Hiking Horton Creek Trail near Payson, Arizona

I had the day off yesterday and my pups were really antsy, so I decided to take them on a little adventure. Temps are still over 100 degrees in the Phoenix area, and it’s hard to exercise the dogs, and myself, in that kind of heat. So we headed north toward the mountains and cooler weather.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

– John Muir

I really had no idea where we would end up, I just really felt like I needed be among the trees, and near water. I’ll admit I was a little out of it when I left the house, but I forgot to bring with me a couple very important things – hiking shoes (I was wearing flip flops), socks and drinking water. So after a quick stop in Payson to by a new pair of Asics Gel Kahana trail running shoes and few bottles of water we continued on our way.

Horton Creek

We ended up at Horton Creek Trail. It’s a nice, fairly easy hike, with a slight uphill grade, a pretty little creek, and lots of shade. That was perfect, because with Daisy’s bad leg, she can’t really do long or strenuous hikes.

Dogs on Horton Creek Trail

We got off to a late start, so it was about 3:00 in the afternoon before we got there. It was still pretty warm, with the temperature in the 90’s, but with the creek and the shade, it didn’t feel that bad. We only saw two other people on the trail, and they were right at the start of the trail heading back out. This was nice because it seemed almost like we had the whole trail and creek all to ourselves.

Waterfall on Horton Creek Trail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

– John Muir

 

Horton Creek Trail

Horton Creek Trail #285 is in the Payson Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest, Northeast of Payson. From the town of Payson, take Highway 260 Northeast toward Heber/Showlow through the town of Star Valley. You’ll turn left when you reach the turn off for Tonto Creek Road and Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery. The trail starts from the Upper Tonto Creek Campground and the parking area and picnic area site is clearly marked.

From the parking area, you will walk back across the bridge toward the campground, and the trailhead is clearly marked just up the hill on the left. The trail drops down and crosses the creek bed, which is dry at this point, then skirts along the edge of the creek. I’ve heard that the reason this portion of the creek is dry is because the water flows underground through a system of limestone caves. You’ll pass through a couple of gates along the trail. Where there trail forks you can go in either direction as they both meet up down the trail a little farther. I usually stay toward the right as it skirts a little closer to the creek.

Flowers on the trail

We only went about a mile and a half before turning back this time around, but the trail itself is about 3.5 miles to where it meets with Highline Trail #31. The spring is just a little farther along the creek. A lot of people hike this out and back, but you can also make it a loop by heading east on Highline Trail #31 to it’s connection with Derrick Trail #33 and taking that back to the parking area that is just before the bridge. I have hiked the whole trail to the spring before, but have never done the loop. I understand that Highline & Derrick Trails are more strenuous than Horton Creek Trail.

Horton Creek waterfalls

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

–Aristotle

The creek is fed by Horton Spring, which provides clear cool water that bubbles right out of the hillside. It is fairly shallow with some small pools and lots of pretty little waterfalls along the way. Be cautious as there is poison ivy in areas where the trail nears the creek. You will also see wild strawberries, blackberries and grapes growing along the trail and creek. Most of the strawberries and blackberries were long gone by the time we got there, but we did see some grapes still on the vines.

“Nature is one of the most underutilized treasures in life. It has the power to unburden hearts and reconnect to that inner place of peace.”

― Janice Anderson

I spent a little bit of time, just sitting by the creek, watching the water spill over the waterfalls as the pups splashed and played. I love hiking and getting out into nature, and I don’t feel like I have been doing nearly enough of it lately. A good hike helps me clear my head, destress and recharge my batteries. By the time we started to head back out toward the paeking area I felt completely refreshed and renewed.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

– Henry David Thoreau

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