Foresters of the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest provide information and maps on recreation in the Mogollon Rim country from Chevelon Canyon to Black Canyon Lakes, including the very popular Rim Lakes Recreation Area. The Mogollon Rim Visitors Center offers an information desk, a few exhibits, and map sales at a handy location right on the rim at Al Fulton Point, opposite the Forest Road 300 turnoff from AZ 260; it's usually open
Thurs.-Sun. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Step out on the back porch for a great panorama from the rim across wooded ridges extending all the way to Four Peaks near Phoenix. The first quarter mile of Forest Road 171 east of the visitor information center has picnic areas—all with views; continue along the road for some designated dispersed camping sites. The visitor information center is six miles west of Forest Lakes between Mileposts 282 and 283. From Payson, head 32 miles east on AZ 260 to just past where the highway tops out on the Mogollon Rim.
You can also stop by the Black Mesa Ranger Station 2748 Hwy. 260, P.O. Box 968, Overgaard, AZ 85933, 928/535-4481, www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) for recreation information on the Rim Country; it's two miles east of Heber on the south side of the highway between Mileposts 307 and 308.
Both offices have a pamphlet for the self-guided Black Canyon ... Journey Through Time Auto Tour, that describes prehistoric and historic sites along a 15.3-mile length of Forest Road 86 southwest of Heber.
A large part of the Rim Lakes Recreation Area has been set aside as a wildlife habitat area. Hikers, backpackers, cyclists, and equestrians are welcome here, but not motorized vehicles. The Mogollon Rim offers a great opportunity for seeing elk, deer, and other animals, especially in early morning and again in the evening. Take care not to be near the edge of the rim during summer thunderstorms, most likely in July and August, because it's said to be the second most lightning-struck place in the world.
Campgrounds fill on weekends from about the third week of June to Labor Day; you'll need to make a reservation or arrive by Friday morning to secure a spot. Groups can reserve sites at Woods Canyon, Spillway, Canyon Point, and Gentry campgrounds. Designated dispersed camping sites also help to accommodate the throngs of summer visitors. These areas are free, but lack water or facilities; look for them along sections of Forest Roads 237, 300, 169, 171, 195, 9350, and 9354. The forest roads east of Forest Lakes tend to be the least crowded for dispersed camping. Some people like autumn best—September and October generally have good weather and fishing, solitude, and aspen leaves turning to gold. Spring can be a fine time to visit as well.
ATVs may travel numbered forest roads only. Both vehicles and operators must be licensed for highway use.
This small campground overlooks Chevelon Creek many miles downstream from Woods Canyon Lake. The sites (elev. 6,200 feet) remain open most of the year with no water or fee. Parking is tight and small vehicles will fit best. Try fishing for rainbow trout in the large pools upstream. Three routes lead to this remote campground. Forest Road 504 is the usual way in; turn off AZ 260 one mile west of Heber. You could also take AZ 99 south from Winslow and turn left on Forest Road 504, or take Forest Road 169 north from Forest Road 300 (the Rim Road; closed in winter) west of Woods Canyon Lake.
Chevelon Canyon Lake
This long, skinny reservoir lies 12 miles upstream from Chevelon Crossing via Forest Roads 169 and 169B. See the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest map for other ways of getting here. The lake offers trophy fishing for rainbow and brown trout; anglers must use artificial lures and observe size and catch limits. With 208 surface acres, this is one of the larger lakes on the Mogollon Rim. There's a primitive campground (elev. 6,400 feet, no water or fee) near the north shore.
Bear Canyon Lake
Anglers enjoy fishing with artificial lures or bait on this trout lake. The shore is steep and tree-covered, so it's easier to use boats for fishing, though you'll have to lug them to the water. There's a campground (no water or fee) near the north end. From Woods Canyon Lake, travel west 10 miles on Forest Road 300 (the Rim Road), then turn north and drive 2.5 miles on Forest Road 89.
