Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Payson, UT

  • Published 2023/02/11

You can find the city of Payson in Utah County, Utah, belonging to the Provo-Orem Metropolitan Statistical Area.

According to the 2020 census, the city’s population stands at 21,101.

The city is also a major piece of American religious history since its early settlers were pioneers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1850, James Edward Pace Jr. led a group of 16 settlers to the Payson area, meeting on Peteetneet Creek.

The families of Andrew Jackson Stewart and John Courtland Searle went with Pace.

At first, the settlers named the area Peteetneet Creek, derived from a word in the Southern Paiute language that means “our water place.”

Brigham Young, as Territorial Governor, named the place Payson in 1851.

Two years later, the area became officially incorporated as a city.

Today, Payson is a city proud of its rich historical and cultural heritage.

It also became part of movie history.

Several popular movies were filmed in Payson, like Footloose in 1984.

Do you want to know more about Payson, UT?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Explore the Grounds of the Payson Utah Temple

Aerial view of the Payson Utah Temple

SkyBlodgett /

This newly dedicated temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is simply massive, for lack of a better term.

Spanning 96,630 square feet, Payson Utah Temple occupies a formerly undeveloped lot covering roughly 14 acres.

The temple can also accommodate about 94,000 members.

Its classical design also carries heavy influences from the pioneer architecture popular in the area.

Scenic sunset view from Payson Utah Temple

SkyBlodgett /

Likewise, the building reminds guests of the native stone and masonry commonly used for buildings throughout Payson’s history.

The imagery of the vine and apple blossom reflects the city’s rich agricultural tradition, which you can see in the artful glass windows and backlit ceilings.

While only church members can enter the temple itself, visitors can enjoy a stroll along the grounds.

Take a walk amid the colorful gardens and snap photos.

Likewise, you can drop by the visitors’ center to learn more about the temple and the LDS church itself.

The sculpture on top of Payson Utah Temple

Ben P L, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Fishing at Peteetneet Creek

Reclaim some time for yourself by enjoying an afternoon of quiet fishing at the Peteetneet Creek.

You can find this stream just 0.7 miles out of Payson.

Bring a lot of bait because you’ll find a bounty of fish here.

For example, you might catch rainbow trout, white bass, and brook trout.

You can also try out several fishing techniques like baitcasting, spinning, or fly fishing.

Regardless, your chances of landing a bite here are good no matter what technique you use.

Just make sure to follow all fishing regulations while you’re there.

Learn Local History at the Peteetneet Museum and Cultural Center

Garden and walkway of Peteetneet Museum and Cultural Center

Nesie Bird /

This historical museum also doubles as a cultural center under the guidance of the non-profit People Preserving Peteetneet.

You’ll learn about the centuries-old history of the city through the museum’s 12 displays with different exhibits.

For example, you’ll enter a historic school classroom, a display of a Victorian house, and a blacksmith shop.

You might also want to drop by the 150 Years of Fashion room.

If you want to see more artifacts, check out the photographs at the Daniels Historic Photograph Collection or the documents at the Austin Henry Historical Writing Collection.

Besides historical artifacts, the museum’s cultural center side features a permanent art collection and an art gallery that hosts new exhibits every two months.

There’s also a large amphitheater on the grounds for performances.

Practice Your Swing at the Gladstan Golf Course

The state of Utah offers top-tier golf courses that might be off the beaten path. One of the best such courses is the Gladstan Golf Course.

This 18-hole Championship Golf Course comprises 6,981 yards and Par 72. You can find this course on the foothills of Payson.

Part of its many distinct features are its different nines.

One makes you feel like you were playing at a links golf course, while the other offers a mountainous terrain.

Likewise, you might want to snap photos of the landscape, spiced up with fields of pine trees and natural oak brush.

The course also provides delicious food for golfers and guests in the banquet room.

Build Stronger Bonds at Winchester Escape House

You know the drill with escape rooms, but the immersive experience at Winchester Escape House explains why these activities are still popular everywhere.

Bring your best buddies with you and work together, finding clues and solving puzzles within 60 minutes.

However, Winchester Escape House is unique because of its cutting-edge Immersion Room.

