23 Best Things to Do in Payson, AZ

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

Provided with the lovely Tonto National Forest as its background, Payson has highly detailed scenic beauties.

The weather is pleasant throughout the year.

Plus, the hiking opportunities are vast.

Now let's look at the 23 best things that you must check out on your vacation to Payson.

Go Hiking at Mogollon Rim

Scenic view from Mogollon Rim
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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 in the 1700s.

Perhaps you might recognize the place if we tell 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.

Hiking trail at Mogollon Rim
Pritha_EasyArts / Shutterstock.com

The limestone formations of the Mogollon Rim are something to truly admire. They are huge and wild!

Tourists and locals mainly go here, 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.

Gordon creek falls at Mogollon Rim
Chris Curtis / Shutterstock.com

Buy Custom Hand Carved Candles at Payson Candle Factory

Payson Candle Factory is a mix between an ordinary gift store and an extraordinary souvenir shop.

Located at 620 North Beeline Highway, the Payson Candle Factory is a one-of-a-kind shop that has been in the community since 1979.

Carol Reed started it all by being passionate about sharing her handmade candles with people of different likes and needs.

She truly transformed the average candle into an art form by hand carving every custom candle she created!

There's a great selection of souvenirs and memorabilia at Payson Candle Factory.

You'll love all of the great gifts offered here, from gift cards to greeting cards to trinkets.

There's sure to be something in the delightful store for everybody!

They're open 'til 5 p.m.

Visit the Deming Pioneer Park

The Deming Pioneer Park is another interesting location 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: that is, the native Americans.

Also, get to know more about their livelihood or how they spend their days from the park.

Learn More About the Great Man at Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin

Exterior of the 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 Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin is the best of them all.

Thousands of tourists go to this place each year and spend their first day of the trip exploring these sites.

Facade of the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin
Peggy Hazelwood / Shutterstock.com

Also, if you are a literature lover, Zane Grey Cabin shall hold a special place in your heart.

Situated in the South Green Valley Parkway, these two attractions are some of the most fascinating ones.

Also, the historical society has done a great job in maintaining these.

Enjoy the Hearty Surroundings and Savory Tastes at Fargo's Steakhouse

In downtown Payson, Arizona, 600 Highway 260, you'll find Fargo's Steakhouse, a casual restaurant where you can get all of your steak needs met alongside some great martinis and seafood.

This pleasant restaurant is pet-friendly and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 am - 9 pm and from 11 am - 9:30 pm on Friday through Saturday.

They're not available on Sundays (and during July 4th, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day, Labor Day, Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve).

Fargo's Steakhouse invites you to unwind, relax, and enjoy the fresh open air with the ambiance of their covered, non-smoking patio!

You can go here for lunch to enjoy their famous Fargo's Philly - slow-roasted aged prime rib thinly sliced with sautéed mushrooms and onions served on a baguette with au jus.

You can enjoy this yummy delicacy along with other starter meals, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and salads!

Or, you can come back or come here in the evening for dinner because they serve their broiled fish specialties and house specialties!

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 hugely to Arizona's 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 and 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 region's honey is quite well known.

So, you might as well buy a jar of that famous organic honey.

Go Fishing at Green Valley Park

The waters of 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 fishing location.

And, if you are interested to catch a fish or two, you might check it out as well.

Snow goose on the waters of Green Valley Park
sd81 / Shutterstock.com

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

During the summer, you will hear live music being performed around the corner.

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

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.

Additionally, 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 will not be disappointed.

Experience the Best Trout Fishing at Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout

Nestled under the Mogollon Rim, Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout was once home to Sam Haught.

From a small settlement, it quickly grew to a business with an extensive collection of properties and businesses, including a campground and resort complex that sits right along the banks of Tonto Creek.

This lush property is a popular tourist spot for people looking for a fun time.

There is NO Catch-And-Release policy!

If you catch one, it's $1 per inch plus $1 additional per fish.

For example, if it's a 10 inches long fish, your bill will cost $11 plus an additional charge of $1.

Rancho Tonto offers the perfect space to host your weddings, family reunions, or birthday parties.

For a nominal fee, they can set up the best party for your special event.

Rancho Tonto Catch-A-Trout opens its doors to the public from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays.

Visit the Shoofly Village Ruins

The Shoofly Village Ruins are one of the biggest mysteries in Payson.

Back in the 1930s, some archaeologists wanted to discover these ruins, but due to particular reasons, the ruins were never explored.

It was decades later when archaeologists decided to excavate more and came across the Shoofly Village Ruins that are now regarded as 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.

Collect Some Fossils at Naco Paleo Site

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

The most interesting thing about Arizona is that it was under sea level!

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 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.

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!

Have Some Tasty 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?

Well, head over to Macky’s Grill, and you'll know why.

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!

