After carrying my aging Trek bike over several streams, down a precarious set of switchbacks and walking around more rocks and ruts than over them, I decided upon arrival at the first flat section of the Fred Haught Trail to turn around.
Dozens of riders streamed past me, tipping their helmets as I walked my bike back to the trailhead.
“Are you alright?” several asked, perplexed why anyone would turn around when they were having so much fun.
It’s at this point I realized I am more of a paved trail kind of rider.
Luckily, I live in the Rim Country, which offers rides of varying difficulty and terrain. Choices range from the Rim Vista Trail, an easy, paved trail with stunning views from the Mogollon Rim, to the Cabin Loop Trail system, with its advanced singletrack trails.
The only problem is no one else really knows Rim Country is mountain bike country. However, recent biking events, like the first-ever Rim Country Mountain Bike Festival, are finally exposing these great rides to the public.
With mid-summer upon us, many adventurous travelers convening on the Rim Country may be considering a mountain bike ride.
Several weeks ago, 75 plus riders took up the challenge of conquering some of the Mogollon Rim’s best singletrack at the Rim Country Mountain Bike Festival.
Organizer Mick Wolf said despite the unexpected hail, lightning and rainstorm at the tail end of one ride, the event was overwhelmingly successful.
On the first day of the event, 60 riders rode the Cabin Loop Trail system and on Sunday, another 20 rode several Rim trails.
This was the first time many riders had ever biked in the Rim Country. To Wolf’s dismay, for years bikers have driven through Payson on their way to the White Mountains.
Trails like Highline and General Springs Cabin are “phenomenal,” Wolf said.
“If we had more trails like that, we could have hundreds of people up from the Valley every weekend,” he said.
Speaking with riders at the Cabin Loop Trail before the ride, some said they had not considered riding in the area before.
After the ride, riders commented at online mountain bike forums that the rides were a lot harder than they had anticipated, but still fun.
One rider I encountered on the trail, who had clearly underestimated the difficulty (as I had done), had badly battered knees. The man said he had tumbled down a series of switchbacks, but was determined to carry on.
As a novice rider, I opted to turn around after several miles in a beautiful meadow, knowing my skills fell short of completing the ride. Here I posed for a couple pictures — to document my ramble through the woods — and sporadically walked/rode several miles back to my car.
Wolf said he rode 24 miles through the Cabin Loop system, passing the General Springs and Pinchot cabins and hoards of fellow riders.
Although most riders found the trail challenging, Wolf said, “Skill wise, it did not challenge me technically.” However, Wolf, an avid rider, has tackled nearly every rideable trail in the area.
Wolf admitted the trail was physically demanding though, requiring riders to pedal through loose dirt and sand.
“People always underestimate a trail,” he joked. “That trail is tough and a lot of people got their butts kicked on Saturday.”
For those interested in tackling the Cabin Loop Trail system, head north out of Payson to Forest Road 300. Head east 10 miles or so until you reach the Arizona Trail sign post. General Springs cabin is half a mile north of here. From the cabin, the Fred Haught Trail heads north, bobbing through creeks and meadows for six miles. For those interested in a more leisurely ride, try the Rim Vista Trail.
For several miles, the trail hugs the Mogollon Rim and then sweeps down to Woods Canyon Lake. This is a great ride for a beginner or families.
From Payson, head east on Highway 260 roughly 30 miles to the top of the Rim. Take a left on FR 300 (heading toward Woods Canyon Lake) and park in the first parking lot on the right.
The shortest and easiest ride from there, 12-13 miles, is on the Rim to Woods Canyon Lake and then returns to the parking lot. You can also ride around the lake for added distance.