Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Recommended supplies and information:

  • Bring at least 80 ounces (about 2 liter) of water
  • Water Purification System (water sources are available)
  • Electrolyte Energy Tablets
  • Trekking Pole
  • Small First Aid Kit
  • Floatation Device
  • GPS
  • Camera

Approximate Trekking information:

Total Distance Hiking Round Trip: 10.4 Miles (16.7 km)

Elevation 7,907 ft to 7,316 ft: 591 ft Ascension Climb

Elevation Metrics: 2,410 meters to 2,229 meters: 181 meters Ascension Climb

Temperature for July 17, 2016: 71.3 F to 91.8 F / 21.8 C to 33.2 C


ArizonaTrekker David Pinter at Rim Road, Payson, Arizona

A Very Unusual Adventure

To begin the story, a hiking and mountain biking friend of mine, Jeff Forgey, went along with me on this adventure. I’ve hiked down into Knoll Lake once by way of Babe Haught Trail, so Jeff and I were very interested in exploring around the entire perimeter of the lake.

Since I prefer parking my truck on top of the rim on Route 300 (Rim Road), we decided to bike down a dirt road that intersected me to a rarely used old logging road. The entire bike ride was only about 3 miles.


Old Logging Road On Route to Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Zipping Down the Trail

The trip started off like any other 8:00am early morning ride. The air was cool and the sky had a slight overcast. The forest on both sides of the road was thickly dense with an occasional patch of green meadows. As we soared down the dusty, bumpy road we zipped off-road into a practically barren camp ground area. I noticed there was only one large tent with a jeep wrangler adjacent to it. As soon as I got my GPS bearings while riding by, we whisked down an old pine needle covered logging trail. The trail was narrow, yet wide enough for two bikes and the scenery was magnificent. The path was rocky in some spots, but our bikes had no problem flying over the flat and gradually descending terrain.

Found a Lost Dog

Riding at top speed with Jeff leading the way, I shouted from behind, “Jeff, look out, there’s a dog on the trail.” Jeff and I skidded to the side of the sandy path and set our bikes down to investigate the situation. Sadly, in the middle of the trail, lying in a dug out plot of dirt, a shivering and obviously dehydrated American Bulldog. The dog appeared it hadn’t eaten in days and its paws were very sore and partly bloody. I attempted to give the frightened dog some water, but it began growling so I backed away.

We couldn’t leave the dog just lying there in despair, so Jeff sat by it, and slowly allowed the dog to gain trust in him. Eventually, Jeff gingerly took hold of the leash and walked the dog all the way back up the trail (about 1.5 miles) where we saw the tent. In the meantime, I waited with the bikes and after about an hour or so, Jeff returned and we continued the adventure. After another 5 minutes of riding, we came to the end of the mountain biking trail.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 10.00.17 AM

Lost, Cold, and Frightened Dog Found Near Knoll Lake, Payson, AZ

See Update About the Dog at Bottom of Blog


Steep Off-Trail Incline Above Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Steep Descending Trek to the Lake

After ditching the bikes behind some large fallen trees in the bush, we proceeded to “off-trail” navigate down a very steep portion of the terrain. After descending about 300 feet, we reached a dried out rocky creek.


Dry Creek Bed Leading to Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona


Southern Most Point at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Following the embankment further and further north, smooth yet narrow animal trails lead us to the southernmost point of Knoll Lake. The view we were waiting for was finally before us. The lake scenery was spectacular and the water was calm and serene. This was the perfect opportunity for photographers and videographers alike.

Trekking the Perimeter of Knoll Lake

Along the edges of the lake are flat, rocky walk paths, but the terrain sharply ascends upward making hiking the perimeter of the lake very difficult at times. I actually found it easier to hike on animal trails higher up in the woods than on the rock-laden embankment. Now and then there was an occasional fallen tree across the path but travelling was much smoother than jumping over boulders and spraining an ankle.


Tree Line South View of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Even from the higher densely wooded vantage point, the scenery from every direction was certainly incredible with green pine tree forests towering up over the majestic lake.


Trash Found Along the Shores of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Disappointing Moments

To me, as an avid Arizona outdoorsman, nothing is worse than hiking out in nature and finding scattered trash along the way. When Jeff and I were trekking closer to the northwest side of the lake, we noticed the trails and fishing areas littered with plastic water bottles, junk food bags, beer cans and broken glass. However, the further away from these fishing spots, the cleaner it became.


Kayak and Row Boat at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Swimming to the Island

 After Jeff and I passed the crowds near the northwest parking lot, we noticed there was a long line of people waiting to use the toilet facilities. We just quickly passed by and headed back onto the trail.


Yellow Flowers and Butterflies at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

While along the trail, we came across a field of tall yellow flowers. On top of every flower were orange butterflies fluttering about. This was quite a beautiful sight contrasting the pine green forest with a deep dark blue lake backdrop.

We eventually reached the crossing point to where Jeff and I were to swim to the small island in the middle of Knoll Lake. We left our backpacks behind and swam across through the cool deep water. Once reaching the island, we snapped a few photos and hung out for a bit. After a little while, we happened to see a rubber raft with an older couple sailing right by our location. The raft was equipped with a quiet electric motor. Asking politely, we hitched a ride back to the mainland where we left our backpacks. I must say, I was drained from swimming fully clothed, carrying a Go Pro and a GPS camera with pouch. My recommendation would be to bring a lightweight floatation device as a backup precaution. I would only recommend strong swimmers to attempt the crossing.


Canoes Out on Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

Lunch and Heading Back

Following a great lunch while drinking purified lake water, Jeff and I headed back onto the trail. We kept to the perimeter of the lake as planned and eventually found our way back up to the dried creek bed and steep ascent to our bikes’ location. Hiking back up the cliffy area wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. We maintained a steady pace and switch backed often. Before you know it, we were back on our bikes on route to the campsite to see how the dog was doing.


David Pinter in Phoenix with American Bulldog Found at Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona

We decided to take the lost dog back with us to Phoenix to find a good home for him. Currently, the American Bulldog is residing at Jeff’s place. 



We found the owners of “Baxter.” They live in Youngtown, AZ. They said he ran off into the woods along the Mogollon Rim near Knoll Lake Friday evening. Baxter was alone in the forest for 2 long cold nights. They’ve been happily reunited.

Final Thoughts

Knoll Lake is quite a spectacular place to visit. Whether you’re hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, or just hanging out soaking up the sun, this lake is great for families. But, please remember to pick up after yourself and to take all belongings back out with you.

For peacefulness and tranquility, I would recommend trekkers to hike down to the southern most point of the lake via Babe Haught Trail. This trail is located off Rt. 300 (Rim Road). Further information regarding this trail can be found at:



View all images of the trail:


View Complete Trekking Analysis One Way


View GPS Map and photo locations:




Map of Knoll Lake, Payson, Arizona



Traveling from Payson, AZ head east on Route 260. Pass through the town of Star Valley (beware of the radar cameras). Keep heading east on 260 for about 10 miles and take a left turn onto Route 300 (Rim Road). Continue on Route 300 for about 20 miles and follow the Knoll Lake signs. Plenty of free parking in the area.