Take in the Serene Atmosphere of the Retreat at Mountain Meadows

At The Retreat at Mountain Meadows, you will find true serenity and fresh air.

You may hire out the entire property or one of the cottages for your upcoming wedding, family gathering, or other events.

They provide six cozy and distinctive cabins, each with fireplaces and some featuring indoor or outdoor jacuzzis, on roughly 3 acres of tranquil woodland near Christopher Creek's nightlife and nearby lakes, streams, fishing, hiking, and other activities.

Their three-bedroom mountain house has a huge gathering space, an island kitchen, and incredibly secluded views from the terrace.

It is suitable for families on vacations with a children's bunk bed bedroom and loads of outside play space.

Buy Countless Treats in Sweet Country Charm Fudge & Gifts

Sweet Country Charm Fudge & Gifts is a must-visit if you're seeking activities to do and purchasing things in Payson, Arizona.

Visitors are welcomed to Sweet Country Charm Fudge & Gifts by local, friendly people and mouthwatering treats that are certain to tempt your taste buds.

Since 2009, Rebecca Acord has been making her fudge in Payson, Arizona.

Browse the handmade items created by regional artists while sipping finely roasted coffee.

With more than 160 changing fudge varieties and a wide selection of other treats, there is likely to be at least a fudge recipe that will keep you returning for more.

See where the action takes place and stop by Sweet Country Charm Fudge & Gifts

Shop for Unique Items at Explore the Attic

In the center of picturesque Payson, Arizona, Explore the Attic, originally known as Granny's Attic, has been in business for almost 30 years.

Come take a stroll through history; it's similar to searching your ancestral house for long-lost relics.

You may discover all of it in the attic when you look around, including antique sewing machines, old records, home and garden decor, jewelry, souvenirs, electronics, and glasses.

Each of their 40+ dealers carries a magnificent selection of one-of-a-kind items that reflect many eras and styles.

After a long day of traveling and exploring, swing by Explore the Attic.

Ride a Horse and Explore Nature at Kohl's Ranch Stables

At Kohl's Ranch Stables, the goal is to offer superb services that achieve the greatest standards of customer enjoyment.

They wish to provide guests with a safe place and a learning environment.

Enjoy the best horseback riding of your life and view elk, deer, and a wide variety of birds.

Experience riding through an old woodland, over a bridge, and into a mountain.

The horses you ride are well-trained and quite kind, and the trail rides are stunning.

Before they ride, they provide a lesson in which they go over all the fundamentals and are there to answer any queries.

They choose simple routes so you can ride them, take the view, and spot wildlife in the mountains.

Watch a Movie in Sawmill Theatres

Do you have any leisurely plans for the afternoon?

The Sawmill Theatre provides a variety of private screening choices for occasions like birthdays and other special events.

They give senior & veteran discounts to those who have served since they are dedicated to giving something back to those patriots in their community.

A mouthwatering bag of popcorn is the ideal complement to a good movie.

Browse the Sawmill Theatre selection of dependable concession goods.

Additionally, Sawmill Theatres are a rental option.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Scenic view under the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is one of the coolest attractions in Arizona; it is only 20 minutes' drive away from Payson.

Want to go check out the largest travertine bridge in the entire world?

Did you know it is almost 400 feet long?

A waterfall at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Bo Shen / Shutterstock.com

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.

Cliffside pathway at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Deep Desert Photography / Shutterstock.com

Get a Bit Adventurous at the Mazatzal Wilderness Area

Mazatzal Mountains at Mazatzal Wilderness Area
Alan Levine from Strawberry, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mazatzal Mountains are one of the best places to explore while you are on 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 deers, so get ready to see a lot of them.

But deers are not the only animals you will see.

Did you know that the Mazatzal Mountains are home to mountain lions too?

Yes, you can even see coyotes running around!

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

Go Swimming at Ellison Creek Waterfall

People swimming at 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 a hidden gem.

After you park your car, you might need to hike for a mile.

Daytime view of Ellison Creek Waterfall
Isabel Eve / Shutterstock.com

Exciting, right?

After you hike through a path that consists of nothing but forests and greeneries, you will 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!

Relax at Verde Hot Springs

A woman swimming at 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 a 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 Arizona, which is the appropriate destination if you want to sit back and rejuvenate your soul.

Also, the Verde Hot Springs is in the backcountry area, so it is the best place to check out right after you are done 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!

Final Thoughts

Payson is a fun, family-friendly city with an abundance of things to do.

You might not be familiar with the place right now, but I assure you that the places you'll find here are what make Payson undoubtedly deserving of recognition.

Not only does it have endless opportunities for outdoor recreation (hiking, biking, fishing), but it’s also great for history buffs and fans of arts and culture.

There are more than enough galleries to check out local artwork.

If you're looking for a small-town charm that still has your entire amenities close by, Payson is just what you need!

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