Hike of the Week: Horton Creek Trail near Payson

Mare CzinarOctober 25, 2023
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Horton Creek Trail, Tonto National Forest, Payson

Issuing from a spring that gushes from a jumble of moss-embellished cliffs at the base of the Mogollon Rim, Horton Creek spills downhill through a mix of scrublands and deep coniferous-deciduous woodlands. To experience the best characteristics of this hike which follows a perennial waterway, go during springtime when snowmelt runoff sends water rushing through the creek’s rocky course or in fall when thick canopies of boxelder, maple, oak, ash and sycamore trees shine in shades of crimson and gold.

  • LENGTH: 8 miles roundtrip (to Horton Spring and back)
  • RATING: moderate
  • ELEVATION: 5,360 – 6,420 feet
  • BEST SEASON: March – May and October – November
  • FACILITIES: restroom


  • In Payson go 17 miles east on State Route 260 to Tonto Creek Road (Forest Road  289) on the left near milepost 268.
  • Follow FR 289 1 mile, cross the creek bridge and park in the Horton Picnic Site lot to the left.
  • Roads are paved all the way.
  • To find the trailhead, hike back down the road, cross the bridge and turn left onto a dirt road, hike the road a few yards to the sign for trail No. 285.