December 24, 2004
Rather than lounge around on the day after Christmas, head north for one of Arizona’s most scenic drives. The stretch of highway running through Payson, Pine and Strawberry in eastern Arizona boasts magnificent vistas, the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world and a slew of historic sites, restaurants and antique shops:
RIM COUNTRY MUSEUM
700 Green Valley Parkway, Payson.
A visit to the Rim Country Museum is a trip back in time. The museum boasts several historical buildings and a replica of Western novelist Zane Grey’s cabin, which burned to the ground in the 1990 Dude fire.
Details: The museum is open noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The museum is closed Christmas Day. $3 adults, $2.50 seniors, $2 students and children age 13 and older. (928) 474-3483.
TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK
Just 10 miles north of Payson on state Highway 87, the Tonto Natural Bridge is one of the largest natural bridges in the world. It measures 150 feet at its widest point. Gold prospector David Gowan stumbled upon the bridge in 1877 while on the run from Apaches. He later claimed squatting rights, and the park maintains a lodge built in 1927 by the Gowan family.
Some of the trails are closed during the winter months, but visitors can hike to the observation deck.
Details: The park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but will be closed Christmas Day. $5 per car. (928) 476-4202.
3821 N. Highway 87, Pine
After visiting the bridge, head five miles up the highway to the village of Pine for lunch. The Randall House is a popular spot with tourists and locals. Everything is made from scratch, and the menu includes multigrain pancakes, quiches, grilled wraps, burgers and portobello mushroom burgers.
Details: Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays. (928) 476-4077.