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Photo of the rebuilt Zane Grey cabin in Payson Arizona after it was destroyed by fire
Rebuilt Zane Grey Cabin in Payson Arizona

Zane Grey’s Arizona Custom Private "Storybook Tour"

On this tour you will visit the stomping grounds where the famous western novelist and screenplay writer Zane Grey wrote many of his books.   He is a significant part of Arizona's legends and history.  Many of his books were written under the phenomenal beauty and ruggedness of the Mogollon Rim, Oak Creek Canyon and the Flagstaff area.  Through his writing he brought to his readers a visual excitement for the beauty of these special places.

Escape with us to the cool pine covered mountains of Arizona’s ‘Rim Country’, better known as ‘Zane Grey Country’. We are proud to present this special ‘Storybook’ tour honoring the legendary writer, Zane Grey, who is known throughout the world for his thrilling tales of the ‘Old West’. Many of these stories took place right here in Arizona and the areas surrounding the Rim. Experience for yourself the natural settings of gunfights and cattle feuds in the Old West.  On this unique and fun filled excursion we will take you to the sights and locations of those famous novels and the movies that brought so much life to Arizona during the last century.

The Rim Country is an area of unsurpassed natural beauty, spectacular landscapes and endless miles of rugged unspoiled wilderness, stretching across the central east section of Arizona. A land of lush green valleys, thick pine forests, mountain lakes and streams and the most breathtaking views that you can ever imagine from atop the 7000 ft. Mogollon Rim (Tonto Rim). Though not as well known as the Grand Canyon nor as well traveled, the Rim is truly unparalleled in its rustic splendor and offers a welcome relief from the hot arid desert environment so commonly identified with this state.

Zane Grey fell in love with Arizona back in 1906 while on his honeymoon to the west coast. First stopping in the mountain community of Flagstaff, he wound up taking a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was these first impressions that would bring him back many times and he eventually set 24 of his 56 romantic westerns within its borders. He explored every part of Arizona, studying the land, the people, their customs and their life styles, while taking copious notes and gathering the material he would later use for his books.

Of all the regions featured in Zane Grey’s books of Arizona, it was the quiet solitude of this woodland paradise known as the Rim Country that would give him the inspiration he needed to create his literary masterpieces. In 1920 he had a local family build him a cabin at the base of the Rim. His cabin served as a sanctuary away from the crowds and the distractions of the outside world where he could concentrate on his writing and pursue his passion of hunting and fishing. This was his personal retreat that he would return to every fall for over a decade. During the 1920’s Paramount Pictures used his lodge as their headquarters during the filming of movies from his books.

Zane Grey based his stories on the families he grew to know and admire. They were a different breed of people and maintained a high code of ethics that brought out the good in people—good over evil—a central theme throughout most of his novels. Members from the family that built his cabin were the main characters in his novel Under the Tonto Rim. Later the children were featured in the movie versions.

Another novel that took place southeast of his cabin around the town of Young was To the Last Man, based on the bloody Pleasant Valley Wars (feud) also filmed on location. During the 1920s many of the movies were filmed on the sight where the action of his novels took place.  Movies that were made of the Rim Country novels launched actors like Randolph Scott and others to stardom.  Shirley Temple had her debut in To the Last Man.

By the 1930’s Zane Grey was already a national icon and world famous author, while Hollywood was fast becoming the center for the thriving movie industry. During the earlier years of films, Hollywood used his popular novels as the subject matter for their movies. Zane Grey saw this new medium as a great way to reach a much wider audience. This was a marriage made in heaven, which would produce 113 films spanning over five decades. Zane Grey formed his own film company in 1918 and wanted the headquarters in Flagstaff, but sold to Paramount in 1922. His popularity continued to television in 1956 with the “Zane Grey Theater”, which he would never live to see having died in 1939.

Zane Grey is truly a national treasure and will always be remembered for his immortal westerns that captured the hearts and imaginations of readers from around the globe and bringing them to a place he called “his beloved Arizona”. He holds a very special place in the history of this great state and in the history of the nation. Our ‘Storybook Tour’ relives this important part of Arizona’s past.

If you like the scenic highways and back roads of Arizona, then this tour is for you. We will begin in the historical town of Flagstaff. Flagstaff sites such as the train station and hotels were featured in many of his films. Avalanche was filmed on the San Francisco Peaks.

We will venture through the grasslands of Lake Mary on the way to Mormon Lake. Mormon Lake Lodge is nestled on 280 glorious acres. This small community has a Zane Grey Museum, an Old Western Village and riding stables. Three of Grey’s novels were set in the nearby vicinity—30,000 on the Hoof (about a scout from Gen. Crooks Calvary), The Drift Fence and The Hash Knife Outfit.

