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Mogollon Rim Discovery Trail

Updated: 18 hours ago

The Mogollon Rim is one of the go to locations for local Arizonans looking to escape the desert heat. With its dramatic cliffs, serene lakes, and a rich history to discover, the rugged and beautiful Mogollon Rim is a gem thats promises an extraordinary experience for every nature enthusiast and adventure seeker.



All photos courtesy of Matt Girgis featuring OTG member Dan Blanchard.



Route Overview


Trip Length & Season

Adventure Rating: Epic Trip Length: 180 miles, 2-4 days Season: Recommended mid-May thru early November. Portions of this track may be inaccessible earlier/later in the season depending on snow.

Technical Ratings & Terrain

Recommended Vehicle / Moto / Adventure Vans

Fuel, Provisions, and Recommended Gear

Alternative Routes

Camping

Discovery Points

Land Managers & Other Resources

Permits & Papers


 

Route Details

Formed roughly 500 million years ago through geological uplifting, the Mogollon Rim forms part of the southern border of the Colorado Plateau. Stretching more than 200 miles in length from just outside of Phoenix to the New Mexico border, the Rim has long attracted folks from the desert lowlands looking to escape the heat. The oldest rocks in the rim are thought to be about 1.7 billion years old.


The Mogollon Rim is home to a variety of different ecosystems, including ponderosa pine forests, grasslands, and deserts. The different ecosystems are supported by the different types of rocks that make up the Mogollon Rim. Humans have inhabited the region for the last several thousand years, and the Rim derives its name from the Mogollon people that lived in the area from circa 1000 BC to 1400 AD. The Apache people called the Mogollon Rim home from roughly 1400 through the 1800s. Today, the Rim attracts outdoor recreationalists and desert dwellers looking to escape the heat of the Sonoran desert.


The Mogollon Rim Discovery Trail can be driven in either direction, but this guide starts from the east and travels to the west towards Phoenix. Forest Road 300, better known as Rim Road is the foundation for the track. It's a well known and popular road, and for many folks who call Arizona home, it's their first overland/off road adventure. Rim Road is primarily a wide, graded dirt and gravel road that can be traversed by two wheel drive vehicles. Rain and snow has been known to degrade certain sections, but nothing a stock AWD or 4x4 can't easily handle. The vast majority of Rim Road runs along the escarpment of the Mogollon Rim. The most rugged sections of the Rim can be found between Willow Springs Lake and Garden Tank Viewpoint (DP23). The rim along the far eastern end of the track does not contain the the impressive cliffs of the middle portion, and the western end deviates north away from the rim while exploring some fun jeep tracks.


Given the proximity of the Mogollon to the greater Phoenix Area, Rim Road and the surrounding campgrounds can become rather busy on weekends. But if you know where to look, chances are you can still snag an incredible campsite (check the numerous sites marked in the gpx file). The track features access to no less than half a dozen fire lookouts, all of which are marked as discovery points. If UFOs and aliens are your thing, be sure to pay homage to the Travis Walton abduction site (DP3), which was turned into the Hollywood blockbuster, Fire in the Sky. While Rim Road is a well traversed dirt "highway", once you begin exploring away from Rim Road, and especially if you head towards the Mogollon Rim itself, expect things to get a bit bumpier. The out-and-back to Promontory Butte (DP14) is a perfect example of this, but the views are well worth it and the bumpy tracks tend to keep the crowds away (most of the time at least!).


Upon reaching the Garden Tank Viewpoint (DP23), the track juts north away from the Rim, and then wraps back around to connect with the Fossiel Creek alternative route. The section from Lake Mary Road that passes Buckhorn Cabin (DP24) and out to highway 260 is the most "technical" portion of the track, but nothing a stock 4x4 with stock tires can't handle. If you're in a Sprinter 4x4 or stock AWD vehicle, we'd advise skipping this section. The highlights of the final leg of the track include Buckhorn Cabin, and if you're up for it, the 7 mile out-and-back to the red rock Indian Maiden Falls. If 7 miles seems a bit too much, be sure to read up on the Fossil Creek alternative route, that includes access to some of the best swimming holes in Arizona that requires a lot less physical exertion. The main track ends just outside of Camp Verde.


 

Maps + Navigation


Download Digital Mapping Files


 

Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by OverlandTrailGuides.com, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

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1 Comment



Rim Road 300 has been in my backyard forever From the heat of Phoenix we can be overlooking the Mogollon (muggy-yon) Rim at 7000’ in 90 minutes so it’s a popular weekend escape


In July of 2023 we did a 50mile portion of the route heading east from highway 260 near Happy Jack heading towards Woods Canyon Lake. Barring rain this is 2wd all the way. The first half is much more scenic and offers numerous secondary trails that get you right on the rim Some of these trails require sporadic 4wd to get you a bit beyond the trailers and toy haulers.

Rim Road 300 is mega corrugated especially the last half. Air down or suffer!


IG: vanGRATO




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