SITE SEEING IN GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA

Due to its vast open spaces, Gila County has many awesome destinations that you can miss if you don't know where to look. 

 

For example The Mogollon Rim is a rugged escarpment that forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. It extends across the entire forest and provides excellent views of both the Plateau Country and Desert Canyon Country. Dropping as much as 2,000 feet in certain areas, the Rim provides some of the most far-reaching scenery in Arizona. Views stretch from its rocky precipice to Four Peaks of the Mazatzals northeast of Phoenix. 

Central Gila County is full of high deserts and amazing views from the Sierra Ancha, Salome and Salt River Wilderness Areas.  On the Southern boarder you have the Pinal Mountains, outside Globe, Arizona, the Salt River Canyon and further to the south the Mescal Mountain Range and its high point of El Capitan Mountain, which has an elevation of 6,568 on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.


Needless to say, sightseeing is a favorite activity in Gila County and what better way to participate in this adventure then within the comforts of your car.  We invite you to Explore the Wild and Discover Gila County!

PLACES TO SIGHT-SEE BY CAR IN GILA COUNTY?

This trail ranges from Apache Junction in the Phoenix Valley all the way past Roosevelt and covers at least 45 miles of scenic views.  Start where Route 88 crosses Idaho Road, and you’ve begun a journey you’ll never forget. Bask in the desert beauty as you view the Superstition Mountains, The Theodore Roosevelt Dam and even the Tonto National Monument.  Along the way, you can stop in Goldfield, a former mining town.

 

As you travel past Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains, you can stop for kayaking or paddle boarding in Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake or Apache Lake. Tortilla Flat continues onto a unpaved road, easily navigated by most vehicles. End in Globe, an old mining town from the copper and silver boom with historical buildings and shops.

Apache Trail

Using Route 87 from Fountain Hills to Payson, you can experience some of the most winding roads in the West. It’s likely for this reason that many residents of the surrounding area are retired millionaires with car collections for enjoying the terrain. Nature enthusiasts will also enjoy several different ecosystems throughout the drive including desert, forest and plateau. Since you’ll climb about 3,000 feet along your journey, you’ll have plenty of the same on your descent as you slowly wind down through the mountainous region.

Most roads allow for any vehicle to navigate, so efficient ones like the Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta are good options. While a Ford Mustang might be the car of choice for iconic convertible summer drives, a F-150 may be the best choice for rugged roads. Whatever road you choose and the vehicle to get you there, make sure to enjoy the views and stay safe this summer.

Beeline Highway

Self guided auto tour through prehistoric and historic sites along a 15.3-mile length of Forest Road 86 southwest of Heber.  Pick up a pamphlet at the Rim Visitor Center or the Black Mesa Ranger Station, located at 2748 Hwy. 260, two miles east of Heber on the south side of the highway between Mileposts 307 and 308.

Black Canyon . . . Journey Through Time Auto Tour

Four wheel drive to Weimer Point.  Take FR99 north from Hwy 260.  Go left onto FR170.  Make another left at FR90, at .5 miles take the right fork, at 2.5 miles take the left.  You'll pass through the eastern portion of the Slim Fire from 1987.  After taking in the views backtrack back to FR170 and proceed north.  Turn west (left) on FR504 and head toward Chevelon Crossing.  You'll pass a small campground with ramadas.  Then you'll turn left onto FR169 which will eventually link up with FR300 which you'll take back to Hwy 260.

Chevelon Canyon to Chevelon Crossing

10 miles east on Hwy 260. Turn left. Scenic drive to rental cabins and great for viewing wildlife such as deer and elk at either sun up or sunset.

Colcord Road

Take Highway 260 - 15.2 miles and left on Control Road 64. Follow the Control Road to junction with Forest Road 29 (about 4.2 miles). Keep to the left when you come to the Tonto Village turnoff. Turn right on Forest Road 29. Forest Road 29 is a narrow dirt road and is not suited for low clearance vehicles past point 10. Self guided Auto Tour brochures are available at the Payson Ranger Station.

