Rye Cypress

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4/5 (4 reviews)
Payson, Arizona (Gila County)
Last Updated: 01/07/2023

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Rye Cypress unveils the rugged beauty of Arizona's chaparral country. Located in the Tonto National Forest, at 2,873,200 acres, the largest of Arizona's National Forests and seventh largest in the nation, the trail is in the looming shadow of the jagged Mazatzal Mountains. The name Mazatzal is difficult to pronounce. Locals often refer to the Mazatzal Mountains as the Mazzies. The name is attributed to an obscure native language now only spoken in central Mexico. It means "place of the deer." As difficult as the name may be, traversing the Mazzies is infinitely harder. The rugged and nearly impenetrable mountains, encased in the Mazatzal Wilderness Area, form a north/south spine in central Arizona crossed by no roads and very few foot trails. Rye Cypress gathers part of its name from the small hamlet in which it originates. A creek shares that name as well, and the trail crosses it often. The Cypress portion refers to an area called the Cypress Thicket that begins roughly at Waypoint 10. It's misnamed since the thickly growing cypress forests are actually a species of the juniper tree. The effects of the 2004 Willow Fire are very apparent in the center portion of this trail. But the "cypress" are having their revenge and growing back thick and fast. Rye Cypress provides great views, nice camping, and a tour through Arizona's chaparral above its cactus-studded Sonoran Desert and below the pine-forested high country above the Mogollon Rim. The easy trail connects to other scenic tracks. It's certainly a slower-paced relaxing alternative to the paralleling paved highways full of speeding cars.

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