If the family is coming to visit and you want to take them out for a picnic in the woods and a short stroll along a creek, there are many options. One I really like is along Tonto Creek.
From Payson, take Highway 260 east toward Christopher Creek. At the turnoff for Kohl's Ranch, about 16 miles out of Payson, turn left. Follow the signs toward the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery. Stay on that road about one mile and you'll cross a little bridge over a flowing creek.
Park in the Horton Trail parking lot. There are rest room facilities and picnic tables at this location.
My family and I love to grab a bite to eat there, and then walk down to the creek below. There are also short trails to other picnic tables, so walk around and investigate before you drag out all your goodies.
You can take an informal, unmarked hike along the creek, climbing over rocks and crisscrossing the creek.
Eventually, you'll see camping spots on the hill above you to your left and right. Walk back to the parking area.
Another option is to take the trail from your picnic table toward the right. The trail follows a small creek that flows into the Tonto Creek.
Follow the small creek about one mile up. Along the way, it's a slight incline. Down below you on the left, is a creek and small pools of water.
Toward the top of the trail, there is a neat waterfall that has trails on both sides. Just look around and pick a trail.
About one-quarter mile upstream, the water apparently goes underground, as it disappears during part of the year. You can hike up the dry streambed for a mile or farther. If you're lucky, you'll spot deer out in the forest. Take the same trails back to your car.
Allow yourself about two hours to thoroughly explore the area.
AT A GLANCE
What: Hike along a Rim Country creek.
Where: Tonto Creek/Horton Creek parking lot
What you'll see: Flowing creek, ponderosa pines, and a picnic area
Distance: Up to 2 miles or more