The Valley of the Sun. Home of traffic jams. Crowded malls. That mysterious brown cloud that never seems to dissipate.
A short trip 60 miles north of Fountain Hills will take you out of the smog, to Arizona's heartland: the Mogollon Rim country.
To the folks who call Rim country home from Tonto Basin to Strawberry there is no better place on earth in which to live.
Located in the geographic center of Arizona and encircled by almost 3 million acres of forest, Payson is one of only three pure-air ozone belts in the world. It is also the hub of Rim country.
Known for its beauty and year-round recreational opportunities, Payson is at an elevation of 5,000 feet precisely the right altitude for people who love the beauty of occasional winter snow on the world's largest stand of ponderosa pines, but not the huge drag of maneuvering automobiles through frozen slush.
Snow comes, boggles your eyeballs, then melts away into another gorgeous Arizona day.
When the snow falls, the Rim country turns into a winter wonderland a popular destination spot for those longing for an arctic getaway.
There is cross country skiing at Forest Lakes and tubing at Cinch Hook, plus countless places to stop and build a snowman.
Tourists flock to the Rim country to visit the Tonto Natural Bridge, the Tonto National Monument, the Rim Country Museum, the Shoofly Indian Ruins, and the Tonto Fish Hatchery.
They come to experience working llama ranches, and Green Valley Park featuring three fishing lakes. They come to camp, fish, hike and otherwise recreate in pine forests where the fall temperatures and climate are better than the summer temperatures and climate almost anywhere in the world.
Visitors come here seeking the breathtaking views found along the Rim Road the 42-mile trek that takes them from one side to the other along the edge of the Mogollon Rim.
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. And just over the top of the Rim, the wooded Knoll Lake, Bear Canyon Lake and Woods Canyon Lake beckon thousands when Valley temperatures begin to climb.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is where you'll find the world's largest natural travertine bridge. At 400 feet wide, it arches 183 feet above sparkling Pine Creek.
Roosevelt Lake was created by Roosevelt Dam, the first major structure built by the Bureau of Reclamation on the Salt River Project. 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 lakes. Its game fish include large- and small-mouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie. Both a wildlife area and refuge, Roosevelt Lake is posted to permit hunting at certain times of the year.
Go ahead. Treat yourself to these or any other local wonders mentioned in this handy fall guide. And, enjoy your trip to Arizona's heartland: the Mogollon Rim country.