This room innovates on the conventional escape room, and no other room is as immersive as this.

Inside the Immersion Room, you’ll see scenes of every game projected on the walls at 270 degrees.

The story comes to life everywhere you look.

You also get an app that lets you input your answers to the puzzles.

Likewise, each compartment unlocks automatically when you need the next clue, puzzle, or props.

This groundbreaking activity will make you come back to Payson again and again.

Enjoy a Scenic Drive along the Nebo Loop Byway

Scenic landscape of Nebo Loop Byway

Nesie Bird /

Nebo Loop Byway connects the cities of Payson and Nephi, crossing the thick Uinta National Forest.

At its highest, the road reaches more than 9,000 feet above sea level, giving you majestic panoramas of the entire Utah Valley.

You can also marvel at the imposing Mount Nebo, the tallest mountain in the Wasatch Mountain range.

This mountain stands at 11,928 feet.

The road of Nebo Loop Byway

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring your camera and take photos of the view from all angles as you drive along this byway.

Its various overlooks should let you capture every possible side of the Payson countryside.

Likewise, the area also has plenty of spots for wildlife viewing.

During the fall, the foliage in the Uinta National Forest shows a golden view that’s still unmatched anywhere in the country.

Catch a Show at the Payson Community Theater

Since 1968, the Payson Community Theater has been staging live performances for residents and guests of the city.

This theater wouldn’t have happened without the ideas of four Payson High School students who wanted to find a way to pass the time during the summer.

They decided to mount a musical production to promote the city’s cultural heritage during Labor Day.

The Payson Community Theater continues to attract hundreds of guests every show, which has earned it great acclaim.

For example, the theater swept the Utah County Arts Guild’s awards banquet every year from 1982 to 1989.

Likewise, the Utah Holiday Magazine also named the theater one of “Utah’s Best Kept Secrets” twice.

Enjoy a lively night at the theater by catching a show at the Payson Community Theater.

Roll a Strike at the South County Lanes

Bring your friends to Payson’s South County Lanes and win bragging rights at bowling.

This affordable bowling alley provides top-notch bowling, following the great American tradition.

Everyone of all ages and skill levels can enjoy a game here.

For over ten years, South County Lanes has provided a ton of fun for guests who want to do many things.

Obviously, you’ll have fun bowling, but you’ll also enjoy just hanging out at the lanes.

The place has a few pool tables and arcade games for kids and laid-back players.

Likewise, the bowling alley features a snack bar and grill to fill your belly without interrupting your streak.

Enjoy delicious snacks and ice-cold beverages while enjoying the place’s enormous HD TVs.

Enjoy Fishing at Spring Lake Trout Farm

If you like to go fishing on a warm day, you’ll enjoy some time at Spring Lake Trout Farm.

Located on West 12300 South, they have everything you need to enjoy and get a fresh catch.

You’ll be provided with fishing equipment and bait so all you need to do is come, fish, and have fun.

The cost of the fish is per pound, and they will even clean or have your fish filleted at no extra charge.

You can drop by any time of the year with summer fishing open from April to October from Monday to Saturday, and the winter season starting from November to March every Saturday.

If you opt for catch-and-release fishing, you need to make an appointment and use artificial flies and the equipment they’ll provide.

Trout species available at Spring Lake Trout Farm include the Diploid Rainbow Trout Sterile Rainbow Trout, Albino Rainbow Trout, and the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout; they also sell Eyed Trout eggs, too.

Enjoy a Fun Day Out with Family at Memorial Park

View of Memorial Park

Nesie Bird /

On South Main Street, Memorial Park brings only the best of downtown Payson.

Featuring pavilions and a large bandshell, this park has been the go-to spot for some passive relaxation.

For your little ones, there’s a playground and a few pickleball courts.

View of Memorial Park

Nesie Bird /

There are also colorful gardens you can walk through and admire.

Memorial Park is also the venue for various festivals, including Golden Onion Days and Nebo Music Fest.

So, make sure this site is in your must-visit places list in Payson.

