Rocks, Trees, Water, & 'Wheeling
In 2006, BFGoodrich Tires, in conjunction with Tread Lightly and the United Four Wheel Drive Association (UFWDA), launched its Outstanding Trails program to highlight some of the best off-road trails in the country. The effort was aimed at recognizing these trails and spurring emphasis on responsible trail use and preservation of the 'wheeling experience.
Pyeatt Draw was one of the five trails chosen in that inaugural year. The trail lies just outside of Payson, Arizona, nestled between the Diamond Rim and the much more majestic Mogollon Rim to the north, which rises to elevations of more than 7,000 feet. The trail sits surrounded by native pines in the bottom of a ravine, where running waters have cleared it and shaped it over many geological years.
We joined a group of 'wheelers from the High Country Renegades to make another trip up this short, but very scenic trail that meanders through the Tonto National Forest. The weather here can vary widely over the calendar year. The summers may leave the trail dry, yet not dusty. Winter brings snowfall at this 5,400-foot elevation mark. We ran the trail in very late spring when the last bits of runoff still pooled in the lower parts of the wash areas.
Our group consisted of about eight vehicles. We had some Jeep TJs and a YJ, a couple of XJ Cherokees, and a pair of Toyota trucks. We accessed the trail by travelling down Pyeatt Draw Road (FSR 198) to drop into the draw near a concrete dam. We eased our way up the wide, rocky wash bumping our way across scattered boulders and the occasional rocky ledge.
We had no problems walking through the obstacles as most of our vehicles were equipped with 35-inch-or-larger tires. The trail can be done with much smaller rolling stock until you get to what's known as the "Filter Ledge." This three-to-four foot ledge spans the entire width of the draw, making it a mandatory obstacle to continue upstream. There is, however, a way around this spot on the dirt road that parallels much of the trail.
Continuing onward, we 'wheeled our way to the biggest challenge on this trail, which is an imposing waterfall. The path straight up the middle is typically a wet one and funnels you into a two-step ledge that is best tackled by those rigs with the largest tires and packaged in a tube chassis.
Our path for the day was the far left side of the fall. A rock shelf leads drivers to a large step to climb a huge, sloping rock face. You are limited in space by the wall of the wash on the left and by a drop off into the water area to your right. It also doesn't help that the tire line up the obstacle is narrow and that the right side is well undercut. Most of us gave it a go, with a few climbing it unassisted. The rest of us had to pull winch cable to make it at least past the lower undercut.
With our group on top of the waterfall, we took a short break and then headed back out via the dirt road near the trail. We were fortunate to suffer no carnage that day so were able to enjoy all our time on the trail without crawling under a vehicle or two. It's a fun trail, combining both challenging obstacles and scenic views. Many thanks to the High Country Renegades for inviting us along for the ride.