Best Things To Do In Payson AZ
Payson, Arizona is renowned as the “Heart of Arizona” because of its central location and diverse natural terrain, which is largely bordered by the Tonto National Forest.
Unlike Arizona’s drier desert parts, the city has a mild Mediterranean climate and a plethora of coldwater lakes atop the stunning Mogollon Rim formation.
It is well renowned for being the backdrop for novelist Zane Grey’s novels and films, as well as the home of the world’s oldest continuous rodeo, which has been conducted every year since 1884.
The region offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and rock and crystal collecting.
NOTE: Certain attractions may be closed temporarily or require reservations in advance. Currently, some eateries only provide pickup.
The many Native Americans who previously lived nearby, railways, and the mining sector are all part of the area’s rich past.
Payson’s economy is now largely based on tourism and the money it brings in from local, national, and international visitors.
Payson has a fantastic website that lists all of the sights and activities the high mountain town has to offer. It’s worth a look and will help you make the most of your time here.
Things To Do In Payson AZ
Table of Contents
The Mogollon Rim, which surrounds Payson, is a popular destination for Arizona fishermen from all over the state, who come to enjoy the area’s picturesque lakes, rivers, and streams, which are teeming with natural and stocked fish of a variety of kinds.
The Mogollon Rim is a section of the Colorado Plateau that stretches more than 200 miles across Arizona, from Yavapai County to the state’s border with New Mexico. Its name is a tribute to Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, the Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712 to 1715.
It is most famous for being the location of author Zane Grey’s famous hunting home, which was destroyed by fire in 1990. The rim is home to spectacular canyons like Fossil Creek and Pine Canyons, as well as high sandstone and limestone cliff formations like the Kaibab and Coconino cliffs.
Hiking and horseback trails meander through forested areas on the rim’s slopes and plateaus, showcasing expansive Ponderosa pine woods.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is home to the country’s greatest natural travertine bridge, which spans a 400-foot tunnel and measures 150 feet wide by 183 feet tall.
Pioneer David Gowan discovered the natural bridge in 1877 and built a lodge that housed members of his family until 1948 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 0.5-mile Pine Creek and Gowan Trails, as well as the Waterfall Trail, which features a waterfall cave at its end, are available throughout the park around the bridge.
Picnic tables and a recreation area, as well as a gift shop, are available to guests. Goodfellow Lodge, located in the park, can be booked for exclusive special events such as weddings and overnight parties.
Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin
The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin are likely to be the most fascinating and educational of all the historic places you’ll visit in Payson.
The facilities are operated by the local historical society and are located on South Green Valley Parkway in Payson. They will provide you with an amazing glimpse into early Arizona life.
You’ll learn about the life of famed author Zane Grey, a prolific and well-loved writer of western books who continues to sell well decades after his death.
The Apache Display, Payson Rodeo Heritage Display, and the Blacksmith Shop Display are among popular attractions.
The museum is accessible Wednesday through Sunday and features a number of exhibitions, including one on renowned author Zane Grey, who wrote books about the region’s Old West history.
Exhibits cover the region’s Apache indigenous and pioneer history, as well as its role in Arizona’s late-nineteenth-century gold rush and mining boom.
A rebuilt sawmill and blacksmith shop, as well as an exhibition on the Payson Rodeo, the world’s oldest continuous rodeo, are among the other exhibits.
For parties of ten or more, guided tours are provided, as well as field trips for elementary and secondary school students.
Payson Farmers Market
The Payson Farmers Market, which is located on South Beeline Highway in Payson, has been open since 2009 and has become a popular gathering spot.
The market is hosted on Saturday mornings at Sawmill Crossing Plaza, but only throughout the late fall and summer, so check online before going.
The farmers market is more than just a place to pick up some groceries and head out the door; it’s also a social gathering that features food grown or produced within 100 miles of Payson, which is a cost-effective and ecologically sound way to produce and transport food.
Look for unique items such as wild Arizona honey and genuine agave nectar.
Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery
Fish hatcheries are fascinating places to visit if you want to learn about fish and how they’re introduced into the wild to help native fish populations.
The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, located on North Tonto Creek Road, is free to visit, and you or your children are welcome to feed the tiny fish, known as fry.
From the time they hatch until they’re nearly ready for the area’s lakes, rivers, and streams, you’ll witness the fish, which are separated by size.
