When most people think about Arizona, they think about sweltering heat or desert wastelands. But what they don’t realize is that Arizona is a beautiful place with a variety of natural environments from the hot, dry desert to the cool, mountainous pine forests. If you’re looking for a cooler place to visit, then the Rim Country and surrounding open wilderness is where you need to be. The Mogollon Rim is the largest ponderosa pine forest in the United States, with wonderfully cool weather, awesome mountain views, and the unmistakable smells of Pine, Juniper, and Oak. The Rim Country is truly paridise.
Mogollon Rim - "The Rim"
The Mogollon Rim is a rugged escarpment that forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. It extends across the entire forest and provides excellent views within Plateau Country and Desert Canyon Country as well. Dropping as much as 2,000 feet in some areas, the Rim provides some of the most far-reaching scenery in Arizona. Views stretch from its rocky precipice to Four Peaks of the Mazatzals northeast of Phoenix.
Tonto Natural Bridge
Driving north on Highway 87, just before the community of Pine, is the Tonto Natural Bridge. The park has four hiking trails. Several stairs lead you to the area under the natural bridge where you can walk the slippery rocks into the enormous cavern.
This wilderness was established in 1984. Hellsgate has a major canyon and perennial stream extending its entire length. Deep pools of water are sometimes separated by impassable falls. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit this area; however, trails are rare and access is limited.
The Mazatzal Wilderness contains over 252,500 acres of the Tonto and Coconino National Forests. Established in 1940 and expanded to its present size in 1984, its name is from an old Indian culture in Mexico and is correctly pronounced “Mah-zaht-zahl,” meaning “land of the deer.”
Located a few miles southeast from the center of Payson is an area known locally as the Granite Dells. The Stewart Pocket geological structure lies at the heart of this picturesque site. The deep, wide ravine stretches for several miles, both north and south of the area; the pocket marks the trailhead for the loop. Stewart Creek drainage is contained within the pocket and evidently the creek is the natural force that created this unique place.