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Best Mountain Biking Trails in Payson, Arizona

The best thing about mountain biking in Gila County, Arizona is how each trail takes your breath away — not just from all the uphill pedaling, but how almost all the trails wind their way around at some point to a vista.

Overlooks at the end of first-class mountain bike trails include the 200-mile view from on top of the Mogollon Rim out across into the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, the vista overlooking the rugged Highline Trail and the beautiful jumble of boulders in Granite Dells from the Houston Loop trail in Payson. Or the stunning blue sky from the Pine/Stawberry Trail which has become an integral part of the annual Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race. Further south the Pinal Mountains rise over Globe and offer single track trails through stunning pine forests with amazing flora and fauna seldom found.

Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert rider to witness these sights. Trails spread out across terrains suitable for every level of expertise. From the rocky trails found around Payson to the trails along the Rim, which meander through grassy meadows and hug lake shores. To the chaparral and pinyon-juniper hills nestled just outside of Globe, Arizona. Gila County may just be the best kept Mountain Biking secret in Arizona.

Payson, Arizona - Mountain Bike Trails

American Gulch Trail The American Gulch Trail begins approximately 2.6 miles west of the Highway 87 and Main Street intersection. Main Street turns into Country Club Drive and then into Doll Baby Ranch Road, as you head west. After passing the Northern Gila County Sanitation District site, you will continue on Doll Baby Ranch Road until you see a widened dirt parking area immediately west of a cattle guard. This area can be used for parking. The trail begins on the north side of Doll Baby Ranch Road, right after the cattle guard. This is a PATS trail/USFS road that currently does not prohibit motorized vehicles, so expect to see all trail-user types on this section. This trail does not yet connect with the North Section of the American Gulch Trail, but a future connection will be made. Difficulty Level: Difficult

Aspen Trail The Aspen trail is 5.5 miles long. It begins at Carr Lake Trailhead and ends at Carr Lake Trailhead. The Aspen trail forms "loop A", the red loop of the Carr Lake Trail System. After the trail passes the end of trail #412, it travels past an enclosed fence built to keep eld out of an area to protect young aspen trees. The General Crook Trail follows this trail briefly from Carr Lake Trailhead. Difficulty Level: Easy

Boulders Loop Trail The Boulders Loop Trailhead is located 3.8 miles down Granite Dells Road, which initially is paved and then becomes USFS road # 435. The Trailhead begins at the end of the road. The road has been closed due to erosion. You may park off the road and walk approximately 1/4 miles to the trailhead. An existing USFS Trailhead sign provides general trail information. A future PATS Trailhead sign will also give trail‐users more specific information about the trail and its connections. This is a PATS/USFS trail that currently is not designated a motorized route (USFS road), although occasional motorized tracks may be seen. The Boulders is extremely popular with mountain bikers due to challenging hills, rocks and washes and gets its name because of the spectacular boulders that are scattered around the hills. Difficulty Level: Moderate

Drew Trail Drew Trail #291 is a 1.01 mile out and back with 41 feet accumulated elevation gain. Located 67 miles south-southwest of Winslow Arizona. May and September are the best months to enjoy this hike. This is an old pioneer trail built by the Drew family. The Drews homesteaded around Sharp Creek and constructed this trail to Winslow prior to 1909. This trail weaves its way through Ponderosa pine. On the Sitgreaves National Forest, find the trailhead on the south side of FR 9350. The trail descends very rapidly and is rocky and narrow in many locations. Difficulty Level: Moderate

Fern Gully Fern Gully is a 1 mile out and back with 26 feet accumulated elevation gain. Located 65 miles south-southwest of Winslow Arizona. September and May are the best months to enjoy this trail. Difficulty Level: Easy

