TOP THINGS TO DO IN PAYSON AZ

Whether it's the welcoming weather or an abundance of activities that compel you to head for the hills, Payson and Rim Country offers visitors a cool time in a beautiful setting only less than two hours from the Valley.

 

The rim itself begins just east of the New Mexico border and stretches two thirds of the way across Arizona; the area we refer to as the Rim includes Payson and its smaller neighbors, the communities of Pine, Strawberry, and Christopher Creek.

 

While decidedly not cosmopolitan - and with an entirely different ambiance than Arizona's other weekend getaways, Sedona and Prescott - the Payson/Pine/Strawberry area is laid-back, picturesque, and chock-full of ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Drive, Bike, or Hike the Top of the Mogollon Rim

Whatever route you take to reach the top of the Mogollon Rim will leave you in awe of the beauty of Rim Country. Visit the Payson Ranger District to get a map of the area and an idea of hiking trails, such as the Highline Trail.

Visit the Zane Grey Museum

“My beloved Arizona" was the term of endearment Zane Grey bestowed upon this state. Its history and people inspired his western novels. Its game and landscape impassioned his zeal for the wild and its rugged natural beauty stirred his introspective soul.  He wrote 13 novels about the "Rim Country" and often hunted in its forests and fished in the lakes that surround Payson.

Visit Tonto Natural Bridge

Driving north on Highway 87, just before the community of Pine, is the Tonto Natural Bridge. The park has four hiking trails. Several stairs lead you to the area under the natural bridge where you can walk the slippery rocks into the enormous cavern

Visit Tonto Fish Hatchery

Who thought feeding fish could be so much fun? The fish hatchery is just off Highway 260 on the way to Christopher Creek. For a few quarters, you can feed the fish while learning about the life cycle of the trout

Fossil Hunting @ Paleo Site

Some 300 million years ago most of Arizona was covered by shallow seas 40 to 50 feet deep. A host of invertebrates like modern-day shrimp and crabs swam in the ocean, sometimes huge winged insects were everywhere — no change there — and odd-looking amphibians had the run of the place — although they had to share quarters with a growing variety of semi-aquatic and terrestrial reptiles — which included the ancestors of modern crocodiles and the first dinosaurs.

The Paleo Site just off Highway 260, some 12 miles east of Payson just before the Kohl’s Ranch turnoff.

Visit the Shoofly Indian Ruins

Houston Mesa Road, just north of Payson on Highway 87 takes you past several small communities as well as the East Verde River. Shoofly Indian Ruins is just a few miles down the road, and will take you back thousands of years.

Go Antiquing

In a place like the Rim country -- with a rich and storied past -- you'd expect the antiquing to be outstanding and you won't be disappointed.

Visit the Rim Country Museum in Payson

This is a for sure stop during any vacation to Payson. The Northern Gila County Historical Society operates the Rim Country Museum and the Zane Grey Cabin all located on West Main Street in Payson. Take a step back in time and learn about our western heritage, early Native American history, and view artifacts from the Town’s historic past.

Fish at One of the Many Rim Country Lakes

Arizona’s Rim Country is an outdoor paradise waiting to be explored. The lakes in the Rim Country are truly the centerpieces to a landscape that rivals any other outdoor get-away

Golf on Payson Courses

Payson has some of the finest golf courses in the nation. Two private courses, Chaparral Pines and the Rim Club, have received national notoriety. Payson Golf Course -- the town's only municipal course -- is at the end of Main Street past Green Valley Lake and also is a wonderful course to play

Take an Airplane Ride to View Rim Country

A scenic flight above the striking landscape of Rim Country is a perfect way to see the geology of the area. A few dollars more can take you farther north to the red rocks of Sedona.

Canoe, Fish, Walk Around Willow Springs and Woods Canyon Lakes

These two lakes on the Mogollon Rim are very popular destinations for those who want to experience the wilderness. Fishing is good and the scenery will make you feel like you are truly away from civilization.

Take the Children to Green Valley Park

Drive all the way down Payson's Historic Main Street and you will see a lake surrounded by green grass, benches, picnic ramadas, and playgrounds. Green Valley Park provides plenty for the children to do, including watching its duck and geese populations. Starting in October, Green Valley Lake is stocked with 700 pounds of rainbow trout every two weeks through May. Pictures of some of the near-record fish are posted in the Parks and Recreation office next to the lake.

Take a Stroll Down Payson's Historic Main Street

The town has made an effort through the Green Valley Redevelopment Project to revitalize Main Street. While much of the restoration is still under way, several quaint shops and establishments line the street

Stargaze Under the Clear, Night Sky

The elevation, combined with a lack of pollution, makes Rim country's skies among the clearest in the nation. Those who enjoy stargazing will find the area spectacular on a clear, fall night.

Attend One of Payson's Many Rodeos

Payson has always been a rodeo town; in fact many of its early residents say it was the "birth place of rodeo".  Since 1884 it has been home to the "World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo.   These rodeos never fail to provide excitement and thrill, for the participants and spectators. From bronc busting to bull riding to the rodeo clown, there is suspense, anticipation, and excitement for everyone involved.

Pick a Trail and Go Hiking - Over 50 Miles to Choose From!


The Mogollon Rim is a jaw dropping spectacle of outdoor scenery.  Dropping as much as 2,000 feet in some areas, the Rim provides some of the most far-reaching scenery in Arizona. To truly experience the rim, one must set out on foot and explore over 50+ miles of dedicated trails.

