The Arizona Trail currently has 743 miles completed and several sections of it pass through the Rim Country, including an eight-mile segment that begins near the Blue Ridge Reservoir, a short distance off Highway 87.
When fully completed, the trail will run from the Utah/Arizona border all the way south to the border with Mexico. It will pass through almost every type of terrain and ecosystem found in the state and will provide hiking conditions and challenges for both novice and experienced alike.
The Blue Ridge segment begins about a quarter-mile before the entrance to the Rock Crossing Campground on the road to the reservoir itself. The trail passes over the road in a north-south orientation. Look for a large gate and cattle guard at this point in the road. There is ample parking at this location for a number of vehicles.
The Blue Ridge segment begins on the right side of the road. First passing east through 1 1/2 miles of tall ponderosa pines and junipers, interspersed with open grassy meadows, it eventually reaches a junction with a short trail leading south from the Rock Crossing Campground, before heading decidedly south as it follow a sharp, rocky ridgeline for another 11/2 miles.
The trail then veers to the east as it drops down the ridge steeply for another half-mile. This short section of the trail is rocky and narrow, with several switchbacks, as it makes its way down to the west end of the reservoir basin.
From here, it crosses over the reservoir (dry when hiked by the author) and heads up the very steep side of the far slope for about 1/2 mile. Again, this side is also narrow, but not as rocky as the other side.
These two approaches are the only places in the entire length of the segment that could be considered possibly difficult for a mountain biker, or someone on horseback, to traverse. At the top of the slope, the single track part of the trail ends temporarily at a gate in a fence.
At this point, the trail follows a double track dirt road for 1 1/2 miles. It is still heading in an east-to-southeast direction. You will see several Arizona Trail signs and markers along this road, as well as on nearby trees, just as you did on the earlier part of the trail. It is now, once again, in a park-like area of large pines and junipers.
At the end of the 1 1/2 miles, watch for an Arizona Trail sign near the right-hand side of the road. A large rock cairn will also be close by.
The sign will indicate that you are to leave the road and head due south, on a single track portion, back into the trees. For the next three miles, the trail will parallel a large ravine, on its right, and Forest Service Road 123 on its left.
It meanders through open meadows, dense stands of trees, and the occasional scrub brush environs, as it makes its way towards a cattle gate in a fence. As this trail only experiences light use (a good thing if you are seeking solitude), its tread is often faint and hard to see.
This should not be much of a concern as there many rock cairns, Arizona Trail signs, and blazed trees along its course to keep one on its route. As long as you are paying attention, you shouldn't have any problems.
Two hundred yards beyond this gate, the trail actually crosses over the road as it turns due east for a mile, as it drops down below this side of the ridge that FR123 dissects, as it runs north and south.
At the end of this mile, the trail ends at an intersection with the Fred Haught Trail. The Haught Trail runs north and south, at this point, and a turn to the right will take a visitor for about three miles, until that trail ends at the General Springs Cabin. The cabin is located a short distance off FR300 (Rim Road). There are two large parking areas near the cabin.
To Get There
From the intersection of Highways 87 and 260 in Payson, head north on Highway 87 North for 42 miles. Watch for the large Forest Service sign on the right side of the road at the turn off to the reservoir and the Rock Crossing Campground. The trailhead is 2 miles down this road (FR751) at the aforementioned gated cattle-guard.
A shuttle can be arranged, or a switching of car keys, by leaving a vehicle at the General Springs Cabin Parking lot. Also, a vehicle could be left where the trail crosses FR123.
There is a parking area about 100 feet north of the crossing on the right side of the road. To get to FR123, turn off Highway 87 North 14 miles sooner at the intersection of the FR300 (Rim Road) on the right side of the highway. Continue on this road for 11.3 miles until you reach the intersection with FR123 on the left side.
Continue up this road for another 4.2 miles. Watch for an Arizona Trail marker and a nearby rock cairn on the left side of the road.
If you would prefer to park at the General Springs Cabin, thereby extending the hike to 11 miles, continue on FR300 past FR123 for about another mile until you reach a road marker for the cabin on the left. The cabin is one-half mile down this short, bumpy road.
A quick side trip, if interested, is to Potato Lake. The road to it is back down FR300 towards Highway 87 about 7 miles.
There is a sign on the right side indicating the turnoff. About 2 miles down this road, you will see a sign on the left. A short road here leads to the lake.
The lake itself is small and of minimal interest, but the foliage and terrain surrounding it adds further possibilities for exploring more of the Rim Country.