Periwinkle blue butterflies, tumbling waterfalls, red-capped mushrooms, and vines heavy with wild grapes. Wander the fairy-tale setting of Tonto, Horton, and Christopher Creeks, just below Arizona's Mogollon Rim, and you half expect Snow White and her dwarfs to show.
The labyrinth of creeks and enchanting pine forests are an easy escape from Phoenix's broiling Indian summer and offer a refreshing day of wading, fishing, and picnicking. Truly a storybook kind of day.
Getting there: Horton, Tonto, and Christopher Creeks ― and the village of Christopher Creek ― are about 20 miles east of Payson along State 260. For more information, contact Tonto National Forest (928/474-7900) or the village of Christopher Creek.
Pull into Tonto Creek Hatchery and check out the visitor center, which serves as a de facto local museum, detailing wildlife and the area's devastating 1990 wildfire. On weekends, a host talks trout and reveals secret fishing holes. Tonto Creek Rd., 4 miles north of State 260; www.azgfd.gov or 928/478-4200.