My primary objective for this hike was to reach the highest point of Little Diamond Rim to participate in Summits on the Air (SOTA), which I did. But it turns out, this is a really enjoyable hike with interesting landscapes. I didn’t hike to the edge once on top and check out the view because of time constraints. The high point is nothing to write home about but it was my destination for SOTA.
From Mesa I took the Beeline Hwy 87 to Payson. I proceeded north past Payson and turned right on to Houston Mesa Road (NF-199). From there I drove to the Whispering Pine hamlet. I parked off Houston Mesa across from where Scott Drive intersects with it. My map shows it to be at the mouth of Bear Canyon. It appears the Forest Service is repairing and/or improving the road up Bear Canyon because the road was coned off indicating no vehicle access and it was obviously graded recently.
I hiked up the canyon heading west about 0.2 miles on the main road to a location where there is a fork. To the right is the main road, to the left is an old road which is washed out. I took the old road to the left for another 0.1 miles where I found a gate and barbed wire fence. I went through the gate and immediately took a left and headed south and up on an ATV road. You can take this ATV road nearly all the way to the high point of Little Diamond Rim. Route finding is easy because the ATV road follows the barbed wire fence the whole way. The road fades as you near the high point but the fence keeps you on track.
This hike is nearly flat with a couple if step sections that will get your heart rate up. The steepest is the section just after passing through the gate and heading up the hill on the ATV road. At this point I was still in ponderosa pine but as I progressed the pine thinned out and juniper became the norm. And then, surprise! The last third of the hike is a barren wasteland of charred sticks from a forest fire. I left the fence line for the last 0.3 miles and traveled off trail to the summit.
This hike has a lot of exposure and I would not recommend doing it in mid-summer. But in my opinion it was an easy hike. It is 2.7 miles each way. I arrived at the top in 1 hour and 30 minutes and it only took me 50 minutes to go down from the high point to my car.