Camping in the cool forests on the Mogollon Rim is one of the favorite ways people throughout the state, and visitors too, like to spend at least part of the summer. Guests in any of the area's popular campgrounds will awaken to the trill of birds, the crisp scent of pine trees and fall asleep beneath a canopy of stars.
The scarcity of winter and spring rains have forced the U.S. Forest Service to enact restrictions, allowing camping only in the developed grounds around the Rim. The available sites are: Houston Mesa, Ponderosa, Upper Tonto, Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek.
Houston Mesa Campground is two miles north of Payson. Turn east on Houston Mesa Road off the Beeline. If you are camping, turn left after a quarter mile onto the road leading into the campground. If you need facilities for your horses, a turn to the right leads you into the Houston Mesa horse campground. Both sites are fully equipped with picnic tables, rest rooms and showers. There is space to set up your tent or park your RV. During peak season weekends, interpretive programs are presented at the amphitheater.
The Coconino National Forest offers many camping and RV sites at higher elevations. The popular Clint's Well is free. It is located one mile off Highway 87 on Lake Mary Road. Knoll Lake has more than double the campsites and charges a fee, but it is 10 miles closer to Payson.
Closer to Payson, on Highway 260, visitors will encounter the fine campground of Christopher Creek. Fees are charged for the 43 campsites. If you get tired of cooking your own food, the Landmark and Creekside restaurants are open for your dining pleasure. The Tall Pines Market has snacks, tackle and sundries in case you run out of supplies.
Far way from the glow of city lights is the best place to see the Perseids meteor shower. Perseids are visible starting in mid-July and peaking Aug. 12.
In the quiet early morning hours, you might be fortunate to see a herd of elk grazing in a meadow or a flock of wild turkeys.
Keeping back-country areas in their wild state is something the Forest Service believes we can all do. They want hikers, campers and day visitors to "pack out more than they pack in."
Visitors can check with the Payson Ranger Station at 1009 E. Highway 260 or log on to their Web site, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto, for information on forest conditions and a full listing of open campgrounds.
Camping Check List
The following list is compliments of camping.about.com:
Shelter and Bedding (essentials)
__ sleeping bag
__ sleeping pad
Cooking and Dining (essentials)
__ camp stove
__ mess kit
__ can opener
__ bird guide
__ bug spray
__ bungee cords
__ cards, games
__ cell phone
__ clothes pins
__ duct tape
__ pen and paper
__ shower bag
__ sun block
__ water filters
Take your food of choice and the necessary tools to prepare it. Have a well-stocked first aid kit to handle any minor emergencies: the occasional cuts, scrapes, and scratches. Camping chores can be hazardous; hiking through brush, thorn bushes, or cactus; cooking outdoors or around campfires; and the elements and insects are just some examples of the outdoor hazards that might require attention.
Some of the area's popular campgrounds, include:
Christopher Creek, (877) 444-6777
Houston Mesa, (928) 468-7135
Woods Canyon Lake, (877) 444-6777
Ox Bow Estates, (928) 474-2042
Payson Campground, (928) 472-2267
Upper Tonto Creek (no reservation)
Ponderosa Campground, (877) 444-6777
Sink Hole, (928) 535-4481
Sharp Creek, (877) 444-6777
East Verde Crossing (no reservation)
Flowing Springs (no reservation)
These campgrounds vary from "Developed" with all services; "Semi-Developed" with some services possibly provided; "Public" available on a first come, first served basis and offering no services.
Contact the following ranger districts for additional details:
Apache-Sitgreaves for Woods Canyon recreation area, (928) 535-4481
Happy Jack for Long Valley, (928) 527-3640
Heber for Willow Springs Lake, (928) 535-4481
Payson Ranger Station, (928) 474-7900
Pleasant Valley, (928) 462-3311