Explore The Forest On Your Own Two Feet

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Mention hiking in the Rim country and the first trails that come to mind are the General Crook on top of the Rim and the Highline below it. Both run east to west, and are relatively level in comparison to others that can change hundreds of feet in elevation in less than a few miles.

The General Crook Trail, (named Forest Road 130 by the Forest Service) runs 114 miles from Fort Verde to the Cottonwood Wash through the Long Valley, Blue Ridge, Chevelon and Heber Ranger Districts. Rated "more difficult," it is a lightly used trail that is usually open from May to November.

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Take any of the Rim country trails through the Tonto National Forest, and you're in for an invigorating hike through some of Arizona's most breathtaking landscapes.

If you're into hard-core hiking, Crook is for you.

Originally used by trappers, prospectors and settlers, the trail eventually became a way for General George Crook to travel from Fort Apache in the White Mountains to his headquarters at Fort Whipple near Prescott. For two decades, the trail was used to resupply Fort Apache.

Hikers can still find blazes on oak and pine trees that were used to mark the trail when settlers first used it.

The Highline Trail -- the site of an annual 50-plus mile ultra-marathon race that draws competitors from around the country- begins at the Pine Trailhead and weaves 51 miles through the Rim country before ending at the intersection of Highway 260 at Forest Road 300, east of Christopher Creek.

The trail was named Highline because of its location on a high contour of ridges below the Rim. In 1979, the Highline was designated a National Recreation Trail.

Visitors searching for a short, but scenic outing might want to hike the 2.5-mile Forest Road 98 trail that actually is a winding, old Jeep road that leads to lush, riparian grounds at Fossil Springs. The trailhead is located off Forest Road 708, four miles from Strawberry. There is a parking lot at the trailhead.

The trail descends 1,320 feet into the springs that have been nurtured for years by the often rapidly following Fossil Creek.

There is another route, the Flume Trail, which can be found 5 miles down Forest Road 708, near Childs Power Plant.

At the springs, swimming, picnicking and exploring the pools are popular pastimes. But, visitors beware: more than a few swimmers have been known to visit the springs sans clothing.

The 1.5-mile Ellison Creek Trail that leads to a camping area and beautiful cascading waterfall also is very popular for those wanting to hike along waterways. Located 10 miles north of Payson at an elevation of 5,200 feet, the trail is well used from April until October.

The falls are an easy hike from the campground and trailhead located near Forest Road 199, off the Houston Mesa Road.

Wading in the shallow pools and frolicking in the about 40-foot waterfalls are popular pastimes.

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