While a bit more difficult to reach compared to the South Rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon has some of the best peakbagging in the park, if not the state. Numerous tiered pinnacles, buttes and monoliths tower over the Colorado River, many of them technical. Kibbey Butte is not one of those impressive summits. While the top is an attractive deep red Supai butte, deceptively narrow from above, the approach is one of the brushiest descents through the Coconino you can find. While there are better ways to spend half a day on the North Rim, I include this page for the purposes of completeness, and for those looking to bag Grand Canyon peaks, not for a recommendation of the climb itself. Kibbey Butte sits at the head of Nanokoweap Creek and an amphitheater of 10-12 blocky summits, and those who suffer through the cat-claw and locust brush will be rewarded with incredible views in all directions.
Kibbey Summit Panorama
Enter Grand Canyon National Park through the North Rim entrance station. From the entrance station, drive 9.6 miles to Cape Royal Road and turn left. At 5.4 miles, there's a four way junction. Keep right. In another 2.6 miles, you'll see a small turnout for Greenlake Lake, with about room for two cars. Park here.
Looking down on Kibbey from the Rim
This adventure is all about the approach. To get to the rim to drop down to Kibbey Butte, hike back up Cape Royal Road about 0.25 miles to a sharp bend in the road with a yellow speed limit sign. Get off the road here, following a shallow, tree filled gully all the way towards the rim. There's less brush on the slopes above the north side of the gully. After 0.25 miles you'll hit the rim and be looking down directly over Kibbey. If you thought the bushwacking was bad up until now, turn back, it gets much, much worse. Above Kibbey, you can see a prominent fin of Coconino Sandstone. Drop down the ridgeline aiming for the top of the Coconino formation below. The least brushy way seemed to be the crest of the ridge, but there are times when you will truly need to plow through thorns and cat claw. Just as you hit the Coconino, drop off to the left (north) into a very steep and loose gully. The descent is messy, using branches, roots and rock to lower you down through the duff. Ideally, it is best to hug the Coconino once you get about 1/3 of the way down, as there's a game trail that hugs the base once you're past some of the steeper stuff. If you cut over too early, you'll end up cliffed out. I left a cairn on my last visit on what I felt was a good place to start hugging the Coconino if possible. After following the base of the Coconino for a few hundred yards (too low= lots of locust brush) you'll emerge onto a small ridge that drops onto the gloriously brush free Supai and really the only enjoyable part of the day. Take the obvious line across the red rock up to the summit base. The last bit is a little sketchy, the slope to the top become quite steep and the ground has a bit of a ball-bearing feel to it. The summit is deceptively narrow, almost nowhere to sit comfortably and feeling like it could crumble if you push your luck. I stuck a summit register in the small juniper tree clinging to the rock at the high point.
The tiny summit
Admission to GCNP is $30 for 7 days. I highly recommend the "America the Beautiful" Pass for $80, which covers the entrance fees for all federally managed parks and land for one year.
Complete Trip Report: Kibbey Butte
When to Climb
Looking back up at the rim
Kibbey can only be realistically climbed when the North Rim is open, typically May 15 - October 31 weather permitting. Winter is possible, but would require a pretty epic ski tour or climb up from the river. Despite the elevation, the North Rim can still be painfully hot in the summer, and summer monsoons are common.
Camping is available at the North Rim campground, which takes reservations on recreation.gov. There are also several Forest Service Campgrounds outside of the park including Demotte, Indian Hollow and Jacob Lake.