Whether it is on a rented horse or a privately owned one, trail riding in Arizona's Rim Country is still a great western pleasure.
The bad new is -- there is only one place to rent horses in the Rim Country. The good news is -- there are plenty of trails to choose from.
So, if you have your own horse and a way to get it up to the Payson-Mogollon Rim area, you aren't limited to just those trails accessible from Kohl's Ranch Stables, the only rental stables in the Rim Country.
But let's start with the stables, which are just west of Christopher Creek, south of Highway 260.
It would be almost impossible to list each and every trail used by the Kohl's Ranch Stables, but suffice it to say, riders of every level of experience -- from novice to expert -- can find something to suit their taste.
One trail takes you from the stable along a nearly two-mile winding path that narrows to barely enough room for horse and rider, emerging at a small, spring-fed pool where riders can relax and have a bite to eat before starting back.
The average time for a ride is two to three hours, but longer trails are available for those wanting to stay in the saddle longer.
Other trails take riders through the fabled beauty of Rim Country, slowly meandering in and out of woods filled with oak, pine and juniper that have stood vigil for hundreds of years.
Kohl's Ranch, with both its lodge and stables, has offered room, cabin and horse rentals for nearly 40 years. It also offers some of the best food around at its Zane Grey Steakhouse, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Other outdoor activities at Kohl's Ranch include hiking, mountain biking, swimming in the resort's heated pool and relaxing in a sauna. Paddle tennis, badminton, bocce ball, a sports court and small gym are more recreational options.
Special rates are available to guests on 4-by-4 junkets to Promontory Point on the Rim, Doll Baby Ranch and other scenic destinations through Payson Adventures.
Summer rates for accommodations range from $125 for a room up to $1,200 for the historic Horton House.
Kohl's Ranch is located 18 miles east of Payson, off Highway 260.
Horseback riding is available throughout the year, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Guests at Kohl's Ranch Lodge may use the stables, and children can spend time with the horses.
The Rim Country has many more trails for riders with their own horses to explore. One unmarked trail fingers off of Colcord Road, past Green Valley, about 20 miles east of Payson on Highway 260. It starts on a four-wheel drive road snaking through alternating dense and open patches of forest. Eventually it turns into more of a wildlife trail than anything else, making it more accessible on horseback. It meanders in roller coaster fashion up and down hills and through crystal clear streams and nearly vanishes before opening up on a valley carpeted with emerald grass beckoning the saddle-weary rider to rest a while.
To learn about more trails for horse-riding adventurers, stop by the Payson Ranger District office on Highway 260, or call (928) 474-7900.