15 Best Things to Do in Payson, AZ

15 Best Things to Do in Payson, AZ

You might be aware of the nickname- “Heart of Arizona,” but you do not know the true beauty of Payson if you have never once seen it with your own two eyes.

Provided with the lovely Tonto National Forest as its background- Payson is highly detailed when it comes to scenic beauties. The weather is pleasant throughout the year. And, the hiking opportunities are vast.

These are the top 15 things that you must check out on your vacation to Payson-

Go hiking at Mogollon Rim

Mogollon Rim
Pritha_EasyArts / Shutterstock.com


Initially a part of the huge Colorado Plateau- Mogollon Rim might be one of the top attractions here in Payson.

The original plateau stretches across a massive area of almost 200 miles and is named after Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón who happened to be the governor of New Mexico at that time in the 1700s.

Perhaps you might recognize the place if we told you that the cabin of the famous writer Zane Grey is also here. Rings a bell now?

This was also damaged beyond repair during a terrible fire that took place in the 1990s. The limestone formations of the Mogollon Rim are something to truly admire.

They are huge and wild! Tourists and locals mainly use this as there are a lot of hiking trails here. Also, fishing is one of the best options in Mogollon Rim. You could have the best fishing experience of your life here.

Learn more about the great man at Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin

Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin
Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Want to visit quite a historic location here in Payson? Payson has a lot of delightful treats to offer. But, if you ask us- we’d say- Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin is the best of them all.

Thousands of tourists are attracted by this each year and spend their first day of the trip exploring these sites. Also, if you are a literature lover- Zane Grey Cabin shall hold a special place in your heart.

Being situated in the South Green Valley Parkway- these two attractions are some of the most fascinating ones. Also, the historic society has done a great job in maintaining these.

Explore the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Here in Payson, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is one of the coolest attractions. Want to go check out the largest travertine bridge in the entire world?

Payson is here to show you some incredible things that will surely catch your attention. Did you know it is almost 400 feet long?

This unique miraculous piece was discovered by David Gowan almost 200 years back, and now the place holds a place among the other pieces of history in the National Register of Historic Places.

The park is filled with a lot of trails where you can go hiking or even trekking.

Visit the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery


The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is a unique place to check out while you are here in Payson. Want to learn about the industry that contributes a lot to the Arizona economy? Yes, it even substitutes for 15% of total Arizona’s fishing!

Situated inside the Tonto National Forest, the fish hatchery will show you all there is to know about the different fishes of Arizona.

The various fishing operations take place here daily, and people are more than welcome to come, learn, and watch.

There are even fishing spots. So, if you want- you could go fishing and camping here as well!

Shop a bit at Payson Farmers Market

The Payson Farmer’s Market is the best place to shop and eat like a local. Are you someone who gets heavily invested in the different cultures and local tastes?

We highly recommend visiting this market because this is where the locals gather for their weekly shopping.

Taking place on Sawmill Crossing Plaza, the market gets crowded with tourists as well as locals on Saturdays.

If you are in town on a Saturday and have some free time on your hands- you should get a taste of this farmers market.

The honey of this region is quite well known. So, you might as well buy a jar of that famous organic honey right from the people who make them!

Go fishing at Green Valley Park

Green Valley Park
Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Green Valley Park is a nice place to hang out when you feel like taking a light break on this vacation.

Located on West Country Club Drive, the park is a good excuse to go fishing. Yes, people see this as a fishing location only. And, if you are interested to catch a fish or two- you might check it out as well.

But, if you are here to walk a mile or two, take a deep breath, and enjoy the best of nature- Green Valley Park is a haven for you.

During the summer- you will hear live music being performed around the corner, and the park gets more lively.

Get a bit adventurous at the Mazatzal Wilderness area

The Mazatzal Mountains are one of the best places to explore while you are on a vacation to Payson.

Though it is closer to Phoenix rather than Payson- a drive of an hour should be nothing in comparison to the beauty you will be able to see!

The name translates to many deer, so get ready to see a lot of them. But, deer are not the only thing your eyes are going to be blessed with.

Did you know that the Mazatzal Mountains are home to mountain lions too? Yes, you can even see coyotes running around!

Located in an area of almost 250,000 acres, the place is home to some of the best wildlife and plant species here in Payson.

Collect some fossils at Naco Paleo Site

Naco Paleo Site
Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most interesting thing about Arizona was that it was under sea level! No, we are being completely serious. Arizona was not any part of the land but used to be covered by the sea waters.