Dude Fire Area

Highway 260 between the top of the Mogollon Rim near Woods Canyon Lake turnoff and Heber features an extensive stand of ponderosa pine and tremendous change in temperature compared to the Phoenix area. People flock to this area to get cool in the summer and play in snow in the winter.

Highway 260

Tonto National Forest, Globe Ranger District
By Kelly Vaughn Kramer

Crawl. Walk. Run. The evolution of human movement seems simple enough. But it’s a formula that also can be applied to other, non-bipedal modes of getting from one place to another — like driving. Creep. Cruise. Fly.

In the case of this drive, which curls in a loop through the Pinal Mountains near Globe, you’ll be tempted to fly. Instead — thanks to the ruggedness of the road (yes, you need a four-wheel-drive) and the draw of the scenery — you’re better off cruising, even creeping, in parts.

The route begins on Ice House Canyon Road (Forest Road 112), in a residential area just beyond Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park. After 3.7 miles, you’ll see a sign for the Tonto National Forest. Here, civilization fades away, left to the telephone lines, homes and corrals you’ve experienced up to this point. Manzanita, scrubby bushes and an occasional juniper comprise the landscape, and around Mile 4.7, you’ll come upon a view of Cobre Valley out the driver’s-side window. It’s marked by a cascade of granite boulders and will likely be commemorated through an “Oh, look at that” from you or one of your passengers.

As the road climbs, pine trees replace the scrub, though manzanita bushes remain commonplace throughout the drive. The pines get taller and the shadows grow deeper around Mile 7.2 as the forest thickens, and the well-maintained dirt road passes through the Pioneer Pass Recreation Area at Mile 8.6. Here, you’ll find restrooms and a place to stretch your legs. It’s also a great place to gather your wits, crack your knuckles and gird your belly for the remainder of the drive.

Once you’re past the recreation area, the road grows rockier — wilder, in a sense — and you may encounter an occasional grouping of bright-orange or red wildflowers as it descends toward Pioneer Basin. Around Mile 10.8, you’ll see the radio towers atop Signal Peak and begin cruising through more high-desert landscape. A mile later, you’ll come to a turnoff. You can go straight for Pioneer Basin, but, for the purposes of this drive, turn right onto Forest Road 221 at the sign for the Bobtail Ridge Trail and Doak Spring.

A couple of miles past the turn, you’ll see a sign for Pioneer Pass, but veer right to stay on FR 221. Hillsides of agaves and century plants become the primary scenery along this section of the drive, but you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for a variety of birds and white-tailed deer, which are common in this area.

The road turns and climbs, then descends, twists and turns again in this neck of the woods, and there will be moments when you won’t be able to anticipate what’s over the next ridge or beyond the next curve. It’s four-wheel-drive in these parts, and that’s why it’s important to creep while you’re on FR 221.

Around Mile 18.5, you’ll come to a burned hillside, the remnant of some long-ago fire. If it’s cloudy, the skeletons of trees will look eerie against the backdrop of a storm, but shortly thereafter, the valley stretches like a canvas.

You’ll come to a fork in the road just shy of Mile 20. Turn left onto Forest Road 651 and veer left, then quickly right, when you come to another fork less than a half-mile later. This road is a well-maintained respite after the primitive stretch of FR 221, and you’ll appreciate the pretty recreation area it runs through, rich with sycamores and oaks.

After a 5-mile cruise along FR 651, you’ll turn right (east) onto Kellner Canyon Road (Forest Road 55) to return to Ice House Canyon Road. Feel free to fly — within reason, at or under the speed limit.