Fred Haught This historic trail is part of the Cabin Loop Trail System. It was named after a rancher who once used it to move cattle and supplies from ridge to ridge and valley to valley in the roadless wilderness above the Mogollon Rim. Today it provides mountain bikers, hikers and horse packers access to this scenic area of shallow canyons and forested ridges. The Fred Haught trail was almost lost to neglect after a system of ridge top roads replaced it as the main route for commerce and travel in the 1950's. However, a renewed interest in the area by recreationists and history buffs inspired its recent reopening. You'll find this trail leisurely and scenic, with a good chance to see wildlife and ample opportunity to imagine what it must have been like when horses and trails were the only way of traversing this picturesque countryside. The monument of the Battle of Big Dry Washshown here is just off of FR 300 at the beginning of the Fred Haught Trail. Arizona Trail Passage 28 (Blue Ridge) uses the first three miles of Fred Haught Trail, from General Springs Cabin to just before the confluence of General Springs and Fred Haught Canyons, where the AZT-28 splits off to the west to head up to C.C. Cragin Reservoir Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Horton Creek Trail This is a fun trail to ride. A few techy uphill sections to challenge yourself on. Nothing crazy steep, but the constant grade up to the natural springs provides for a fun RIP on the way down. Plenty of stuff to jump off! A mix of chunky and slalom, with the river constantly following right next to it. This is one of Arizona's most scenic trails. Stop along the way and enjoy the beauty and scenery that this trail has to offer. Difficulty Level: Moderate

Houston Loop Trail Leaving Parking lot, look for brown signs that say "Trail" -- that will keep you dedicated to the 11 miler, which eventually Loops. On the way back, look for "Horse Camp", as the returning trail also leads beyond and up to the Horse Campground. There are many tangential trails that criss-cross with the Main trail, but I have (thrice) stuck to "Trail" signs. You will need to pass through two wired gates in route to the Loop. Crosses many creeks. Has elevation gains and drops throughout. Red dirt. Moisture & lovely riding in summer! Difficulty Level: Moderate

Military Sinkhole Trail #179 This is probably the easiest trail down the Mogollon Rim in terms of steepness and hazards along the way. But don't let that fool you this trail has a lot of switchbacks, rocks and steep inclines. The views are to die for. This single track trail is a joy to ride year round and the trail is in great shape and surrounded by cool pines trees. Difficulty Level: Difficult

Rim Lake Vista This trail meanders along the Mogollon Rim and provides spectacular views overlooking the rim. Interesting rock outcroppings can be seen along the way. Trail is a little overgrown in along the eastern section of the trail and you should be alert as to where the trail goes in this section. Otherwise you have some magnificent panoramic views of the Mogollon Rim. Difficulty Level: Difficult

Rumsey Park Trail The trail starts near Taylor Pool in Rumsey Park. Park on the far west side of the parking lot by the pool and the trail is a short distance up a dirt path, starting to the south. Ridden clockwise, it weaves through several switchbacks, across a dirt service road that leads to the water tanks and continues to weave up and around the hill. The path is wide and the turns easy to make on a bike. The trail continues all the way around the hill, taking in sweeping views of the town at every turn. It truly is one of the best ways to see Payson from a bird’s-eye view. While the trail climbs, total elevation gain is 80 feet. Toward the top of the hill the trail splits in two directions. Stay on the lower trail, which is easier. If you want an additional challenge, take the upper trail. Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Trail 200 To access the trailhead, head down Phoenix Street to Gibson Ct., where you'll be able to park near the start of the Doubletrack. Ride 100 yards up the doubletrack, and look hard to the left for the trail. If you reach a significant doubletrack climb, you've gone too far. From here, your singletrack adventure begins. The trail goes up, and down, with some hard, tight loose turns. There are plenty of technical rock sections to keep you on your toes. After a little while, you'll come to a hard right where you'll meet the first steep climb. Once on the other side, it's all down on a tight and technical downhill. After a few hundred yards when you see lots of big boulders on the left, pay attention for a very hidden right hand turn. This trail is lollipop shaped, and this area is where the "candy" part of the ride begins. You'll start out on a climb which will take you across a technical trail section. From there, you'll complete the loop with a downhill, which will spit you out just about 100 yards from where you started the climb. This completes the loop, and you'll just need to head back out along the "stick" to make your way back to your vehicle. Follow the trail up over a tough technical rock and continue on, keeping left all the way to where you started. If you get onto one of the wrong trails and end up back on Phoenix St., just ride up the road back to Gibson Ct, where you parked. Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Find more great mountain biking trails near Payson, Mogollon Rim Country, and all of Gila County by visiting

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