Well, it was not deep enough, and the depth is roughly estimated as just 100 feet.
Yes, we are talking of a tale that happened millions of years ago.

Now, you can go visit Arizona perfectly above sea level. But, some things are unique and interesting here because they once happened to be a part of the sea.

You can come across a lot of fossils! Yes, here at Naco Paleo Site- tourists get attracted to the tons of fossils that can be easily found if you explore for a bit.

Have a fun day at Mazatzal Hotel and Casino

The Mazatzal Hotel and Casino is a nice way to have fun in an urban way! Yes, his casino is one of the biggest in Payson. And, you can find hundreds of blackjack slots here.

Are you interested in poker? With a couple of hundreds of poker tables and a lively crowd- you shall be ready to take on the night. There are even bingo tournaments that are held weekly.

Are you done playing the games? Won a little bit of cash? Dine in the fancy restaurant that is attached to the casino!

Visit the Deming Pioneer Park

The Deming Pioneer Park is another one of the interesting locations in Payson that you must not miss out on.

The Northern Gila County Historical Society takes care of the park and has a great job when it comes to maintenance.

Want to know more about the settlers who discovered Payson and set down their homes here? Deming Pioneer Park tells the story of them all.

You get to know more about the history of the first settlers i.e the native Americans. Also, get to know more about their livelihood or how they spend their days from the park.

Go swimming at Ellison Creek Waterfall

Ellison Creek Waterfall
Isabel Eve / Shutterstock.com

When you are on your way to Mogollon Rim, you might have noticed the Ellison Creek Waterfall. We’d recommend stopping your car and get a clear view. Maybe you could even take a dip?

Ellison Creek Waterfall is kind of hidden. After you park your car, you might need to hike for a mile. Exciting, right?

After you hike through a path that consists of nothing but forests and greeneries- you shall be blessed with the sight of the waterfalls.

The blue crystal waters will rejuvenate your soul. And, this truly is one of the best places to take a dip!

Visit the Shoofly Village Ruins

The Shoofly Village Ruins are one of the biggest mysteries in Payson. Back in the 1930s- some archaeologists were digging up some canyon sites around Payson.

They came across these ruins that blew their brains, but due to some reasons- the ruins were never explored.

It was decades later when archaeologists decided to excavate more and came across the Shoofly Village Ruins which are now one of the top sights here in Payson.

It is estimated that some of the ruins date back to 750 and 1,000 years ago. And, it is also said that these were built by the people of the Mongolian tribe.

You can get to these ruins quite easily as they are close to Payson.

Have some good food at Macky's Grill

Everyone wants some warm food after a long day of sightseeing. And, while you are here in Arizona- tasting the best is a must!

So, where should you be heading in Payson if you want to grab something real quick and delicious at the same time- you head over to Macky’s Grill.

This restaurant is owned by a local family and has some of the best dishes on its menu. The place reeks of the old cowboy themes and does a nice grill too.

Burgers, steaks, and ribs are the best things to have in these restaurants. You can even try out the hotdogs for they make a killer one! You need to try out the chili for it is the most-renowned item on the list here.

Did you know they also serve beer along with their burgers? Yes, you can get access to a wine list too!

Check out the Railroad Tunnel Trail

Now, if you have some time in your hand and you are up for exploring some unmarked wilderness- we might help you out.

Arizona has a lot of wilderness that most people don’t even know about. And, here in Payson- there are a lot of hiking trails that not all people don’t know about for they are not as famous as the rest.

As you know- railways are an essential part when it comes to shaping Arizona. And, till this day- you can get access to a lot of rail lines that have been left out of the mainline.

These cannot be found easily on the map. But, if you set out on your final morning to check out what Payson has in store for you- you shall not be disappointed.

Arizona to Flagstaff rail line that was proposed, but never got to see completion- is the ideal place for hikers.

Relax at Verde Hot Springs

Verde Hot Springs
Greg Walters from Eaton, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking for something relaxing to do on your last day of the trip? Tired of so many activities, and now you just need to chill day to relax and rejuvenate your soul before you get back to work?

Oh, we do have a perfect destination for the last day of your trip! Welcome to Verde Hot Springs- one of the best hot springs in Payson which is the appropriate destination if you want to sit back and rejuvenate your soul.

Also, the Verde Hot Springs are in the backcountry area- so it is the best place to check out right after you are done with your hiking and exploring.

The pools are of the best temperature and quite relaxing. And, you might have to walk a bit from the parking lot, so wear flip-flops from your car!

These are the top 15 things to do in Payson. We will be back with another great trip shortly. Till then, stay tuned!