If you’re looking for some excitement in Arizona, Mogollon Rim spans many miles and keeps you interested with ever-changing scenery. From a low-key day of bird-watching to scaling a geological wonder, Mogollon Rim provides hiking and scenery enough to satisfy anyone. Intrigued? Here is our list of things to do around Mogollon Rim.
Hike the Rim
If you are going to visit Mogollon Rim, you should probably get right up to the edge and see the view. Many hiking trails are scattered along the 200-mile ledge, some of which contribute to the 800-mile long Arizona National Scenic Trail.
For a good view and a relatively smooth hiking trail, the Rim Lakes Vista Trail #622 is a good option. For a more moderate hike, the Blue Ridge trail will take you by forests, canyons, and meadows as you trek from General George Crook’s cabin to the beginning of the Happy Jack trail.
Take a Scenic Drive on Rim Road
If you aren’t up for a hike, or you want to make sure you see as much of the area as possible during your visit, you will find a scenic drive down Rim Road to be extremely rewarding. Rim Road (also referred to as “Forest Road 300”) spans about 45 miles. It will take you past the Mogollon Visitor Center, Willow Springs Lake, and many vistas to stop at and take in the view. If you want to stretch your legs, there are plenty of hiking trails along the way, including the Arizona Trail and the Houston Brother’s Trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife like elk and mule deer while you drive.
Learn About the Area
Rim Country Museum boasts a proud collection of history about the incredible geological feature that gave their county its name. From famous visitors to information about the area that dates back to 600 A.D., Rim Country Museum will bring you a wealth of facts and a respite from more strenuous activities.
The Mogollon Visitor Center is also worth a visit, especially because of the view. Situated on an overlook of lakes, forests, and canyon, you can stop by for a driving break and the panorama, or you can head inside and check out the facility. Informed staff and literature are available in the summertime to help you learn about the history and geology of the surrounding area. They also have local area information, and souvenirs related to the rim.
In 2015, local bird enthusiasts counted 91 species of birds in the Payson area by the Mogollon Rim. Any bird watcher will have a heyday here. With various ecosystems in easy traveling distance from each other, you have the opportunity to see many species in one day as you move from the high country streams to Green Valley Park in Payson. You can also find a list of nearby birding areas put together by the Payson Birders.
Depending on the time of year and where you look, you are likely to see woodpeckers, American robins, Audubon’s Warblers, and a myriad of others. If you would like some extra guidance, Sedona Bird Watching Tours will tailor a tour to your needs, no matter your experience level. From 3 hours to a full day, all the tours include snacks, binoculars, and field guides.
Several spots in the Mogollon Rim District Recreation Areas are available for the public camping. Knoll Lake campsites have grills, drinking water, and vault toilets. If you boat or fish, you can do so at Knoll Lake, as well as Blue Ridge Reservoir or Soldier Lake. Other areas like Fossil Springs Wilderness and West Clear Creek Wilderness have dispersed camping and also support activities such as fishing and swimming (but no boats), and wildlife viewing. If water doesn’t interest you, Jack’s Canyon Recreation Area has dispersed camping and hiking, amongst other things.
Jack’s Canyon Recreation Area boasts rock climbing in addition to the camping and hiking mentioned above. From vertical to “wildly overhanging” climbing routes, the Forest Service website says that you will find safe sport climbing at Jack’s Canyon, characterized by fixed anchoring systems. If you are looking for more guidance, you can find various rock climbing tours, such as through Centerfocus Experiences in Sedona. They will give you a quick training before you start, and the focus is a full day of climbing.
Top Your day off With Some Stargazing
If you want to get the optimal stargazing experience, Mogollon Rim is the place to be. Situated in a pure air ozone belt, and with towns like Payson enacting a dark sky ordinance, it would be hard not having a spectacular nighttime view. Some great stargazing spots include Rim Road 300, a view from 7,000 feet above the canyon floor, Tonto National Monument in Rosevelt, where a park ranger will guide you through the night sky (and provide access to telescopes) on some evenings, and Hardscrabble Road, where you can pull off to see the sky in a wide-open space. For the adventurous soul, Young Highway is a National Scenic Byway 74 miles long. Start early in the day, bring food, and prepare to experience rough roads – you will be rewarded with an incredible view.
There is definitely something for everyone at Mogollon Rim. If you are a history and geology buff, you will have endless learning opportunities. If you want to get your exercise in, you have your pick of anything from a full day of rock climbing to a short paved walk with an incredible view. Lastly, if one day isn’t enough, you can spend the night at a campsite under the stars, or at a hotel in town, and see more tomorrow. No matter what you choose to do, Mogollon Rim will guarantee you an amazing view.