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  • Maddie LaBerge

The Best Weekend Getaway to beat the Phoenix Heat

Updated: May 29, 2023

This spring, the weather in Phoenix, Arizona has been unseasonably cooler. And only a local can look you in the eyes and say with a straight face that 100º days are "unusually cool." As the temperatures began to creep up, my loving partner planned a weekend escape for the both of us up north.

Dream Catcher Parking in Heber Overgaard, Arizona.
Dream Catcher Parking in Heber Overgaard, Arizona.

We thought about taking a camping trip, but the thought of renting all of the needed equipment from REI became a little overwhelming for the both of us. Plus, camping reservations fly off the shelf up north, with Arizonans trying to beat the heat. I suggested a hotel getaway up to Flagstaff with my Hilton discount, but the rates weren't great for the weekend we were looking at. So, we found an excellent in-between: a cabin getaway in Heber-Overgaard, just 2.5 hours northeast of Phoenix.

We booked our cabin through Airbnb, paid an extra cleaning fee ($50) in order to bring our dog, Steve, and started to get excited.

Weekend Getaway Day 1 | Friday

On the day we left, I worked a half day from home as I waited for my partner to come home from his job in the early afternoon. I packed up the cooler, a sleeping bag, our fishing gear, hiking boots, dog supplies and swimsuits and was ready to go! We took my Subaru for the drive since it has four wheel drive, has a ton of room (we love a hatchback) and does great in any kind of terrain.

The 2.5 hours went by really quickly. As you make your way out of the Valley, you get to see some incredible desert landscape. A saguaro forest is always a very welcome sight for me, it just shows how life can not only survive but thrive in the desert, juxtaposing the desert dust with its bold green color and prickly appearance.

We climbed in elevation and began to see the desert dwindle away as it turned to forest. I've always loved Payson, so it was a dream to drive through with the windows down with no A/C needed. While the last 20 or so miles had a shoddy paved road, with bumps and potholes, cracking and the like, we arrived to our Airbnb in one piece!

We rolled up and packed in. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect as I hadn't booked it, but I couldn't have been more thrilled. We had secured the Bear Paw cabin, which is apparently one of the most popular cabins in Mogollon Resort across from Bison Ranch in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona on the Mogollon Rim of the White Mountains.

It was a private, two-story chalet style cabin surrounded by pine trees. It had a full kitchen, full bathroom, fireplace, TV, WiFi and washer/dryer. The best part was that our cozy getaway also had a private hot tub and a star-gazing deck off of the loft.

After getting all of our supplies into the cabin and properly checking the place out, we decided it was time for dinner. Callie, our host, had truly thought of everything. On the coffee table was a little folder including some of the closest and tastiest restaurants, as well as maps of nearby trails and lakes.

We took Callie's suggestion of heading over to the Wild Woman Saloon, just across the main road. It was dog friendly (!!!) and the temperature was perfect to sit out on their outdoor balcony. We both ordered pizza, local beer and a side of onion rings, while Steve got a puppy bowl of water. The onion rings had the most incredible batter, thick but not greasy, with the onion firmly in place, so no bite pulled the entire ring out of the breading. My veggie pizza was huge and I took more than half back to the cabin, which came in handy after a few more drinks later that night. We are pretty strict about not letting Steve have any human food, but we let him have a little bit of a cheat meal since we were all on vacation. For the first time, he tried pizza crust and I truly think I saw the possibilities of human food expand in his eyes. In short, he loved it and so did we.

A building structure made to look like an old west town.
The Wild Woman Saloon in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona.

After making the two minute drive back to the cabin, we headed up to the stargazing deck. We watched as the orange glow of the sunset drifted beyond the pine trees and surrounding mountains, past the darkening horizon line. The vibrant colors darkened into a deep indigo before finally succumbing to blackness. One of the greatest aspects of being in a smaller town so far north is the lack of light pollution. There were so many constellations begging to be identified with the occasional shooting star, stealing our attention.

We realized we had no groceries for the next day, so we loaded everyone back into the car and made a quick drive to a local general store. It was... unique. We bought some eggs, french bread and some coffee for the next morning. After getting back to the cabin, we realized that our bread bag had been opened and it was missing a roll from before we picked it up on the shelf. So unfortunately, that went in the trash after the two of us giggled about what circumstances would make you eat a roll out of a bread bag in a store.

We had a few drinks out on the stargazing deck, before it got really chilly and we moved downstairs to the hot tub. My partner and I really got our money's worth out of the hot tub. We probably used it at least two times every day we were at the cabin. With the colder mountain temperatures, it was a delight to comfortably relax outside.

We finished up our night inside, where we turned on the TV to watch a movie. Max was out in mere minutes, snoring on the couch. I found myself also ready to start snoozing and with that, night one was done.

