Hike of the Week: Highline National Recreation Trail near Payson

Mare CzinarOctober 31, 2023
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Highline National Recreation Trail, Tonto National Forest, Payson

This historic route was cut back in the late 1800s as a travel corridor to connect homesteads and communities around the towns of Payson and Pine.

The 51-mile trail was replaced by Forest Road 64 (Control Road) in the 1930s. No longer needed to run cattle and wagons, the trail was re-purposed into a sporting destination and was designated as the Highline National Recreation Trail in 1979. To sample a section that has recently been realigned, signed and stabilized, try a walk from the Washington park trailhead to Dude Creek.

  • LENGTH: 6-miles roundtrip Washington Park to Dude Creek and back.
  • RATING: moderate
  • ELEVATION: 6,250 – 6,100 feet
  • BEST SEASON: September – May
  • FACILITIES: none
  • GETTING THERE, Washington Park Trailhead:
  • In Payson, go 1.7 miles north on State Route 87 to Houston Mesa Road (Forest Road 199), turn right  and continue 10 miles the “T” intersection at Control Road (Forest Road 64) in the Whispering Pines community.
  • Turn left, go 0.6-mile and take a right on Forest Road 32.
  • Go 3.2 miles to Forest Road 32A (sometimes signed as Belluzzi Blvd.), turn right and continue 1 mile to the trailhead.
  • Start at the Highline Trail sign, cross the bridge and head right.
  • Roads are maintained dirt suitable for all carefully-driven vehicles.