The 10 Best Things to Do in Payson, United States

February 21, 2018 Janette Largent

Payson is a town in northern Gila County, Arizona, United States. Its location puts it very near to the geographic center of Arizona. Payson has been called "The Heart of Arizona". The town is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and has many outdoor activities year round. As of the 2010 census, the population of Payson was 15,301.
Restaurants in Payson

1. Mogollon Rim

Payson, AZ
Excellent
86%
Good
13%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 184 reviews

Mogollon Rim

This 2,000-foot-high escarpment stretches 200 miles across central Arizona into New Mexico.While sightseeing is the favored pastime along the Rim, it also boasts a historic system of hiking and horseback trails, a couple of picturesque lakes for boating and fishing, plus backcountry skiing for the truly adventurous.

Reviewed By kanbaatar - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

What on this good earth is the Mogollon Rim? It is an enormous geologic phenomenon that cannot be fully described or discussed here. I suggest that one use Google and Wikipedia to learn much more about it.

How do you pronounce this odd word Mogollon?

There seems to be two popular choices : The Payson locals say muggy-on. Spanish scholars say mo-go-yawn. The name comes from Don Juan Ignacio Mogollon the Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712 to 1715.

My wife and I drove from Phoenix, North and East to Payson, Arizona, to see the Mogollon (muggy-on) Rim Country and environs. We left Phoenix from Motel 6 at the intersection of I-17 and Indian School Road. The drive to Payson was a comfortable, two-hour ride of 94-miles. Then we drove East out of Payson on HWY 260 an additional 40-or-so miles passing Kohls Ranch en route to the Mogollon (muggy-on) Visitor's Center, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. After a very worthwhile visit to the (closed for the season) Visitors Center we drove back West on Arizona Forest Road 300 about 3-or-so miles where FR 300 was closed to West bound traffic. We then returned driving back East to HWY 260 and then West into Payson.

Whether or not you pursue a visit to the Mogollon Rim, just the 2-hour drive from Phoenix to Fountain Hills and then on HWY 87 to Payson is well worthwhile.

2. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

off Hwy 87, just 10 miles north of Payson, Payson, AZ 85547 +1 928-476-4202
Excellent
72%
Good
23%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 768 reviews

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located in central Arizona near Payson. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. There are three hiking trails, a picnic area, and a group use area. Goodfellow Lodge at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is a one-of-a-kind rustic hideaway in the middle of some of the most picturesque scenery in Arizona’s Rim Country. Nestled deep within Pine Canyon, this three-story cabin-style lodge was built in the 1920’s and has kept much of its early 20th-century charm. The lodge has 10 furnished bedrooms with private and communal restrooms, as well as a furnished basement suite with a private kitchenette with sink and refrigerator. The first floor features our beautiful wood cabin group dining area with picnic table seating, fireplace, and a large kitchen big enough for your group or catering company. Entertain on the outdoor veranda or the grass event area outside, or sit and spot any of our regular wildlife visitors, like deer and javelina. We invite you to visit Goodfellow Lodge and consider it for your next group visit, wedding, or overnight event.

Reviewed By kanbaatar - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

After some 'hand-wringing' about how to rate the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, located 13-miles North of Payson, Arizona, to the West of HWY 87, I have decided to consider it as an average attraction.

You have two basic groups of people. Young and strong and healthy and senior citizens. The young / strong / healthy can do what many seniors are not able to do, successfully undertake strenuous physical activities.

In order to really get a great / worthwhile view of the Natural Bridge, you need to undertake the GOWAN Trail, a 1/2-mile hike dropping 200-feet and then climb back up.

GOWAN Trail Warning. To their great credit, THE STATE PARK OFFICIALLY AND FORMALLY warns visitor's of the risks inherent in going down the GOWAN Trail.

So going-in my wife and I realized we would be limited as to what we could do.

The drive is nice. The scenery within the park is nice. So too is the scenery in this entire area of Northern Arizona. The cost of $7 per person / $14 per couple is doable.

Bottom Line : IF you are a senior, and IF you have nothing of a higher priority to see and explore, by all means, drive in and have a good time seeing what you can see. My wife and I are VERY HAPPY that we spent the money and took the time to enjoy this attraction. BUT for us, it is a one-and-done visit.

3. Rim Country Museum

700 Green Valley Parkway, Payson, AZ 85541 +1 928-474-3483
Excellent
66%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 82 reviews

Rim Country Museum

Located in Green Valley Park, this museum features exhibits that reflect the natural and cultural history of the greater Payson area called the "Rim Country."

Reviewed By kanbaatar - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

This is definately a two-fer. You get two-for-the-price-of-one. You get the Rim Country Museum itself. And you get the adjoining Zane Grey Cabin as a second attraction. You could actually stretch it to a three-for-the-price-of-one because the Historic Ranger Station is also included on the same site.