View of Memorial Park

Nesie Bird /

Take a Bite of Tasty Eats at Chubby’s Neighborhood Café

Big tasty servings of all-time American favorites are simply what Chubby’s Neighborhood Café offers.

This family-owned and operated dining joint started in Pleasant Grove in 2010 and has expanded to seven locations including one in Payson.

Satisfy your appetite for homegrown flavors in a laid-back casual ambiance plus friendly customer service to prepare and serve your meals.

Bite into big, juicy burgers made fresh with Creekstone Premium Black Angus Beef; enjoy a serving of the Pastrami Burger, voted as one of the top three winners of the most favorite Pastrami Burgers in the state.

Try delectable ​Chicken Sandwiches on the menu, hand-breaded and seasoned with special southern herbs and spices, then fried to crispy perfection; you can also choose to have your chicken grilled.

Order different sandwich varieties like the Malibu Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Bacon Ranch, or the Southern Crispy BBQ.

Pick other menu items like the Chubby Cheesesteak, Carolina Pork Sandwich, the Cod Fish or Shrimp Basket, and Buffalo or Chicken Tenders.

They also serve fresh Cobb and Buffalo Chicken Salad, Classic and Premium Shake Flavors, and Classic Float Flavors.

Drop by Chubby’s Neighborhood Café on Turf Farm Road Unit B.

Have Fun at the Payson Scottish Festival

One of the most beloved city celebrations, the Payson Scottish Festival offers many attractions to enjoy.

The event takes place annually at Payson Memorial Park every second Friday and Saturday of July.

The excitement starts on a Friday night with lots of food and entertainment.

Watch the bands open the ceremony the following day, along with bagpipe competitions in the solo and band categories.

You’ll also see vendors selling Celtic-themed items, catch live bandstand music, and see the exciting Highland Games like the crowd favorite Caber Toss, Weight for Height, Shot Put, and Hammer Throw.

Kids will have much fun with the Featherweight Division of the Highland Games, mini-athletic events, and other children’s activities like face painting, sword dancing, and storytelling; little tots can also enjoy the playground and sandbox areas.

You’ll also enjoy watching the dance competitions like The Sword Dance, Scottish Lilt, Flora McDonald’s Fancy, and many more.

Enjoy these Payson Scottish Festival attractions.

Enjoy Food Specialties at Tadka Cuisine of India

If you love the strong flavors of Indian cuisine, you’ll enjoy the food selections at Tadka Cuisine of India.

This restaurant is located on East 100 North and serves excellent and authentic Indian specialties on the menu.

You can drop by during lunch and dinner hours from Monday to Saturday.

Start with delicious appetizers served with mint and tamarind sauce, or better yet order the Tadka Assorted Snacks which include vegetable samosa, onion bhaji, chicken pakora, and vegetable pakora.

Try the boneless Chicken Pakora, seasoned and coated with chickpea batter, then deep fried for the crisp.

Taste hearty soups like Saag Shorba or Coconut Soups and add some Tadka Slice Salad, Fresh Salad, or Onion Pickle Salad to your meal.

Likewise, try other specialty recipes like Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Coconut Kurma, or Fish Tandoori all served with a bowl of rice.

Other Tadka Cuisine of India favorites you can try include Vegetarian Specialties like Navaratan Kurma, Saag Paneer, and Mixed Vegetable Curry, along with assorted Indian flatbreads, desserts, and beverages.

Join the Festive Golden Onion Days Celebration

Golden Onion Days is an annual local celebration that started way back in 1929.

This event is held every Labor Day weekend in downtown Payson, with plenty of attractions and happenings for all ages.

The festival was originally known as the Onion Harvest and Homecoming, highlighting Payson as an agricultural district and major onion producer.

It’s also a way to promote the city’s community spirit and build local connections.

Catch live concert entertainment, enjoy the carnival rides with the kids, or see the art shows, car shows, and flower shows with the family.

Likewise, you can watch the parade, baby contest, and fireworks displays.

You’ll also enjoy hopping at the food stalls and finding great buys from several merchandise vendors.

Join the fun and festivities at the Golden Onion Days Celebration.

Practice Your Swimming Skills at Payson Community Pool

Located along South Main Street, Payson Community Pool has all your summer recreational dreams fulfilled.

