Autumn in Arizona's Rim Country beckons with bright, clear days and cool nights, just right for a cozy fire.
Summer's crowds are gone, giving a sense of seclusion to the camping areas, lakes and hiking trails.
From the moment folks arrive at the gateway to the Mogollon Rim, they'll notice that Payson is maintaining its small-town charm while enjoying the amenities of urban life.
To the folks who call Rim Country home -- from Tonto Basin in the south to Strawberry in the north -- 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.
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 scents and sounds of the forest.
There are innumerable recreational activities in the Rim Country, including a visit to the Tonto Natural Bridge, the Tonto National Monument, the Rim Country Museum, the Shoofly Indian Ruins and the Tonto Fish Hatchery.
Take a stroll down Main Street and look at the redevelopment taking place there. Stroll farther down and drop a line in the Green Valley Park lake, where the fish are always biting. Or just sit and enjoy the waterfowl that flock to the area on their long journey to warmer climates for winter.
Then stop at the Northern Gila County Historical Society's museum, the recently opened replica of Western author Zane Grey's Mogollon Rim cabin, the Museum of Rim Country Archaeology, or the museum in Pine, operated by the Pine/Strawberry Historical and Archaeological Society. Getting a sense of the area's history -- both ancient and more recent -- can provide special insight.
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, an enchanting chain of woodland lakes -- Woods Canyon, Willow Springs, Knoll, Blue Ridge Reservoir, Bear Canyon and Chevelon Canyon -- beckon.
Roosevelt Lake is sure to be one of the biggest draws in central Arizona this year. Last winter's runoff has led to the highest lake levels in recent memory.
Roosevelt Lake is the biggest of the six Salt River Project 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. It is also a popular place with Arizona sailors.
Hiking and biking paths around the lakes and elsewhere in the Rim Country provide an opportunity to see the region in a more personal way. Developed campgrounds will remain open until mid-November, so there is still time to get back to nature and rough it. And for those who want to take roughing it to the extreme level, undeveloped camping areas are available year-round.
Not one for roughing it? The motels, hotels and bed and breakfast inns throughout the region are always welcoming. Quite a few places have fireplaces in the rooms to give your visit a special touch.
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: Arizona Rim Country.