Small, yet vibrant communities are sprinkled throughout Rim country and provide visitors with a host of things to do and varied scenery to enjoy. With little more than an hour's travel, one can visit the cool pines of Christopher Creek to the sunny shores of Roosevelt Lake.
Kohl's Ranch & Christopher Creek
On Highway 260, about 20 miles east of Payson, are the verdant communities of Kohl's Ranch and Christopher Creek. This landscape atop to the Mogollon Rim was the inspiration for novelist Zane Grey.
On the banks of Tonto Creek, Kohl's Ranch resort offers horseback rides to the public and many amenities for its guests. Dining at the Zane Grey Steakhouse is a culinary and historical experience as diners are surrounded by Western artifacts and antiquities.
The community of Christopher Creek is another 5 miles east on Highway 260. At 6,500 feet elevation, Christopher Creek is a breath of fresh, pine-scented air with a backdrop of the Mogollon Rim.
In Christopher Creek, visitors can stay in one of many cabins or at a nearby campground. The Landmark and Creekside restaurants offer home-cooked meals in a rustic ambiance.
This area of Rim country offers incredible fishing and hiking opportunities. If you find yourself in need of some lures or flies, you can stop in at the Tall Pines Market.
Trails abound through the forest and are frequented by hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.
Near the market is the road to the See Canyon trailhead. This hike meanders through the lush greenery of the pine forest.
Staying on Highway 260 will take you over 7,000 feet in elevation, atop the Mogollon Rim. There, the immense escarpment of the Rim forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. A sheer drop of 2,000 feet presents a spectacular view of canyons and distant mountain ranges.
Taking a drive down Rim Road (Forest Road 300) offers places where those unafraid of heights can sit at the very edge of the Rim. This road is the way to access not only views, but fishing.
Willow Springs and Woods Canyon lakes are popular for fishing and canoeing or for those who just want to commune with nature.
Those who enjoy wildlife can count on seeing elk, especially after dark. Motorists are cautioned about the enormous elk population. Deer, bear and coyote also reside in the high country, as well as many species of birds.
The town of Rye is 12 miles south of Payson on Highway 87. The mainstay and social center is the Rye Creek Bar and Restaurant. If you happen by on most any weekend evening, there will be live entertainment and dancing and a chance to mingle with the locals.
If you prefer warmer temperatures and a high-desert landscape, Tonto Basin makes a nice side trip. Head east at the Highway 188 junction, 17 miles south Payson, and the scenery changes to open range surrounded by mountains, including the Sierra Anchas.
This community, nestled on the shores of Roosevelt Lake where the Tonto Creek flows into it, combines a striking scenery with an inviting and festive atmosphere.
A complex of stores and services known as the Butcher Hook is the social center of Tonto Basin. Visitors looking for something to do or wanting to know where the fish are biting, can pop in to the Butcher Hook and get the scoop.
Besides its proximity to a recreation area, Tonto Basin is a growing town and the community continues to improve its infrastructure and economy in creative ways.
After the long drought, many of the town's businesses that catered to fishing and boating had the choice of closing or capturing another market. Punkin Center Marine is now Tonto Basin Trailers, selling recreational trailers and RVs.
Tonto Basin has nearly finished its new chamber of commerce building and continues work on its Earl Stephens Medical-Community Center.
Tourists can visit Roosevelt Lake and fish for a variety of bass and catfish, camp, and even go off-road riding on the expanse of dirt roads that surround Tonto Basin.
The Theodore Roosevelt Dam towers at 357 feet and is the world's largest Cyclopean-masonry arch dam. To divert traffic from the top of the dam, the $21.3 million Roosevelt Lake Bridge was constructed and spans 1,080 feet across the waters.
Hiking and horseback trails are abundant in the area. In addition to several acres available for riding, the Forest Service is in the process of finishing a horse riding campsite. The site provides several trails which overlook the lake and has water, rest rooms, campsites and facilities for horses.
Every Tuesday in Tonto Basin, individuals in the community meet at the Butcher Hook to work on their various arts and crafts and prepare for the arts and crafts festival in November.
There are plenty of lodging opportunities with two motels and five RV parks. For those who enjoy camping but don't want to get too primitive, the Cholla Campground on the shore of Roosevelt has hot showers and a sandy playground to keep the children occupied. It also is the largest all-solar campground in the country.
There are other access roads down to the shoreline, but the drought has forced some to close. A visit to the Roosevelt Lake Visitor Center, 15 minutes down the road from Tonto Basin, can provide travelers with information on areas open to the public.