Rainbow, brown, and cut-throat trout, which are popular among local anglers, are among the species raised here.
Green Valley Park
Green Valley Park on West Country Club Drive in Payson has been a popular hangout for locals and visitors since late 1996.
It’s known for having some of the greatest ‘urban fishing’ in the country, and there’s much to do with over 17 acres of walking trails, trees, a lake, and covered picnic places.
There is plenty of free parking available, as well as no admission price.
Check out the park, which is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see and features live music and other events during the summer months.
Recommended Reading :
Mazatzal Wilderness Area
The Mazatzal Mountains, located about an hour northeast of Phoenix near Payson, were known to the Native Americans who lived there long before the immigrants arrived as “the spot with many deer.”
The area’s tallest peak is approximately 8,000 feet, and it’s home to hundreds of species of birds, as well as bears, mountain lions, and coyotes.
The Mazatzal Wilderness Area, which covers more than 250,000 acres, was established in 1940 to conserve the land and its wildlife.
The quickest way to get there is to park at Barnhardt Mesa, which leads to a number of paths of varied difficulty. Because there are no facilities, carry food and water with you.
Deming Pioneer Park
The Northern Gila County Historical Society operates Deming Pioneer Park in Payson, which has recently reopened following some much-needed restorations.
The park, which is located at the intersection of Main and McLane, was established over 15 years ago to honour the daring pioneers who explored and settled in the area over a century ago.
The park has numerous windows with various displays depicting the geological history of Payson, Native American history and culture, facets of pioneer life, and the lives and histories of the pioneers themselves.
The park is a terrific location to stretch your legs while also learning something new.
Paleo Site In Payson
The Naco Paleo Site is a popular place for fossil collecting and is located about 12 miles east of Payson near the Kohl’s Ranch turnoff.
The site has substantial Pennsylvanian Shale-Limestone deposits that date back to almost 300 million years ago, when much of Arizona was submerged 50 feet beneath the surface.
The site, which is rich in fossils of modern-day fish, reptile, and insect progenitors, allows invertebrate fossil gathering.
The facility has a huge parking lot that can accommodate conventional cars, motorhomes, and travel trailers.
Visitors should bring their own tools for excavation, and the Bureau of Land Management severely prohibits vertebrate fossil collection without a permission.
Though it may not appear so, the majority of Arizona was covered by a shallow sea less than 100 feet deep hundreds of millions of years ago.
These days, the creatures that swam through the sea back then would appear as props in a low-budget science fiction film.
The waters dried up over millennia, replaced by bone-dry deserts and highland mountains, but the past people left behind their remains, which may be found at the Paleo Site in Payson.
You never know what you’ll uncover while you’re chipping away at the flaky rock, but it’s a lot of fun, and the kids will love it.
Shoofly Village Ruins
The Shoofly Village Ruins were discovered in 1930 by an archaeologist studying the canyons around Payson, but it took another 50 years for them to be investigated and excavated.
Native American ruins were far more widespread in the early twentieth century, thus no one took them seriously.
The Shoofly Ruins are thought to have been inhabited by the Mogollon people between 750 and 1,000 years ago.
The ruins are easily accessible from Payson through Arizona Highway 87, and there are facilities and a picnic area if you want to relax and have a snack after seeing the sites.
Railroad Tunnel Trail
Railroads have traditionally been key economic drivers in Arizona.
Payson was inaccessible to vehicles even in the twentieth century due to poor, seasonal roads that were impassable for much of the year.
A rail line was proposed in the 1880s to stretch from Globe, Arizona to Flagstaff, providing much-needed transportation for the key mining industry.
The line was never completed due to cost overruns, but the vestiges can be seen today on a moderately tough climb of less than a mile.
The place is free and open all year, so ask a local for help with the somewhat difficult directions.
Verde River Hot Springs
Even in the summer, Payson’s afternoons and nights can be quite cool.
Nothing soothes weary bones like a dip in Verde Hot Springs after a long day of hiking through the backcountry and seeing all of the area’s sights.
The springs formerly sustained a bustling resort that catered primarily to rich Arizona residents.
The pools are still warm and inviting these days, but there’s not much of the resort remaining.
The route in can be difficult at times, and you’ll have to walk about a mile from the parking lot. Because there are no services in the region, bring a towel, flip-flops, water, and food.