This indoor pool facility features a lazy river and twisty slides for maximum fun.

For the little ones, the facility offers a wading pool with play structures.

Get a headstart on your swimming practice with the site’s diving board.

Payson Community Pool also hosts pool movie nights, so be sure this site is on your itinerary.

This pool is open seasonally.

Check Out the Unique Rock Formations at Devil’s Kitchen

Within Payson Canyon, Devil’s Kitchen stands out as a majestic attraction.

This 700-foot geologic formation boasts jagged rock outcroppings and almost vertical cliff faces.

Several million years ago, this site was once where a mountain range resided.

After years of erosion and deposition, gravel, sand, and mud eventually formed the rocks that you can now see today at the site.

Some of the rocks you can find within this geologic site include sandstone, conglomerate, and mudstone.

During fall, the rocks turn a beautiful orange color, making for a scenic respite.

For better views of the red rocks, check out the observation platform onsite.

To reach Devil’s Kitchen, drive along Nebo Loop Road and hike up about 28 miles from the mouth of Payson Canyon.

Enjoy Art and Flower Shows at Golden Onion Days

Golden Onion Days is your best bet for a unique community celebration within Payson.

This annual festival, first held in 1929, highlights the city’s agricultural success.

Before it became the Golden Onion Days, it was once called the Onion Harvest and Homecoming.

This city-wide festivity is in tandem with Labor Day weekend.

Its programs include car shows, art showcases, and live concerts.

To better start your Golden Onion experience, join the parade.

Anticipate carnival rides and games, too!

Get going to Payson Memorial Park on South Main Street to be at the center of all the fanfare.

Celebrate Christmas at Red Nose Ranch

Are you celebrating your Christmas in Payson?

Then, you shouldn’t go without a visit to Red Nose Ranch.

This seasonally-open attraction provides wagon rides led by well-trained horses.

If you prefer motorized rides, there are ones like these, too.

The site offers a Christmas-decorated barn, a petting zoo, games, and more attractions for everyone of all ages to enjoy!

While sipping hot cocoa, get to meet the Red Man himself, Santa Claus.

Munch on s’mores while you relax by your rented Tipi.

Get in the festive spirit with your whole family with a drop by Red Nose Ranch on West 12240 South.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Experience Another Culture at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple

Festival of colors in front of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple

Mr. James Kelley /

Drive nine minutes from Payson to Spanish Fork, Utah, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple.

This unique building is the home of the Hindu god Krishna, and it’s the only building in the United States done in the Rajasthani style.

Likewise, this temple stands out among the nearly 400 Krishna temples in the world.

Join the tour and explore the temple. You’ll find a temple dome spanning 50 feet, complete with 108 spires.

Exterior of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple

Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The temple also features marble statues of the gods and a carved altar made of teak.

Then, you can check out paintings of Sri Krishna engaging in various activities.

You can even enjoy the view of the Wasatch Mountains in their full splendor.

Near the end of the tour, you can also stay to join a brief kirtan session in the temple room.

A small water fountain at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple

Ben P L, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend the Day at the Salem Pond

This time, you just need to take a six-minute trip to go from Payson to Salem, Utah.

The city of Salem offers an excellent outdoor destination at the Salem Pond.

You can find this 11-acre spring-fed pond at the southern tip of the Utah Valley.

View of Salem Pond

AmbreeBrown /

In 1851, the settlers dammed the spring, which created this deep pond. Then, they constructed a fort around the newly formed body of water.

Today, Salem Pond offers various outdoor activities for the whole family.

Since the pond is deep enough, you can paddle along the water on a kayak, a canoe, or a paddleboard.

You can also bike, rollerblade, or walk your dog on the paved path surrounding the water.

Salem Pond also lets you fish, but you can only catch two fish a day, per Utah’s community pond fishing regulations.

You can catch channel catfish, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and bluegill there.

Finally, you can simply relax and feed the ducks and geese patrolling the pond.

Otherwise, explore the grounds with your family and cross the bridge in the middle of the water.