Woods Canyon Lake
This popular lake was one of the first of seven created on the rim. Camp at either Aspen Campground ($12) or Spillway Campground ($14) near the lakeshore; both have drinking water and a season of about May to mid-September. Call 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov, to reserve a site. A store that stays open into autumn has groceries, boat rentals, and motors (only electrics are permitted here). On summer weekends, staff lead walks and offer evening programs. Rocky Point Picnic Area on the south side of the lake is open for day use only, $5. Woods Canyon Nature Trail makes a half-mile loop here. From AZ 260, near the edge of the Mogollon Rim, turn northwest five miles on paved Forest Roads 300 and 105.
Rim Top Trailhead and Snowplay Area
A large parking area, just 0.1 mile in from AZ 260 on Forest Road 300, provides access to General Crook Trail 611, Rim Lakes Vista Trail, and the 235 Road Bike Trail. In winter, it's plowed so visitors can enjoy the snow (no sleds or tubing).
Rim Lakes Vista Trail
This easy trail follows the rim for three miles with some fine views between Rim and Mogollon Campgrounds, both off Forest Road 300; elevation is 7,500 feet. Military Sinkhole Trail drops west and south 2.25 miles from Rim Lakes Vista Trail to Two-Sixty Trailhead and the Highline National Recreation Trail; you'll find the upper trailhead 1.9 miles in from AZ 260 on Forest Road 300 and the Two-Sixty Trailhead 27 miles east of Payson just off AZ 260.
Mountain Bicycle Trails
Cyclists enjoy Willow Springs Loop, an 8.1-mile series of forest roads in a wildlife habitat area signed for nonmotorized use. It's northeast of Willow Springs Lake; from AZ 260, go a half mile north on Forest Road 237 to the trailhead at the junction with Forest Road 236. The 235 Road Bike Trail, west of Willow Springs Lake, heads north about four miles (one way) into the wildlife habitat area. Both trails are at an elevation of about 7,600 feet.
Rim Road—Forest Road 300
This scenic road follows the Mogollon Rim between AZ 260 and AZ 87 for 45 miles. The first 4 miles from AZ 260 is paved, then the rest is graded gravel, passable by cautiously driven cars. Allow 3–4 hours one way. Slow speeds are necessary because of curves, climbs, and possible washboard sections. Attractions include rim views, pretty forest scenes, and wildlife sightings. You'll also see effects of the 1990 Dude Fire. The eastern section lies within the Rim Lake Recreation Area, where one must use designated campsites. Dispersed camping is allowed along the western part of the drive, which is in the Coconino National Forest.
Willow Springs Lake
Anglers catch mostly rainbow trout in this U-shaped lake. There's a boat ramp but no campground. You can camp in designated dispersed areas nearby or at Sinkhole Campground, which has water and a $8 fee from mid-May to late October. From AZ 260, about one mile east of Forest Road 300 (Rim Road) junction and four miles west of Canyon Point Campground, turn in a half mile on Forest Road 149 to Sinkhole Campground, then continue 3.5 miles to Willow Springs Lake. Rim, Crook, and Mogollon Campgrounds lie along Forest Road 300, beginning 0.8 mile in from AZ 260; all are open mid-May to late October with water and a $8 fee.
Canyon Point Campground
This large, easily accessible campground has drinking water, showers, a dump station, and some quad sites mid-May to late Sept.; reserve through 877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov. Sites without hookups cost $14. Loop A has electric hookups at $16. Naturalists offer interpretive programs on summer weekends. Sinkhole Trail begins from Loop B and leads to a sinkhole, one mile roundtrip. Canyon Point Campground lies just off AZ 260, five miles east of the Forest Road 300 (Rim Road) junction.
Black Canyon Lake
This small trout lake doesn't have a campground, but Black Canyon Rim and Gentry campgrounds lie within a few miles. Black Canyon Rim has water and an $8 fee from mid-May to late September. Gentry has no water or fee, but sites can be reserved for families or groups at 800/280-2267. Both stay open all year when not blocked by snow. From Canyon Point Campground, go east 4.5 miles on AZ 260, turn right 2.5 miles on Forest Road 300, then turn left three miles on Forest Road 86 to Black Canyon Lake.
On to Payson