses into the lives of these amazing creatures. We hope our stories and tips inspire your own adventures in Kaibab.
Remember, every visit is a chance to discover something new in this vibrant wilderness. Here’s to many more wild discoveries!