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South Fork Trail

In the book "Day Hikes & Trail Rides in Payson's Rim Country" by Roger and Ethel Freeman, the South Fork Trail is described as a 6.7-mile trail up the South Fork of Deer Creek.

It goes into the Mazatzal Wilderness, offering isolation and some interesting vegetation, but it is not an easy day trip. In fact, the Freemans say, except for very fit walkers with a very early start, a vehicle shuttle is recommended. This is not a good horse trail, the authors say.

Access from the eastern end of the trail is the Deer Creek Trailhead. From Payson, it is 16.6 miles south on SR 87 to the junction with SR 188 (west side) to the trailhead road, and 0.2 mile further to the parking area.

At the western end, from FR 201 (Mount Peeley Road), a four-wheel drive road that leaves from old SR 87 (now FR 627) 9.5 miles south of the Deer Creek Trailhead junction and an additional mile on the spur road, at the wide pull-out area at a pass in the ridge. This is a rough, narrow road. On it, FR 191 leads right at 3.3 miles, trail [47] right at 6.3 miles, and this trail junction is at 6.7 miles. Allow about 45 minutes to drive up the road.

The first 2.5 miles are relatively easy walking with many distant views and a moderate ascent. After passing an old ruined cabin at 2.8 miles, the trail becomes narrower, and not always easy to find. There are several canyons and few distant views once the steep valley walls close in. The trail is much more rugged than the map or distance indicate. With almost every creek crossing there is a descent and ascent out of the valley, and there are 39 crossings. The creek is usually dry, but occasional pools can probably be found at lower elevations.

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