Take a Stroll along the Spanish Fork River Trail

A short footbridge at Spanish Fork River Trail

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Return to Spanish Fork for a nice long stroll on the 2.7-kilometer trail near the city.

It’s also an easy hike, only taking roughly 36 minutes to finish.

Everyone of all experience and endurance levels can enjoy this trail.

You can also bring your kids and dogs; some sections of the trail let dogs walk off-leash.

Body of water along Spanish Fork River Trail

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Likewise, the trail is excellent for camping and cross-country skiing in the winter.

You’ll also find several shaded areas to let you cool down for a bit.

During your walk, you’ll enjoy splendid views of the Spanish Fork River, plus a huge pond.

This trail is great because you’ll also avoid the crowds and traffic on the other side of the canyon.

A bench along Spanish Fork River Trail

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Climb to the Historic Escalante Cross

The city of Spanish Fork also presents a unique historical site for tourists who don’t mind hiking a little.

You’ll need to go to the foothills of Loafer Mountain looming over Spanish Fork, Utah.

View of Historic Escalante Cross

Miranda Webster /

Once you get there, look for Dominguez Hill. Climb that hill to reach the Escalante Cross, erected in 1981 and one of the state’s unique historical sites.

In 1776, the Franciscan Fathers Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante embarked on a journey to explore the southwestern United States.

Their goal was to find an overland route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California.

The monks traveled for a couple of months until reaching the mouth of the Spanish Fork Canyon.

Upon reaching the top of present-day Dominguez Hill, the monks became the first white men to view the entirety of the Utah Valley and Utah Lake.

Today, the cross honors the journey of the two priests.

Challenge Yourself at the Santaquin Peak Trail

The Santaquin Peak Trail is an endurance test for hikers.

Make sure to bring plenty of supplies, equipment, and your A-game before tackling this trail because it is immensely challenging.

You can find this trail near the city of Santaquin, Utah, just nine minutes away from Payson.

This 18-kilometer out-and-back trail is a challenge because of its length, taking roughly 6 hours to finish.

You also won’t find many other hikers on this trail, so you can enjoy the challenge in peace.

If you can ride, you can also ride a horse along this path.

Visit the place between June to September for the best experience.

Likewise, you can bring a dog; some parts of the trail allow off-leash walking.

After the grueling hike, you’ll reach the top of Santaquin peak.

Catch your breath and admire the majestic view of the Utah countryside.

Don’t forget your cameras.

Take a Hike along the Grotto Trail

Water cascade of Grotto waterfall

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can find the Grotto Trail or Grotto Falls, 7 miles up the Payson Canyon.

This trail is perfect for people of all ages and hiking experience because it’s short and wide, plus it doesn’t rise much.

When you get there, find the parking area near Mount Nebo Loop Road because that’s where the trail begins.

A creek along Grotto Trail

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During your hike, you’ll cross streams on large timbers, which should delight your kids.

The trail ends with a gorgeous waterfall crashing onto a small pool of water, with sheer rock walls on both sides.

Bring your swimming gear because you can swim in the shallow pool.

The cool water makes this trail a rewarding summertime visit, so try to go there from late June to late summer.

Rushing waters of a creek at Grotto Trail

An Errant Knight, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Climb to the Top of Mollie’s Nipple

The hike up the summit of Mollie’s Nipple should pose a challenge even to experienced hikers.

Generally, the trip takes about 1 hour and 34 minutes to finish, following a 3.4-kilometer trail near Payson.

When you make it to the top, though, you’ll feel an immense sense of reward.

After all, you’ll climb an anomalous peak in a flat area, affectionately called Mollie’s Nipple.

This peak looks like a mountain, and it stands in a low-lying region of mesas, canyons, and cliffs.

Mollie’s Nipple comprises beds of Navajo Sandstone.

Over the years, erosion has turned these beds of Navajo Sandstone into a great cone.

This cone has become one of the most popular landmarks of the Colorado Plateau.

Final Thoughts

Payson offers plenty of cultural and historical destinations for the curious tourist who also wants to chill in a laid-back setting.

Likewise, the city is a great launchpad for visiting nearby cities and checking out their best attractions.

Set aside a weekend and plan your Payson trip today!

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