National Geographic magazine ranks Phoenix as one of the best hiking cities in America with over 180 miles of designated trails. Here hikers and mountain bikers can easily and safely access and enjoy the natural beauty of our Sonoran Desert landscape - except in the heat of summer. News headlines have already reported too many medical emergencies with hikers who got overwhelmed by the extreme heat that the months of June, July and August bring.
But there is a nearby alternative for those who want to continue to hike and bike during the summer months and that is the fabulous trails found along the Mogollon Rim. Most of these Mogollon Rim trailheads require about a 1 1/2 hour drive from our north Phoenix homes but the cooler weather and the spectacular views found in the Rim Country is a great way to keep hiking and biking all summer long. Here is a listing of some of the best hiking trails in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country…
Rim Lake Vista Trail - this trail will lead hikers to some of the most spectacular views from the Mogollon Rim including Four Peaks and the great mound of Mount Ord. The trail is wide and easy to follow and meanders close to the rim so that hikers enjoy one awesome view after another. This trail is near Woods Canyon Lake which is one of seven beautiful lakes found on the Mogollon Rim.
The Rim Lake Vista Trail is only 29 miles east of Payson off Woods Canyon Lake Road. Toilets are found at the trail head. It is a 4-mile round trip hike and is rated as easy.
Pine Trail - this trail is an ideal beginning trail for hikers and mountain bikers who want to begin to experience hiking in the Rim Country’s environments and altitude. The trail is a 2-mile loop that leads near the base of the Mogollon Rim before winding back down the hill to the parking lot. Most of the trail is flat and is shaded most of the way.
The Pine Trailhead is about 15 miles on Highway 87 north of Payson near the southern part of Strawberry. The Pine Trail loop is rated easy but it is also the entry point for other rim trails including the Highline Trail.
Highline Trail - this trail is affectionately known as the “Mogollon Rim Death March.” It is for serious hikers who have the 3 - 5 days to complete the entire 52 mile length of the trail. The trail begins at the Pine Trailhead and heads east toward the Woods Canyon Lake area meandering through canyons and streams, forests and glens of the beautiful Mogollon Rim. This is wilderness hiking so be sure you are totally prepared.
Horton Creek Trail - this trail is rated moderate to strenuous but the beauty of Horton Springs will be worth the effort for someone who enjoys the challenges of hiking. It is an 8-mile round trip from the trailhead to the springs and back. The trail was originally a wagon road but today its used only by hikers as they wind their way through the beautiful forest along Horton Creek.
Horton Springs creates a spectacular cascade of water flowing over moss-coved rocks. Many hikers come here just to enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to their cars.
The Horton Creek Trail is some 16.5 miles east of Payson on Arizona 260 near Kohl’s Ranch and the Tonto Creek Recreation Area.
Tunnel Trail - This is a short, but steep 1.5 - mile round trip trial to a fascinating piece of Arizona railroad history. In the early 1880’s an early entrepreneur wanted to build a railroad line to transport silver ore from Globe to Flagstaff. A 3,100-foot long tunnel through the rock of the Mogollon Rim was needed to complete this new line. Only 70 feet of the tunnel was actually completed before the company went broke but the remains of that tunnel makes for an enjoyable Rim Country hike for Arizonans today.
The trailhead for the Tunnel Trail is some 40 miles north of Payson on Arizona 87 and Forest Road 300 which is also known as the Rim Road. Forest Road 300 will also take you by a historic monument for the 1882 Battle of Big Dry Wash, the last battle between the US Army and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
So there are five of many Mogollon Rim Trails just waiting for you to get out, enjoy and explore. Be sure to take all the necessary supplies and safety devices. Be aware of those monsoon thunderstorms as you plan your adventure. Then, escape the Valley heat and travel to the cool temperature just waiting for you in Arizona’s Rim Country.
Here is a great link from the town of Payson for even more Mogollon Rim hiking trails - http://www.paysonrimcountry.com/#!mogollon-rim-trails/gk2h4
|Along the Rim Trail Vista Trail|
|A typical Mogollon Rim view|