Payson Candle Factory
Candles are excellent Christmas presents. Especially those produced by hand in the deserts of Arizona.
Payson Candle Factory on North Beeline Highway has been creating candles and educating others to do likewise for more than 30 years.
Though not large by factory standards, you can observe the production area and watch how professionals do it, and you are urged to try your hand at it.
Expect it to be more difficult than it appears, so don’t expect a masterpiece.
Stop in and say hi, as well as pick up a few gift stuffers, as the shop is full of other wonderful Arizona memorabilia.
Battle Of Big Dry Wash Monument
The Battle of Big Dry Wash, fought in July 1882, was one of the last battles between US Army troops and the White Mountain Apache Warriors, who were battling for their territory and way of life.
The Apache’s intended ambush was spotted, and they were caught off guard when the infantry attacked, making this battle unique.
They were forced into a conventional skirmish, which resulted in the death of the Apache Chief. They usually fought hit-and-run campaigns against the more heavily armed soldiers.
For instructions and hours of operation, go to the town of Payson’s website.
Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout
The original homestead property of “Green Valley” Sam Haught, best known for rescuing iconic MGM mascot Leo the Lion, now houses Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout.
The land, which is bordered by lovely Tonto Creek, is open to the public for day-use fishing for rainbow trout.
All-inclusive fishing packages include the rental of poles, bait, nets, and buckets, as well as free cleaning, packaging, and professional help.
There are no catch limits and no licence is required, so visitors simply pay for the fish they capture. For fishermen, a three-bedroom rented guest house with DirecTV is offered.
Ellison Creek Waterfall
Between Payson and the Mogollon Rim, the Ellison Creek Waterfall is a waterfall and swimming hole that may be reached via a moderate one-mile climb from a parking area off Houston Mesa Road.
A gravel road leading to the waterfall passes through lush forest and slate rocks, and for half of its length, it runs alongside a river. It leads to a 3,650-foot-high waterfall that serves as a popular local swimming hole at its base.
Leashed dogs are allowed on the route and at the waterfall, and restrooms are available at the trailhead.
Visitors should be aware that the waterfall can be very busy on summer weekends, and they should wear slip-resistant shoes to navigate the area surrounding the falls safely.
Greg and Cari Day, natives of Oregon, founded Macky’s Grill in 1997.
Following Greg’s death from cancer in 2016, the restaurant is still run by the couple’s children and provides the best service in Rim Country in a relaxed, community-focused environment.
The cowboy-themed grill offers a wide range of American and Southwestern cuisine, including inventive bar appetisers, gourmet hot dogs and burgers, and steak, rib, and seafood meals.
Sandwich platters include cups of Macky’s Famous chilli or soup, which is served with fries, coleslaw, or macaroni salad. The restaurant also has a large beer and wine list, as well as a dog-friendly terrace when the weather permits.
Rick and Jeri Stockman, food industry veterans, launched Fargo’s Steakhouse in 2004 when the proprietors relocated to Arizona from Tennessee.
The steakhouse aspires to be a location for neighbourhood gatherings, with daily lunch and dinner service as well as a seasonal dog-friendly terrace.
Artisanal wraps, sandwiches, and burgers, as well as a variety of unique appetisers, are available for lunch, while gourmet steak, fish, and seafood entrees are available for supper.
Reservations are required for parties of six or more diners, with call-ahead seating available up to 30 minutes prior to the group’s arrival.
Kohl’s Ranch Stable
Kohl’s Ranch Stable is a fantastic spot for both novice and expert riders to try horseback riding in Arizona.
Guests will ride through an ancient forest, view a variety of beautiful birds, observe deer and elk, cross water, and climb mountains during the journey.
Kohls Ranch Stable chooses easy pathways for riders of all levels to appreciate the natural landscape, and all of the horses utilised for guided rides are kind and don’t mind novice riders.
Between the months of May and October, the stable is open for trail rides.
Explore The Attic
When clients enter Explore the Attic in Payson, Arizona, they are taking a step back in time as they learn about the history of the area while exploring everything this unique antique shopping destination has to offer.
From 1940s model aeroplanes to ancient LPs to vintage sewing machines, the store is full with hidden gems from bygone eras. It’s like looking for treasure in an old family home’s attic.
Explore the Attic’s merchants each have their own distinct collections of antiques from various eras, so there’s something for everyone who like antiques.