The Mountains of Arizona •
Little Diamond Rim • Mogollon Rim Foothills
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

Little Diamond Rim viewed from a few miles away.

A closer view.

Typical view of the hike. This is a little higher, where the ponderosa had given away to lower juniper and mountain oak.

The highpoint hill up ahead.

The summit is up ahead somewhere, seen here through the husks of a long-ago burn.

View of the Mazatzal Mountain and of the forest from the edge of Little Diamond Rim

Another view, this time more to the southeast.

A big juniper is at the end of the track, near the rim.

View of the Mogollon Rim from the burn area.

Descending back into the ponderosa.

All images

• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

Date: March 15, 2020 • Elevation: 6,146 feet • Prominence: 525 feet • Distance: 5.5 miles • Time: 3 hours and 5 minutes • Gain: 905 feet • Conditions: Cold at first with high clouds, then clearing and warmer


This peak was my first hike as an official citizen of Payson, Arizona. I moved in on Tuesday the 10th. Then came three solid days of rain and hail and clouds. I had lots to do anyway, so staying in wasn't such a bad thing. The storms cleared out yesterday, and today started sunny with just a layer of high clouds.

With a whole new playground of peaks around me, I chose Little Diamond Rim as my first hike. I had deliberately not hiked anything in and around Payson in almost two years, saving these peaks and hills for when I moved here. Diamond Rim is a band of cliffs that parallels the main Mogollon Rim, lower than the Mogollon but higher than Payson and its surrounding villages. Little Diamond Rim is the highest point along the west half of the Diamond Rim.

I wanted to get an early start but not necessarily a dawn start. I got rolling at 7:20 a.m. from my new home, drove north out of town then immediately took a right onto Houston Mesa Road. following this road for ten miles to the small hamlet of Whispering Pines, tucked into the cleft that separates the western half of Diamond Rim from the eastern half. The drive was scenic, and Little Diamond Rim is visible early on. I parked in a clearing in Bear Canyon, opposite Scott Road, where the county apparently stows a road grader for when it's needed.

It was cold, in the mid 30s, but mostly sunny with the high clouds muting the sun at times. I started walking at 8:06 a.m., dropping into the creek and crossing it carefully, trying to keep to a beat-up jeep road as best I could. In a matter of about 200 yards, I crossed the creek two more times. It was flowing, no doubt still draining all that rain that fell recently.

After the third crossing, I followed the road up hill and about another hundred yards to a fence line and an opening (no gate). The fence line heads south and there is a narrower ATV track that branches left, staying on the west side of the fence. The track and fence lead all the way to the rim, about 2.5 miles away. I was in forest dominated by ponderosa pine.

I walked the track, which was rocky and muddy but manageable. The grade is gentle at first, then steep, gaining about 300 feet quickly. Then the grade softens. Slowly, the trees transitioned from tall pines to lower junipers and mountain oak. The track would sometimes wander away from the fence but then return. I took shortcuts in a few cases to stay near the fence.

After one more slightly-steep push, the track topped a small rise then dropped about thirty feet. Ahead, I could see the forest-covered hill that held the highpoint. The ground here was flatter and not so quick to drain. Some segments were extremely muddy, the kind that sticks to one's boots and collects to about three inches thick. I tried to walk along the rocky edges or through the brush but I did not always have that option. I saw no other human boot prints but I saw plenty of hooved prints (and poop), and even a few that may have been a cat. This is also bear country and they may be rousing about now, but I saw no obvious bear scat. I never saw any animals but I banged my sticks together to announce my presence.

The track then gains to a small hilltop, elevation 6,097 feet. Here, the forest opens to an old burn area, many dead and burned trees still standing. The undergrowth was heavy, though. Up ahead was a low ridge, the rim itself. The forest comes back for the last few hundred feet. I arrived at the rim about 90 minutes after starting. I walked onto a couple rock platforms and looked out over the forests, little villages and distant mountains.

I took a short break at the rim and enjoyed the distant views and the assortment of clouds blowing through. By now the sun was out, but there was still a lot of moisture in the air. I had a soft breeze and the temperatures had risen into the low 50s, so it was comfortable.

I next wanted to tag the "highpoint", wherever it was. The map shows a 6,146-foot spot elevation at the crook of a v-shaped region within a 6,120-foot contour. As best I could tell, I was roughly at this crook, too. To the west, the land rose about ten feet, so I walked that way, following paths into the trees and low scrub, generally wandering around wherever I could. I had decent views so could pinpoint a possible highpoint location to about a square, fifty feet on a side. But I saw no cairns or other hints others had established a probable highest point. The undergrowth was thick, it is possible a cairn was hidden within the brush.

After about fifteen minutes of wandering the west lobe of the region, I returned to the rock platforms, hopped the fence and inspected the eastern lobe. The trees and brush was thicker here, but I kept to the rim and any open lanes I could find, walking about 500 feet until I was convinced the land was sloping down. I then returned, zig-zagging through any high regions I could glean. Again, I found no cairns or man-made markers. I spent about fifteen minutes on this half, too. Wherever the highest spot is, I would have walked on it or right by it, so I felt I gave the whole place as good a statistical treatment as I could.

Back to the rock platforms, I took a longer break, another fifteen minutes, to sit and enjoy the views and have a snack. Walking out, I followed the track and again had to contend with the heavy mud. It seemed to be muddier as I walked out. Maybe the sun was making the water flow more? I don't know. The mud was the only nuisance, but I made good time anyway, hiking down in under an hour. I was back to my car at 11:11 a.m., a three-hour, five-minute hike.

I drove home, stopping for photographs in the better light. I was pleased to get in a decent peak now as a new citizen of the Rim Country. The forests are thick up here and I'll need to amp up my navigation skills. I have grown used to the desert peaks and their open vistas. It's a new ballgame up here and I will have to adapt!

(c) 2020 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.