dave elston

Dave Elston

Rod Britain is spending time in the Valley this week and I am grateful that he asked me to fill in for him. Rod wanted me to talk about a couple of my favorite hiking trails in Rim Country. Since one person’s “difficult” trail is another’s “easy” I’ve selected a few I consider moderate and generally accessible for many people. However, as the lawyers say, “Your mileage may vary.”

As a life-long Arizonan I’ve been fortunate to experience many of the unique and beautiful natural wonders of our varied state. My wife and I enjoy a home in Christopher Creek where we’ve been exploring the local trails and some lesser-known favorite spots since the early ’70s. For those of you who also live in Rim Country and like to stay active, I’m pleased to discuss a couple of our favorites. My descriptions here are necessarily brief, so be sure to do your own research before you head out for some outdoor fun.

• The Payson Area Trails System: The Town of Payson has done a super job stitching together a network of interconnecting trails that are mostly close to or in town, and range from easy to moderate. We usually see lots of dog walkers, retirees, and mountain bikers out enjoying a bit of solitude and scenery. Walk a little or a lot, and take a hiking stick for the gravel areas.

• 260 Trail: At 23 miles east of Payson (via Highway 260) and about 1,500 feet higher, this moderately difficult trail offers two options. Hikers can trek upward 950 feet and 3.2 miles to the top of the Rim for breathtaking views and return the same way. If an uphill hike is not in your future, the trailhead also serves as the beginning of the Highline Trail. Walk west for a couple of miles for beautiful views of the Rim and return as you came. Fall colors are spectacular, especially if you hike west into the narrow canyons closer to Christopher Creek

• Diamond Point: If scenic views and time spent stooping over looking for quartz crystals (Herkimer diamonds) sounds like fun, this area is for you. This isn’t a hike, as such, but it’s a fun area to walk around and explore. Rutted dirt roads and a few trails are easily walkable, and the road to Diamond Point is typically fine for passenger cars. Crystal collecting on the surface is allowed year-round, but any sort of digging is only permitted October through February. The Town of Payson’s website has lots more information on this family-friendly destination.

• Christopher Creek area: Yes, my own little community is an ideal place for hiking. We have quiet residential areas lined here-and-there with apple, pear and cherry trees, and local “Creekers” tend to congregate toward sunset to watch the elk and deer browse for dinner in the meadows. Two restaurants (seasonal) keep us well fed and watered, and our market dishes out groceries, drinks and hiking and camping advice. Bird enthusiasts have reported seeing more than 100 varieties of birds, and deer, elk, javelinas, turkeys, and squirrels are pretty much year-round residents. One of my favorite hikes begins at the end of Forest Service Road 284 at the See Canyon Trailhead. From the parking area it’s a quick walk to bubbling Christopher Creek, and well-marked trails head upstream, downstream and across the creek. See Canyon Trail is a favorite with locals and offers walkers both easy and not-so-easy options. Much of the “easier part” follows the banks of Christopher Creek. Eventually, the trail departs the creek and heads steeply up the southern flanks of the Rim where it tops out and ends at Forest Road 300. Short or long, it’s a pleasant hike in an area that doesn’t attract crowds like some of the other creeks in Rim Country.

As mentioned earlier, my wife and I try to stay active in our early retirement years. Truth be told, we don’t seem to have a choice. Both of our children are medical professionals and they are always encouraging us to be active, to see and do new things, and to stay curious and involved. They routinely diagnose and treat “older people” who are sometimes much younger than we are. While none of us can do much about our heredity and pre-determined conditions, we can do a heck of a lot about how well we age. The Mayo Clinic states that the simple act of walking, or any exercise that gets your heart pumping, can help prevent Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues. Even slow walking increases bone density, joint health, balance and mood.

According to Marshall Trimble, our Official State Historian, Arizona’s population of more than 7 million people live on approximately 6% of the total land area of Arizona. My rudimentary math skills inform me that the remaining 94% of Arizona is sparsely populated and waiting to be explored.

This is a great time of year to get out of the house and take a walk or a hike in our beautiful part of the state. You and your body, and perhaps even your children, will be glad you did!

About the author

Dave Elston is a retired aerospace executive and author of “A Year in the Grand Canyon.” He is a former Preventive Search and Rescue Ranger at the Grand Canyon, a certified Wilderness First Responder, and a volunteer with the Christopher-Kohl’s Fire Department.

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