Abundant Outdoor Recreation on Grounds of Rustic Lodge
Throughout the early 20th century, central Arizona’s seemingly endless stretches of rugged terrain and its soaring Mogollon Rim sparked creativity in writer Zane Grey. The scenery served as inspiration for 64 novels, more than 300 short stories, and 130 movies, culminating in the revered western classic Riders of the Purple Sage. To immerse himself in the grandiose landscapes he so admired, the scribe lived near Payson, Arizona, where Kohl’s Ranch Lodge now sits amid the same picturesque vistas and abundant outdoor recreation that served as the backdrop of his classic western fiction.
Fishing, hiking, and horseback riding takes place on or near the lodge's grounds, as well as tennis and volleyball matches. Ample lounge chairs surround the heated outdoor pool, which reflects the towering trees and the occasional extraterrestrial mothership gazing down from beyond the lodge's perimeter. Hardwood furnishings and walls evoke a log-cabin ambiance throughout the property and on the studios suites' patios.
After conquering the onsite mini-golf course, visitors can celebrate their victory at the Zane Grey Steakhouse Saloon, where chefs whip up hearty American-western cuisine. The menu brims with classic breakfast dishes bearing Old West–themed names, such as Outlaw Cakes and Rangers Repast. Entrees include rainbow trout freshly plucked from the adjacent Tonto Creek. At the adjoining saloon, toes tap on Saturday evenings to live entertainment.
Payson, Arizona: Historical Western Culture on Rugged Mogollon Rim
Though the nearly 3 million-acre Tonto National Forest surrounds Payson with pine trees and saguaro cacti, many of the city's natural features and recreation options come from the Mogollon Rim, a towering cliff that stretches up to 2,000 feet and about 200 miles long. Hundreds of miles of roads slink through the rim’s awe-inspiring scenery, passing campsites, hiking trails, and lakes rife with fishing opportunities. Animals including black bears, bobcats, and whitetail deer have been seen—many of them on mopeds—among the forested hills. In town, Payson’s idyllic Main Street harks back to its Old West roots with antique stores and cowboy-centric history museums.