If you are looking for scenic, unique hikes near Flagstaff, the Mogollon Rim provides amazingly lush and scenic trails that will take you through central Arizona’s wilderness. The Payson area features pine forests, clear streams, and unforgettable views you can’t find anywhere else.
Here are the seven best hikes along the Mogollon Rim.
Pine & Gowan Hiking Trail Loop, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
On this easy, 0.9-mile loop trail, hikers will explore pine-lined trails and ascend 185 feet to find a 14-story tall natural cave bridge towering over them. Pine and Gowan are two combined trails that loop around to form this easy trip. It’s a family-friendly hike that the kids won’t soon forget.
The trail is open year-round. Visitors can walk under the world’s largest natural Travertine Bridge and feel the mist from the waterfall pouring over them. As you hike under the bridge, drops of water from reflecting pools above fall through the cavern.
Since this trail is located in a state park, there is a fee to enter and pets are not allowed on the trails. The trailhead is accessible down Tonto National Forest Road 583.
Water Wheel Hiking Trail to Ellison Falls
This short, 1.6-mile hike (3.2 miles round trip) follows two rivers and leaves hikers at a blue-as-day swimming hole. As you make your way there you’ll pass towering waterfalls and plunging gorges.
Aptly named for the old wheel that sits near the trailhead, there are a few modest ascents, but the trail is overall easy and well-maintained. You’ll cross over a hill high above the river and hike up granite rock to find more gushing creeks and cool areas.
There is a 9$ parking fee to park at the Water Wheel Trailhead, and pets are more than welcome to join their humans on this hike. The trailhead is found almost eight miles down Houston Mesa Road. The trail is best used from March through October.
Barnhardt Hiking Trail
If you’re looking for a more extreme hike with gorgeous waterfalls at the end, hike the Barnhardt Trail. This trail starts out in the desert and ascends up the canyon. As you make your way up, snowmelt and waterfalls splash down over the canyon walls, creating a deafening, stunning soundtrack to this hike.
The trail ends at the Mazatzal Divide Trail only after passing breathtaking valley views nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. You can either hike five miles round-trip to the main waterfall or complete the full six-mile hike (12 miles round trip). While this trail offers great views year-round, it’s best used from March through October.
While pets are allowed to hike this trail, they should be healthy and able to hike tough trails for long periods. The trailhead is five miles down FR 419 off State Route 87.
Woods Canyon Lake Hiking Trail Loop
The hike to Woods Canyon features beautiful tall pine trees and bald eagles’ nests. The lake itself is a popular spot for fishing, camping, and boating, and this 3.7-mile loop is a popular addition. The trail mostly wraps around the lake, so you’ll experience a quiet waterfront hike beneath fluffy clouds—not a common sight in Arizona!
After traversing a bog and crossing a small dam, you’ll pass a boat dock and general store before completing the loop at the lake’s picnic area parking lot. The trail is also pet-friendly, so furry friends can enjoy this hike as well. The best time to visit Woods Canyon Lake is from April to October.
To get to Woods Canyon Lake, drive five miles on FR 300 before turning right onto FR 150. The last parking lot behind Rocky Point Picnic Ground is for the Woods Canyon Lake Hiking Trail. You will need to pay $7 for a day pass.
Horton Creek Hiking Trail
This 3.5-mile hike (seven miles round trip) follows along Horton Creek, a bubbling, blissfully cool creek. This is a good hike for families with children and pets. The spring-fed waters stay crystal clear year-round and create chilly winds near its banks during our hot western summers.
The trail begins at the base of the Mogollon Rim and gains more than 1,000 feet in elevation by the end of the hike. The out-and-back trail ends at Horton Spring, where you’ll find the cold waters gushing up above mossy rocks. The trailhead is located across from the Horton Creek and Derrick trailhead. For the best experience, hike this trail from March through November.
Canyon Hiking Trail
Hikers will find some of Mogollon Rim’s greatest features along the See Canyon Trail. You can start at the top and head down, or vice versa, on this 3.5-mile trail (seven miles round-trip). The lower trailhead starts along a gushing creek before heading into grassy areas and tree-lined trails.
The trail continues to follow the canyon and gains about 1,500 feet in elevation before ending at the top with spectacular views of See Canyon and Mogollon Rim. To get to the lower trailhead on FR 284, it’s recommended to drive a high clearance vehicle to make it over the rutted dirt road. The best time to visit is from April through October.
Spring Hiking Trail
The See Spring Trail shares its first 3/4 of 1.5 miles (three miles round trip) with the See Canyon Hiking Trail, following along Christopher Creek.
As you continue and branch off the See Canyon Trail, you’ll follow along a branch of the creek and complete the hike near a pile of boulders underneath gushing waterfalls. The misty water brings cool air to the area that can help you cool off before heading back. The best time to use this trail is from April through October. The trailhead is found on FR 284.
These are just seven of the countless trails around the Mogollon Rim waiting to be explored. From cascading waterfalls to lush pine forests and canyons, this region in Arizona offers unforgettable natural wonders.