I could NOT BELIEVE what we found out after paying our entrance fee.

NO INTERIOR PHOTOS ALLOWED : In the Rim Country Museum.

NO INTERIOR PHOTOS ALLOWED : In the Zane Grey Cabin.

As senior citizens, we have some memory issues. We love to snap photos so we can refresh our aging memories.

NO INTERIOR PHOTOS ALLOWED : Shut-Us-Down.

Oh yes. We are happy we visited each feature. Oh yes. The guides / The docents were excellent. I will single out Docent Keith Currens who amazed us with his knowledge of Zane Grey, the man and the cabin replica. Keith held us at rapt attention for 1/2-hour.

4. Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

3898 N Tonto Creek Rd, Payson, AZ 85541-9225 +1 928-474-7900
Excellent
47%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
16%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 118 reviews

Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

Reviewed By Luv2TravelFarNWide - Phoenix, Arizona

If you have NEVER seen a fish hatchery, then this may be worth a stop. However, we learned nothing new here and didn't stay long.

5. Green Valley Park

1000 W Country Club Dr, Payson, AZ 85541-4600 +1 928-474-5242
Excellent
56%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
0%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 50 reviews

Green Valley Park

Reviewed By TLBPsyD - Gilbert, Arizona

This is a picturesque park with beautiful fountains, which made for a great photo op! The kids had a blast at the playground, and it didn't even phase them that it was somewhat flooded from the rains the night before. They just kicked off their shoes and played barefoot in the sand. We met some very nice locals as well. Overall, it was a nice little stop.

6. Water Wheel Falls

Tonto National Forest, Payson, AZ 85541
Excellent
73%
Good
11%
Satisfactory
14%
Poor
2%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 35 reviews

Water Wheel Falls

Reviewed By noflackjack - Payson, AZ

This is the piece of History that gave this Campground/swimming area its iconic name. It is truly a shame to see a truly beautiful piece of History being vandalized, defaced or destroyed, if the younger generation would get off their Xbox and smartphones and truly see the hard work that men and women put into this creation they would have a lot more respect for it.

7. Mazatzal Casino

Highway 87, Mile Marker 251, Payson, AZ 85541 +1 800-777-7529
Excellent
21%
Good
43%
Satisfactory
26%
Poor
5%
Terrible
5%
Overall Ratings

3.5 based on 103 reviews

Mazatzal Casino

Reviewed By Tyler K - Cresco, Iowa

Stayed in Payson at Mazatzal Hotel & Casino for a week in early August. Pretty impressed with the hotel side as it looked updated, modern, and clean. Beds were comfortable as well.
The casino part was a little loud and smoky for my taste. As a guest there for 7 days, we had special breakfast discounts that allowed us to eat a large breakfast at little to no cost. Very impressed with their breakfast selection.

8. Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout

HC2 Box 98, Forest Road 289, Payson, AZ +1 928-478-0002
Excellent
56%
Good
14%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
10%
Terrible
14%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 48 reviews

Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout

Reviewed By RoadWarriorWalt - Sun Lakes, Arizona

Wanted to take grand-kids to a Trout Farm. Have taken our kids to several around the country. Found "Rancho Tonto" on the internet.
Didn't like what I saw in various reviews, but loved the idea of having a cabin right outside the pond where the grand-kids could fish. REALLY wanted to see the cabin, even at their high prices. Arrived at a "CLOSED" sign on their gate 26 Oct 16.

Most of us will pay anything to spoil our grand-children; even the ridiculous price of a Dollar an Inch. But when they shut the gate in your face...


9. Ellison Creek Waterfall

Houston Mesa Rd, Payson, AZ
Excellent
63%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 13 reviews

Ellison Creek Waterfall

Reviewed By Becca A - Phoenix, Arizona

It's the first stop. Beautiful and easy. My boyfriend and I hadn't hiked in a while so we just took our time and followed the people. Make sure you have plenty of H2O . We had a blast and I can't wait to go back....

10. Paleo Site

Az 260, Payson, AZ 85541
Excellent
25%
Good
40%
Satisfactory
25%
Poor
10%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 20 reviews

Paleo Site

Reviewed By BigFishDiveClub - Rowland Heights, California

The place is super easy to get to and there is no admission charges. It is located right off the highway and plenty of parking spaces. It is owned by the Federal Government (Bureau of Land Management). It can be fun for everyone looking for 300 million year old artifacts. Our group with 3 children came here during a raining afternoon and found pretty much nothing after about an hour. Nonetheless, we had a good time and enjoyed the experience of being an amateur fossil hunter. We also brought our husky to the hunt and she had a good time wondering around (probably looking for something that is a lot younger than 300 million years old).

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