PAYSON RANGER DISTRICT - HIKING TRAILS

The Payson Ranger District is located on all four side of the town of Payson, and continues north to the Mogollon Rim. It consists of approximately 450,000 acres (approximately 182,000 hectares) of Chaparral, Pinyon-Juniper, and Ponderosa Pine types of vegetation. The Verde River and several trout streams pass through this district. The Payson Ranger District is notable for its campgrounds, hiking trails, and fishing opportunities.

This District operates differently than the rest of the forest. The Tonto Pass is not valid on the Payson Ranger District. Day-use and camping fee sites on the Payson Ranger District are managed by the concessionaire located at Houston Mesa Campground.

 

Contact Information:

Address: 1009 E. Highway 260, Payson, Arizona 85541
Phone: (928) 474-7900
Fax: (928) 474-7966

 

Click Letter for Listing in Alphabetical Order

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

The Abert Natural Trail was named after the Abert Squirrel that makes its home in the Ponderosa pines. This squirrel is also called a tassel-eared squirrel because their tassels are very distinct during the colder parts of the year, but almost disappear during the summer months. This trail is a self-guided trail utilizing a brochure to explain the forest environment of this area. To obtain this brochure, contact the Campground Host at the Ponderosa Campground.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Abert Nature Trail 3

East from the Pine Trailhead the trail climbs two long, gentle switchbacks ending at an open area overlooking the eastern front of the Mazatzal Range. Working its way east along the Highline Trail (#31), it skirts the southern edge of Milk Ranch Point, passes a nice camping site at Red Rock Spring and crosses Webber Creek at the Geronimo Trailhead.   Read More

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Arizona Trail - Highline Trail

This trail, built by Babe Haught and his brother, was used to pack crops and supplies in and out of Winslow. There are great views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Fire is an important aspect of the wild environment. The "Dude Fire” of 1990 burned this area; thus, it is an ideal place to observe how our forests rejuvenate themselves after a fire.

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Babe Haught Trail 143

Scenic but with long uphill grades. One of the heaviest-used trails in the Mazatzal Wilderness.  At the end of the trail there is a very cool waterfall.  Best chance to catch water flowing is in the spring or late fall.  Amazing views the the valley and the northern Rim Country.

Difficulty:  Moderate  |  Watch Video

Barnhardt Trail 43

An old jeep trail that is very easy to follow, the first quarter mile after leaving the Bear Flat Trailhead is steep, but passing through an unexpected grove of mixed conifer rewards the visitor.

Difficulty:  Easy to Difficult

Bear Flat Trail 178

1.5 miles long. Chilson Camp is located on this trail. Elevation:
5,400 - 6,000 feet.

 

No more than 15 people are allowed to be in a group. No more than 15 head of livestock are allowed in a group.

Difficulty:  Moderate

Brody Seep Trail 264

This is a short connector between two longer trails of the Mazatzals, Bull Spring and Red Hills, and its full length is well-maintained and part of the Arizona Trail. Its relatively short length makes it easy to blink and miss for thru-hikers. Starting halfway-up the climb from East Verde River towards the heights of Knob Mountain, Brush Trail offers some excellent views of the northern end wilderness and beyond.

Difficulty:  Easy

Brush Trail 249

Bull Spring Trail #34 is a 7 mile round trip hike with 1,304 feet accumulated elevation gain. April and March are the best months to enjoy this hike.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com


Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate

Bull Spring Trail 34

Fort Whipple military personnel used a trail in this location on a maneuver to find renegade Apaches; the trail was named after Colonel Thomas C. Devin who led this group. In the early 1880`s, the Arizona Mineral Belt Railroad made plans to cash in on the need for transportation of ore from Globe to the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad in Flagstaff.  Read More

Difficulty:  Most Difficult

Colonel Devin Trail 290 and Railroad Tunnel Trail

Located in the northern part of the Mazatzal Wilderness area. Parts are rocky and very steep. Portions of trail in Fossil Creek may be washed out. The condition of the trail varies from satisfactory to very poor. Not recommended for horses.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty:  Difficult

Deadman Mesa Trail 17

This trail winds through a cool Ponderosa pine forest. Spring brings many wildflowers. Autumn showcases breathtaking fall foliage.  The trail begins near the junction of State Highway 260 and Forest Road (FR) 289. Look for a cattle guard. The trail starts at the fence; walk through. Derrick Spur Trail traverses small hills but travel is easy. This trail offers an alternative access to the Derrick Trail 33.

Difficulty:  Easy

Derrick Spur Trail 32

An all-day loop hike is possible by taking Derrick Trail and Highline Trail, then going north on Highline Trail 31 to Horton Spring: Follow Horton Creek Trail 285 back to Upper Tonto Campground. Both Horton Creek and Tonto Creek have trout.  The trail begins at the eastern end of the campground. Once on the trail, travel until you pass through a gate. When through the gate, make a sharp right turn. Follow this trail past the Derrick Spur Trail 32 junction and onto the Highline Trail 31.

Difficulty:  More Difficult

Derrick Trail 33

This is an old pioneer trail built by the Drew family. The Drews homesteaded around Sharp Creek and constructed this trail to Winslow prior to 1909. This trail weaves its way through Ponderosa pine.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty:  Most Difficult

Drew Trail 291

The trail crosses Webber Creek 7 times. The entire length has plenty of shade. Near trails end (directly across the creek) is a spring flowing out of a hole at the base of the Mogollon Rim. There are large flat rocks in the creek for play and relaxation.

Difficulty:  More Difficult

East Webber Trail 289

Parts are steep and very rocky. Passes through some nice stands of trees.  This trail provides an alternate route from Brody Seep junction to Bear Spring, swinging low into the tributaries of South Fork Deadman Creek instead of climbing up along the Mazatzal Divide Trail (AZT). Mileage is about the same, though the view are less grand due to the lower elevation.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty:  More Difficult

Fisher Trail 230

One of Arizona's favorite swimming holes.  But the trail to this paradise is not for Spectacular early morning and late afternoon views of the Mogollon Rim. Fossil Springs is a riparian area with plenty of shade. There are limestone caves along the trail. Trail’s end is near a swimming hole with a massive water fall. This trail has been featured in Arizona Highways magazine.

Difficulty:  More Difficult

Fossil Springs Trail 18

Well-constructed trail running generally on contour at base of mountains. Suitable for short day-hikes.  Connects Barnhardt TH (FS 419) and Rock Creek TH (FS 442) on the lower eastern foothills of the Mazatzal range. Please note the FS lists this trail as #288 however it's signed #42.  The hike starts off at an elevation of 4,175ft from the Barnhardt Trailhead. It passes over several ravines along it's journey. All of which are fairly low key elevation gains/losses. The entire trail is just outside of the wilderness boundary.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty:  Moderate

Half Moon Trail 288

11 miles in length – and sometimes challenging. While the hiker faces several moderate to steep climbs on the route to Hell’s Gate, the real challenge is getting back out. The trial climbs steadily for the first 1.5 – 2 miles leaving Hell’s Gate. The last half-mile into Hell’s Gate is unsafe for horses. Overnight camps with livestock are strongly discouraged at Hell’s Gate. 

Difficulty:  Difficult

Hell's Gate Trail 37

East from the Pine Trailhead the trail climbs two long, gentle switchbacks ending at an open area overlooking the eastern front of the Mazatzal Range. Working its way east along the Highline Trail (#31), it skirts the southern edge of Milk Ranch Point, passes a nice camping site at Red Rock Spring and crosses Webber Creek at the Geronimo Trailhead.   Read More

Courtesy aztrail.org

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Highline Trail 31

This is the most popular day hike in the area. Horton Spring is an unusually large spring. Water literally gushes from the side of the rim supplying Horton Creek. Think of the Rim as a huge sponge and Horton Spring is the faucet. The Trails starts from the parking area cross the concrete bridge. Continue on the pavement up the hill heading towards the campgrounds. The trailhead is on the left side of this road. Read More  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty Level: Easy

Horton Creek Trail 285

A beautiful area with pine, fir and wildflowers in the spring. Horton Spring Trail offers excellent views. Zane Grey and “Babe” Haught used this trail to reach hunting areas above the rim.

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Horton Spring Trail 292

Offering expansive views throughout the heart of the Mazatzal Wilderness, this long path follows the prominent set of mountains between Mount Peeley and North Peak. It climbs up to the highest trail-accessible point (over 7100!) and passes several scenic campsites and springs. It is also part of the Arizona Trail, containing the entire  Section #23. Hiking this entire trail would involve shuttles and possible overnight gear, though there are multiple dayhikes that take advantage of pieces of the trail, including the Mazatzal Peak Loop and Mazatzal Divide to The Park.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Mazatzal Divide Trail 23

Most of this route is an old jeep trail. An easy trail that works its ways south on Mescal Ridge (with excellent views of the countryside) to a stock tank located between Tonto Creek and Bull tank Canyon.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Mescal Ridge Trail 186

Midnight Trail #272 - Mazatzal is a 2.55 mile one way hike with 564 feet accumulated elevation gain.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Midnight Trail 272

The Highline and Myrtle trails travel through the "Dude Fire" burn. This area is the scene of the most devastating wildfire in Arizona history. This area is ideal for the study of the rejuvenating power.  The trail climbs through juniper, Gamble Oak and pine. Because of the Dude Fire and heavy precipitation, this trail is washed out in many locations. Parking is limited at the north trail terminus on Forest Road (FR) 300. There are a few clearings across the road. Be sure to park well off the road because logging trucks may be using this road. 

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Myrtle Trail 30

Middle section is very steep. East end is hard to find. West-to-east travel is recommended because of grade.  Please note the  2004 Willow  Fire leveled this area. Passenger car access is no longer possible.  If you are a peak-bagger, this trail is for you! Averaging approximately 1000 feet elevation gain for every mile, this trail does not let up--but it's worth it. This trail takes you up the seldom climbed North Peak, which is the northern-most peak and 3rd highest peak of the Mazatzal range. Only Mazatzal Peak and the Four Peaks are higher.  Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

North Peak Trail 24

This trail is part of the Arizona Trail. Oak Spring is a beautiful wooded setting.  Traveling west from the Pine Trailhead, it is 3 miles to Oak Spring. Traveling south from Forest Road (FR) 428, it is 2 miles to Oak Spring.

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Oak Trail 16

The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) is an in-progress, interconnecting trail system utilizing detached pathways, existing sidewalks, and bike lanes in Payson to form an interior trail network.  These interior trails will connect to specific Forest Service roads and trails on Payson’s periphery providing a more rustic trail-user experience.

Difficulty Level: Depends on the trail - click button for more info.

Payson Area Trails System

This trail travels through one of the most peaceful and verdant canyons below the Rim. Rocky Mountain maples, alders and oaks abound near the creek. Mixed conifers spread out on the canyon walls. Several dripping springs make Pine Canyon the epitome of a storybook setting abundant with yellow columbines and scarlet monkey flowers.

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Pine Canyon Trail 26

The Pocket trail starts near the Soldier Camp / Soldier Camp creek. There’s a #38 trail sign off-of FR134 (close to the Soldier camp/Soldier camp creek) The first ~1.6 miles is an old Jeep road that fades in and out. At the Wilderness boundary the road turns into an old ATV trail, then it fades out completely.  The views are just amazing the closer you get to the Tonto Creek. Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Pocket Trail 38

Promontory trail is a challenging hike up a very steep and brushy trail. It should be traveled with caution. Attractions include:  A grassy meadow perched above the Mogollon Rim. There are spectacular vistas of the country below. Estimated hiking time: 1 hour, one-way.  The south end is at highline Trail between Horton Spring Trail and Derrick Trail; the north ends st Forest Route 76B, above the Mogollon Rim.

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Promontory Trail 278

Homesteaders created this trail to provide access to the Highline Trail. It has been rebuilt by Boy Scouts. The pump, from which the trail receives its name, pumps water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir, above the Mogollon Rim, into the East Verde River, to replace water used by Phelps Dodge Corporation for mining purposes in southern Arizona.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Pump Station Trail 296

Red Rock Spring flows year round and was used by both Apaches and settlers as a watering hole.  This is a good horse trail. The trail was built to move cattle from Buckhead Mesa to the Highline Trail and over the rim to summer range areas.

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Red Rock Trail 294

Located in the northeast part of the Mazatzal Wilderness area. Passes through a large pinyon-juniper forest. Crosses the East Verde River near LF Ranch. The condition of the trail varies from satisfactory to very poor. Currently, this trail is advised only for skilled hikers (those with good navigation and GPS skills). It is always advised to contact the Payson Ranger District in advance for an update on this trail: 928-474-7900.

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Saddle Ridge Trail 14

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This trail provides an option to the upper two miles of Barnhardt Trail and makes a connection along the Mazatzal Divide that is perfect for hikers aiming for Horse Camp Seep and/or Deadman Falls. It can be combined with Barnhardt to do a  challenging 15 mile dayhike or any number of longer loops involving Rock Creek Trail or even some of the western trails (see Club Cabin for inspiration).

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Sandy Saddle Trail 231

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A short but challenging trail that offers a variety of plant life and sights. Especially pretty in the fall when maple, aspen and oak show their fall colors. Idyllic setting along Christopher Creek, lined with mint, fern and grasses.  This is a challenging, primitive trail. It is washed away in places and the final 2 miles have frequent steep climbs. Generally water may be found for the first 2 miles only. The trail crosses Christopher Creek, which is subject to flooding. If it has been raining, it is best to avoid this trail. The See Spring Trail 185 branches off the See Canyon Trail 184 and dead-ends at the spring.

Courtesy Hikearizona.com

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

See Canyon Trail 184 & See Spring Trail 185

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The upper portion of this trail follows the original military road built by General George Crook. While building the road, the army came upon a sinkhole and used it as a water stop. A fissure later caused this to become a dry hole. The trail climbs through juniper, Gamble oak and pine. Higher in the dense pine forest are spectacular views of the country below.

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Sinkhole Trail 179

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Interesting rock formations, including a “balancing” rock.Wonderful canyon and rim views.  This trail involves long switchbacks and a steep climb to the top of the rim. Loop trips can be made with West Webber Trail 228.

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Turkey Trail 217

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Four trails lead down into the canyon, offering views of fascinating rock formations and incredible textures carved out of stone by time. The park is one of the few areas where pine trees and cactus grow alongside one another.

 

Once you make it to the bottom – the trails are steep and strenuous but worth the effort – you’ll be awed by what you see. The main attraction is the 400-foot-long tunnel created by the bridge. The tunnel is 150 feet across at its widest.

Difficulty Level: Less Difficult

Tonto Natural Bridge Trails

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A shady, serene trail that scales the steep sided Mogollon Rim. Webber Creek was named after the chief packer for the army outfit that mapped the Tonto Basin area. The area is particularly colorful in the fall.  From Geronimo Trailhead, hike west on the Highline Trail 31 for approximately ¼ mile to Geronimo Trail 240. Follow it for 2 miles to the junction with Turkey Trail 217. Follow Trail 217 approximately 1/4 mile to West Webber Trail. 

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

West Webber Trail 228

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Scenery varies from grasslands to piñon pine and includes the riparian habitat associated with the East Verde River. Route ends in the vicinity of the East Verde River. Check current/forecasted weather conditions at Ranger District before using, as recent snows can cause problems with road surface conditions. Also, thunderstorms and subsequent runoff can raise the water level of the East Verde River significantly in a short amount of time.

Difficulty Level: Difficult

White Hills Route

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