Go Camping in Rim Country

For those of you that enjoy the serenity of wide open spaces and clean mountain air; the Rim Country offers campers the ability to leave their troubles behind and experience Mother Nature first hand. Hundreds of campsites surround the Mogollon Rim and offer unique opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing

Go Fishing on One of the Many Streams that Surround Rim Country

Surrounded by trout streams and creeks that flow from the Mogollon Rim, the area is fabulous for fishing.

Hike Up to the Railroad Tunnel

Back in the early 1880s, railroad entrepreneurs came up with a plan to transport the rich silver ore from Globe up to the newly opened Atlantic and Pacific line in Flagstaff.  One slight problem: the route would have to cross the rugged Mogollon Rim.  Plans to conquer the Mogollon Rim by the railroad reached the end of the line, 70 feet inside this tunnel.

Relax in the Verde Hot Springs

Hike along the Verde River to a natural hot springs. Two pools of water built on the side of a mountain which used to be a resort years ago.  The outside pool is about 95 degrees and the pool inside the rock hut is well over 100 degrees.  This place is good for a day hike or even an overnight pack trip. There are some good campsites along the trail to the hot springs. BE AWARE: This is a popular nudist spot.

Go ATV-ing on a Rim Country Trail

Action Trail Ventures is a Permitted Guide in the Tonto National Forest.  Just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the Rim Country. Smooth and Comfortable ride for the entire family.  A knowledgeable & friendly professional tour guide will take you on a fun and educational adventure through some of the most pristine natural landscape in the world. Fabulous photo opportunities abound. Tours are 1.5 - 3.5 hours long (some options available seasonally) Age & height restrictions apply. Helmets provided, as required by Tonto National Forest permit.

Go Horseback Riding

Offering over 25 miles of horseback riding trails, Kohl's Ranch is a great place to start when exploring Rim Country.  Kohl's Ranch Lodge is historically famous for its western hospitality. The friendly, casual atmosphere and accommodations make each stay a pleasure.

Retrace General Crooks Trail on Rim Road 300

In order to help American Settlers, the Army established outposts at Fort McDowell, Fort Verde, Camp Reno, Fort Apache, and Camp San Carlos. General George Crook, established a supply route along the Mogollon Rim. This route became one of the first major roads in Arizona and for decades was used as a supply and communications route, as well as a patrol route for monitoring the western Apache. Today the trail is multi-use and popular with equestrians and mountain bikers as well as hikers

Camp with Your Horses at the Houston Mesa Horse Campground

Houston Mesa Horse Camp has everything you would need when you are traveling with your horses.  The campground consists of large group sites and a nine mile horse loop. Payson lies just to the south and offers restaurants, nightlife, groceries, and sporting goods stores among other things

Visit the Strawberry Schoolhouse

The Oldest Standing Schoolhouse in Arizona.  The year was 1884. The families living in the Strawberry Valley, Yavapai County, and in Arizona Territory petitioned the County School Superintendent to establish a school. The petition was granted and District #33 in the Strawberry Valley was established.

Visit the Payson Candle Factory

The candle factory has become a favorite destination stop for visitors, not only from the states, but from all over the world.  The Production Room is where visitors can come to see them make candles.  The room is equipped with 4 stainless steel candle tanks for pouring molds and the dipping/carving of Novelty and Sculpture candles.

Stroll through the Payson Pioneer Cemetery

The cemetery began in 1882 with the burial of two members of the Meadows family who were killed by Apaches. Much of the local history is represented by the pioneer families buried here. In the springtime, the cemetery is ablaze with wild flowers.

Visit the Monument of the Battle of the Big Dry Wash

The Battle of Big Dry Wash was the last battle fought between the Apaches and army regulars. It was also one of the few times that army soldiers fought and bested Apaches in actual battle but this was mainly because, as one historian noted, it was one of the few instances in which Apaches allowed themselves to be drawn into conventional battle.

Enjoy the Natural Springs at Fossil Creek

Expansive cottonwoods and other trees provide a canopy of shade over Fossil Creek near Strawberry.  Fossil Creek may harbor the finest set of natural springs in Arizona. They pump thousands of gallons of crystal-clear, 72-degree water every minute, water that now flows unrestricted 14 miles into the Verde River.Check with the forest service to be sure it's open. It's often closed from November thru April.

See a Movie at Sawmill Theatres

Saw Mill Theatres is a great place to unwind from a long day of hiking and exploring. Located on the Beeline Highway in Sawmill Crossing, Sawmill Theatres were built in the year 2000. The theatres are state of the art, with stadium seating and six theatres

Go Hiking with the Llamas at Fossil Creek Llama Ranch

Since the time of the Incas, llamas have patiently carried their packs across some of the roughest terrain in the world. Today, as the effects of increased recreation on our public lands become more evident, llamas have emerged as preferred pack animals when surefootedness and minimal impact are necessary.

Canoe the Blue Ridge Reservoir

This narrow, winding body of water looks more like a canyon-bound river than a lake. Nestled between forested canyon walls it provides picturesque water recreation in a secluded, wooded setting.

Visit the Pine-Strawberry Museum

To learn about the history of the area, these two museums offer a trip back in time. Rural life in Gila County is vividly depicted in these museums.

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© 2019 - Town of Payson 
Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department
1000 W. Country Club Dr.

Payson, AZ 85541  |  928-472-5110

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