Payson is one of the greatest places in the world for people of all ages to enjoy year-round hiking.
Do you like caves? Native American ruins? Native American writings? Fall colors? Payson is the place to hang your hat.
Spring and fall beckon hikers to trails located at Payson's elevation, 3,000 to 6,000 feet. There are trails like the City Creek Trail off Doll Baby Road. There is the Spanish Ruin hike, the Hell's Gate trail, and the Horton Spring trail. Explore Preacher Canyon Cave. The Fossil Creek hike takes you from atop the Rim down to the Irving power plant. Towel Canyon Indian Ruins, in Coconino National Forest, is a rewarding, but difficult hike on a trail covered with volcanic boulders. The trail offers spectacular views of Towel Peaks and Hackberry Mountain.
Then there is the Oak Spring Trail, now a part of the Arizona Trail.
Fall colors? The forest around Payson, unlike Maine or Vermont, is evergreen country. If you hike the 260 Trail -- the eastern beginning of the famous 50-mile Highline Trail -- a large area of red maple can be found at the southern end of this hike, coming down into Christopher Creek. It should be in full color around mid-October.
Hot summer days lead us up the Mogollon Rim to a cool 7,000-foot plus elevation of the Coconino National Forest. There are so many beautiful areas up there that you can create your own hiking trails. One of the forest trails is the 10-mile Pine Trail located near Beeline milepost 279. It ends south of the community of Pine. Make your own trail by bushwhacking into Kehl Canyon, Miller Canyon, Dirty Neck, Kinder Draw, Toms Creek, Clover Creek, East Clear Creek, and the most spectacular West Clear Creek.
Follow the General Crook Trail, an old Calvary trail built in the late 1800s. Look down into Calf Pen Canyon. Take the old Stage Coach Trail to Strawberry. Stop and look out over Pine Canyon or drop down off the Rim to the unfinished railroad tunnel. Hit the Pivot Rock Trail and crawl into the rock cave.
Hiking on the Rim you may see herds of elk, deer, wild turkey, sometimes bear and mountain lions.
The Rim gets cold
Winter drives the hikers to warmer climates and trails in the Tonto and Payson Basins. Hike the Half Moon Trail into the foothills of the Mazatzals, or the North and South Deer Creek Trails for memories of Tonto Bridge founder David Gowan. Follow the Barnhardt Trail to an impressive waterfall and beyond. Climb up the Vineyard Trail with its acres of Chain Fruit Cholla cactus and views of Roosevelt Lake, and its dam and bridge. Then there is Cain Spring and Slate Creek and, if you know where to look, you can find Native American ruins. If the tips of the Four Peaks are not white with snow, climb to the summit for a spectacular view of southern Arizona. March brings an end to winter, and the flowers along the Ballantine Trail are blooming.
The Payson Packers, a local hiking group has been leading hikes in the Payson area for 25 years. Check the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce for information.