After spending some time here we begin a gradual ascent through large tracts of ponderosa pines on our way to the top of the Mogollon Rim.  The area on top of the Rim is a camper’s delight, encompassing miles and miles of densely wooded terrain interlaced with small fishing lakes and hiking trails. There are several control roads throughout this region, including the popular Rim Road that runs along the edge of this massive 2000 ft. escarpment for many miles to the east. This road parallels General Crook’s Trail used by his cavalry in the 1870s.

On our descent into the Tonto Basin, we make stops in the small villages of Pine and Strawberry, home of the oldest schoolhouse in the state. As we continue winding through this wonderful landscape we will arrive at the Tonto Natural Bridge, the world’s largest terrestrial bridge.  There is a nice well maintained trail that you can use to access the creek that flows under the bridge.

Our next stop is Payson, one of the highlights of our tour and home of the new Zane Grey Cabin. This is an exact replica of the original cabin that was destroyed by the Dude forest fire in 1990.   Payson was mentioned often in his novels of the area and several movies were filmed in the area.   This is the pivotal point of our trip through the Rim Country

You will have the opportunity to visit the Rim Country Museum, quaintly set in the award winning Green Valley Park.  The Museum is comprised of several historical buildings and objects of local significance.  They have an excellent presentation on Zane Grey that displays a large collection of Zane Grey memorabilia and artifacts including many of his personal items such as chaps, saddle, guns, books and posters.   A nearby lake and full foliage trees offer visitors a refreshing coolness in the summer and a crystalline landscape in winter.          

Departing Payson we set out east on a very scenic ride through the Tonto Basin making some stops on our way up to the east end of the Rim Road. We will travel along Hwy. 260, also called “The Zane Grey Highway”. Our first stop is in Little Green Valley and Bear Flat, the sites for Code of the West, Arizona Ames and Arizona Clan. We also take a short jaunt to upper Christopher Creek north of Kohl’s Ranch and the location of Grey's original cabin. This is where he wrote several of his best western adventure novels that included To the Last Man and Under the Tonto Rim.

We next travel up to the east side of the Rim Road where we will stop at Woods Canyon Lake, one of the prettiest of the Rim lakes, and Promontory Point, the ultimate overlook of the Rim Country. The views from here will overwhelm you as you look down upon the endless waves of misty blue mountains some 2000 ft. below. This is heaven for photographers.

After returning to Payson there is one interesting optional stop just outside of town. This is the site of the Shoo Fly Ruins, where an ancient society thrived over 1000 years ago. The land surrounding these dwellings will also dazzle your eyes as you look back at the gigantic Rim against the northern skyline.

We now return to the top of the Rim and take Hwy.260 going west, which follows the part of General Crooks Trail that leads to Camp Verde. This is the historic route of 19th century soldiers and officers in the US Cavalry.  A stop at Fort Verde along the trail route helps you to take a glimpse into the past when this historic fort was built along side the Verde river to protect the area against Indian attacks.

On to the last leg of our tour, we pass through the majestic Red Rocks of Sedona, featured in a great number of western films. When you approach these colossal red rock formations, especially during sunset, there is a mystical quality about them that is almost surrealistic in nature. But no matter what time of day, the Red Rocks of Sedona are truly a magnificent sight to behold!

Our final destination on the tour is the enchanting Oak Creek Canyon, a wonderland of dark forests and vertical rock cliffs that climb for hundreds of feet above the sparkling waters of Oak Creek. While here, we have the option of visiting the famous Slide Rock State Park. More importantly, we will stop at the site of Carl Mayhew’s cabin where Grey stayed as his friend’s guest in the 1920’s and penned the words to The Call of the Canyon. After Carl Mayhew acquired the cabin around 1925, he expanded it as a hunting and fishing lodge. Mayhew’s cabin later became known as Mayhew’s Lodge. Some time later, Grey would convince some of his Hollywood connections to film The Call of the Canyon at this location, the first of many movies based on his books.

We have given you a recommended itinerary for our custom private ‘Storybook Tour’, but you can create your own tour using these variables. The choices are for you to make. You may want to stretch it out for two days or concentrate on one or two areas of interest to you. We will accommodate you in whatever way possible.

For information about your guide, go to Storybook Tour Guide.

Zane Grey informational guide book

For more excellent information on Zane Grey, visit Zane Grey's West Society and the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation.