Rim Country's Top 10 Wonders

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After a long week of work, most people don't need a good reason to get out of town. But for those looking for further motivation, the Rim country offers a good many great excuses to head up the mountain.

In fact, the area has so much to offer that it's hard to decide where to start. To help, here's a list of the top ten reasons to visit.

10.) Test-drive one of the most scenic routes in all of Arizona: the 42-mile Rim Road, which clings to the edge of the Mogollon Rim and climbs to a height of 8,074 feet at Baker Butte. (Take Highway 87 north to the sign marking Forest Road 300, to your right.)

9.) The Tonto National Forest hugs the crest of the Mogollon Rim and stretches 90 miles south over a spectacular 2.9 million acres of pine and cactus all viewable from 240 miles of Forest Service system trails.

8.) The world's largest natural travertine bridge spans Pine Creek just 10 miles north of Payson. The 183-foot-high bridge is 150 feet wide inside, and shelters a 400-foot-long tunnel. The bridge is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for $5 per vehicle. Three main trails lead to and from the bridge. All are steep and strenuous, so visitors are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes and bring drinking water. (About 13 miles northwest of Payson off State Route 87. )

7.) Roosevelt Lake was created by Roosevelt Dam, the first major structure built by the Bureau of Reclamation on the Salt River. The dam 280 feet high, 723 feet long, and named after Teddy spans the Salt River. Once the largest man-made lake in the world, the 17,000-acre Roosevelt Lake is still the biggest of the six SRP lakes. (From Payson, take the Beeline Highway to State Route 188 east.)

6.) The 32-acre Green Valley Park includes three lakes, four ramadas, a children's playground, 17 acres of turf and four miles of walking paths. This quiet, scenic spot at the end of west Main Street is ideal for fishing, picnicking, walking, running, playing or just lying in the sun.

5.) Rim Country Museum, on the north shore of Green Valley Park Lake, brings the past to life with lively displays, artifacts and stories about the events that shaped the history of the Rim country. Rotating exhibits highlight bootlegging, logging, the Tonto Apaches, the U.S. Cavalry, the U.S. Forest Service, blacksmithing and ranching all major influences on the area. Admission is $3 for adults, $2.50 for those 55 and older, and $2 for children 12-17. Children under 12 are admitted free.

4.) At the archeological park Shoofly Village Ruins just five miles northeast of Payson on Houston Mesa Road visitors can explore the Rim country's prehistoric past. The 79-room complex was occupied between A.D. 850 and 1260 by a tribe with cultural ties to the Hohokam and Salado people. Signs display diagrams, drawings and explanations about the intriguing culture that built the compound. Brochures are also available on site. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and there is no admission charge.

3.) Strawberry Schoolhouse, the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona, can be found in the small hamlet of Strawberry, about 20 miles north of Payson. Built in 1885 with huge, hand-squared pine logs, the one-room building has been fully restored and equipped with period desks, chalk boards and school books, giving visitors the feeling that they've stepped back in time. The schoolhouse is located on Fossil Creek Road, about three miles west of Highway 87 in Strawberry. The museum is closed October through April.

2.) The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, raises hundreds of thousands of rainbow, brown and brook trout each year to stock the streams around Arizona. Admissions is free. Bring quarters for feeding machines to feed the big fish. To visit the hatchery, take Highway 260 east to Forest Road 289 (a mile past Kohl's Ranch). For more information, call 478-4200.

1.) We have to cheat a little here. There is also the great climate, and Rim country temperatures which average 20 degrees cooler than that of the Valley; a plethora of art and antique shops; the Tonto Apache Tribe's Mazatzal Casino; Pine Museum; the Tunnel to Nowhere; and countless fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, camping and wildlife-viewing opportunities.

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