Weekend Getaway Day 2 | Saturday

I woke up early, for what was a late evening that bled into the early morning hours. By 7:30 am, Max had already run out to a different store nearby (take THAT bread eaters!) to get us a new loaf of bread, taken Steve for a walk and explored the surrounding property. After a nice relaxing full body stretch, I got out of bed and filled the coffee maker with grounds. We had a simple breakfast, two sunny side up eggs, two pieces of buttered toast and a few cups of hot coffee from the pot. We ate out on the front porch, while Steve bird watched and napped on his perch. Something about eating outside, makes me feel alive and ready to take on the day.

Our modest cabin breakfast, while Steve bird watched.
Our modest cabin breakfast, while Steve bird watched.

After our breakfast, we snuck into the hot tub for a quick soak before heading out into the mountains for the day. Post soak, I threw our suits and towels into the dryer (such a nice amenity, seriously) and we were on the road! I really wanted to take a big hike, so I took us over to a trail system suggested in the folder from Callie.

After a half hour drive, we found ourselves at the Military Sinkhole trail with vista views. We took in the scenery and talked to a few hikers and locals about the area and the view, before heading down the trail. And when I say head down the trail, I mean we started heading DOWN. This was largely, unnoticed by me, until Max asked me how much longer we were going to descend, around the 1.75 mile mark. I was determined to make it to the end and back, but upon turning around to have this conversation, saw how immensely steep the way back to the car was going to be. We turned around.

I like to consider myself relatively in shape, but you really wouldn't have known that if you saw me struggling on that impressive incline. There were no breaks, just straight uphill hiking. Max used to be a cross country runner and can find the energy to run up hills to "make it easier." This logic and technique does not work for me. I slowly ascended, taking several breaks, blaming it on the higher altitude and incline. But alas, we finally made it to the top, slick with sweat and dead tired.

The view from the top of the vista.
The view from the top of the vista.

Then it was time to take our bait and head over to the lake. We went to the Willow Springs Lake and set ourselves up to fish in the Sardine Point Day Use Area. The water was chilly and the rocks were slick with moss and water vegetation. Steve refused to get in past his doggy elbows and the fish refused to bite. Max even saw a fish nearby but it swam away without a concern in the world.

We spent two hours at the lake, snacking on licorice and pretzels. Max fished and I read my book, then Max rested his eyes and I cast out for a bit. Neither of us were very lucky but it was mid-afternoon at this point, long after the fish have receded from the lake's surface. We decided it was best to head back to the cabin, shower off and take a recovery dip into the hot tub (I told you, we got our moneys worth OKAY?!).

After our relaxing soak, we realized we were starving and ready to eat. We took a look into Callie's suggestion folder again and took a short drive to Casa Ramos, Fine Mexican Food. And you know what? It was better than fine. I had a delicious jalapeño margarita, while Max opted for the frozen mango option. I had a towering taco salad with black beans and Max ordered chicken and steak fajitas. The service was fast and friendly and their chips & salsa were complimentary, the mark of a true Mexican restaurant. It was a fantastic meal that fueled my tired muscles after our active day.

Outside, their branding was truly out of this world. No, really. Wooden aliens holding up their restaurant sign and a life size mural of an alien abduction made it impossible to leave without taking a few photos and videos.

We took the short drive home and planned to repeat our night's itinerary from before. But heavy cloud cover moved in through the late afternoon into the evening, making it impossible to see even the brightest celestial bodies in the sky.

So we.... (c'mon you should know this by now) went to the hot tub for a soak. It was so nice to rest our muscles and strategically maneuver our bodies to get the jets to hit just right in all the sore spots.

We stayed up and talked, watched a little TV, took Steve out for his evening walk and then went to bed for the last time on this short weekend trip.

Weekend Getaway Day 3 | Sunday

Check out for the cabin is at 10 am, so we made sure to be up by 8 to make sure we had enough time to pack up the car and eat breakfast. We had more eggs, toast and coffee on the porch before completing the short list of chores you are required to do at every Airbnb. We took out the trash, washed all the dishes and made sure we had all of our belongings, before heading out to Woods Canyon Lake.

Fishing in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona.
Fishing in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona.

We got there around 10 am and hoped to have better luck with these fish! Earlier start time, different lake, we had to catch a fish... right?! I cracked open my book again and sat in the sun, while Steve cautiously made his way up to his belly in the lake and Max secured a new hook and fishing line to his pole. We stayed at the lake until 1:30 pm and what would you know? We had not one bite! Not a single one! We were so excited to catch a fish to see what Steve would think, but it was obviously not in the cards for us.

Max was able to catch a lizard and we also played fetch with a stick into the lake and back on shore with Steve. Lizard McGuire, Steve and the eagles flying overhead were our only animal friends that day.

We packed all our things in the car for the last time and headed back home. We stopped in Payson for some more Mexican food at El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant & Cantina. They had the most charming furniture, all hand painted from the looks of it, and fantastic food. I passed on any cervezas since I was driving and again opted for a taco salad. The meal was fantastic and we were once again ready to get on the road to head home.

One podcast episode later for me, one nap later for Steve and Max, we were back in Phoenix, back in the heat and back to reality. But the next time I'm looking to escape and enjoy a weekend away, I'll probably find my way back up to Heber-Overgaard. But this time, with my own bread.


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