Scenic drives through this region are popular with visitors. One of the most popular drives is along the top of the Mogollon Rim on 45-mile-long Forest Road (F.R.) 300. The road clings to the edge of the rim and has numerous views of the forest far below and plenty of places to stop, including lakes, picnic areas, trail heads, and campgrounds. This is a good gravel road and can be negotiated in summer in a standard passenger car. In winter, however, the road is not maintained. To access the rim road from Payson, head east on Ariz. 260 or north on Ariz. 87 for 30 miles and watch for signs.
About 15 miles north of Payson on Ariz. 87 is the village of Pine, and another 3 miles beyond this, the village of Strawberry. Here, in a quiet setting in the forest, you'll find a few shops selling antiques and crafts and, in Pine, the Pine-Strawberry Museum, Ariz. 87, Pine (tel. 928/476-3547; www.pinestrawhs.org), a small museum that chronicles the history of this area. May 15 to October 15, the museum is open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 2pm and Friday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm; other months the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free. If you leave Ariz. 87 in Strawberry and drive west 1 3/4 miles on Fossil Creek Road, you'll come to the old Strawberry Schoolhouse (www.pinestrawhs.org/schoolhouse.html), a restored log building dating from 1885. The schoolhouse is open mid-May to mid-October Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from noon to 4pm; mid-June through early August, the schoolhouse is also open Friday and Monday from 10am to 4pm.
Fossil Creek offers idyllic swimming holes.
Another interesting drive starts west of the Strawberry Schoolhouse. If you continue west on this road, you'll be on the gravel Fossil Creek Road, which leads 10 miles down into a deep and spectacular canyon. It's a bit hair-raising, but if you like views, it's well worth the white knuckles and dust. At the bottom, Fossil Creek offers some of the most idyllic little swimming holes you could ever hope to find. If you make it down here on a weekday, you just might have a swimming hole all to yourself.
A Pleasant Valley Detour
For a bit of back-road adventure, head south from the Mogollon Rim to the remote community of Young, which sits in the middle of the aptly named Pleasant Valley. The town can be reached only via well-graded gravel roads -- 24 miles of gravel if you come from the north, 32 miles from the south -- which is why a trip to Young is an adventure.
Why visit Young? Most people come just to see the land that spawned the worst range war and family feud in the West. Known as the Pleasant Valley War or Graham-Tewksbury Feud, it likely erupted over conflicts about sheep grazing in the valley, and eventually the feud took dozens of lives. Zane Grey memorialized the 1880s range war in his novel To the Last Man.
You'll find Young on Ariz. 288, which heads south from Ariz. 260 about midway between Payson and Heber, and connects to Ariz. 88 north of Globe (near Theodore Roosevelt Lake).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.