Pinal Mountains Loop

From Forest Lakes Drive west on Hwy 260 to the Woods Canyon turnoff, turn right on to FR300; continue on FR 300 past Woods Canyon Lake; past FR321 for 17 miles to Hwy 87, where you'll turn right; follow Hwy 87 for 18 miles, past Clint's Well, to FR 95; follow FR95, FR96 to FR321 for a total of 19 miles to FR300 and return to Forest Lakes.

Rim Road - General Crook Trail Loop

This scenic road follows the Mogollon Rim between AZ 260 and AZ 87 for 51 miles. Most of it is dirt, passable by cautiously driven cars. Allow three to four hours one way. Slow speeds are necessary because of hazardous washboard sections. Attractions include rim views, pretty forest scenes, wildlife sightings, and effects of the 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.

Rim Road - Forest Road 300

The Woods Canyon Lake loop might be 58 miles long but it's long in scenic beauty, especially the vista opportunities. From Woods Canyon Lake take Forest Road 300, 13 miles to Forest Road 115, and proceed to Ohaco Lookout, where you'll take Forest Road 56; take Forest Road 56 to its junction with Forest Road 225 and proceed on Forest Road 225 to its junction with Forest Road 34; take Forest Road 34 to the junction with Forest Road 100 where you'll turn left; proceed on Forest Road 100 until it joins Forest Road 169, where you'll turn right; take Forest Road 169 until it joins Forest Road 300; turn left on Forest Road 300 and take it back to your starting point at Woods Canyon Lake.

Woods Canyon Lake Loop

The first thing you need to know about this National Scenic Byway — officially known as the Desert to Tall Pines Scenic Road but known informally known as the Young Highway — is that it isn’t a drive you can do before lunchtime. This 74-mile back road, from State Route 260 near Payson to State Route 188 north of Globe, winds through ponderosa pines and grasslands before shifting abruptly to the saguaros of Arizona’s high desert. Large sections of the road are unpaved or lack guardrails, so patience — along with a light foot on the accelerator — is a must. Pack a picnic lunch, and take your time. The scenery, particularly toward the end, is worth it.

Heading south on Forest Road 512, past an aspen grove, you’ll come to the first of two areas hit by recent wildfires. Despite the devastation, you’ll see that saplings are springing up to replace the burned ponderoses. A little farther south, as you crest a hill at Mile 14, you’ll get a nice look at the Mogollon Rim on your right. It’s the first of many breathtaking views. Several pullouts line this narrow road, so stop frequently and enjoy the panoramas — particularly at Mile 19 — that show the stark contrast between the wildfire-scorched trees on the left and the dense forest on the right.

From there, you’ll descend into Young, an isolated community that didn’t even have outside electricity until the mid-1960s. Fewer than 700 people call Young home, and a drive through it is like traveling back in time. It’s a good place to stop for lunch, either the one you packed or the one you’ll order at Antlers, the town’s only restaurant.

South of Young, the road climbs again, and a vista point at Mile 31 provides another view of the Mogollon Rim, along with the town below. The canopy then begins to open up as small trees and bushes replace the taller pines, and on a clear day, the blue sky, combined with the silence of this isolated area, is spectacular.

At Mile 41, McFadden Peak (7,135 feet above sea level) dominates the view as you begin the descent into the desert. You’ll pass several lush riparian areas, and the streams offer excellent opportunities to see birds, deer and other wildlife. But the real payoff is an incredible panorama of Roosevelt Lake, with its surrounding red cliffs and mountains to the south. The jaw-dropping views continue for several miles, but be careful not to let them lead you off the road — there are numerous sharp turns as you lose altitude.

Before long, you’ll find yourself among the saguaros and prickly pear cactuses that are the Sonoran Desert’s trademarks. Once you’ve dropped into the desert, it’s just a short drive to a one-lane bridge over the Salt River, and another short trip from there to the drive’s conclusion at State Route 188. After the leisurely pace that’s necessary on the Young Highway, the trip back home will feel like light speed by comparison.

From the Desert to the Tall Pines "Scenic Byway" Young Highway