So many amazing natural gems can be found in Arizona’s rim country – the part of the state situated on or near the Mogollon Rim. You could practically explore a new nook on the rim every day and not hit them all in the course of a summer.
One such place is Horton Creek, located roughly 18 miles east of the town of Payson, just off Hwy 260. Unlike many of the more popular campgrounds, trail heads and scenic views, there is no sign for Horton to be seen until you’ve already pulled off the highway. That may be a good thing. (Tip: Turn off at the Tonto Creek sign.)
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Some who decide to make their way up the trail grow discouraged upon the sight of an apparent dried out creek bed just a quarter mile from the trailhead. But those who forge on are treated by a fresh, tranquil stream gliding down a gradual slope that resembles a series of ramps, slides and staircases.
Nearly 4 miles from the main trailhead, Horton Spring is the crown jewel of this exhilarating hike. It’s here that crystal clear water emerges from a fissure hidden in a rip-rapped wall of rock, and spills over mossy boulders and logs as it meanders down a miniature canyon.
On the hike to the spring, a forest of evergreen and deciduous trees provide protection from wind and sun, and glorious displays of color – especially in October and November. Numerous spur trails practically pull you from the main trail to the water’s edge.
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With a little imagination, you’ll quickly spy benches of stone and wood placed right where you want them. Unless you left a roast in the oven, there’s no need to rush. Bring a sack lunch and a book or notepad to soak up the natural world around you.
Video: Experience a virtual hike of Horton Creek Trail
Where is Horton Creek?
If you’re ready to check out Horton Creek for yourself this map will help you find it.