15 Best Things to Do in Payson, UT

Payson, UT
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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
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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, the 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 / Shutterstock.com

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 / Shutterstock.com

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.

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.

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

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 / Shutterstock.com

This road 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.

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 / Shutterstock.com

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.

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.

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.

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!