Horton Creek Trail

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Horton Creek Trail, near Payson, Arizona, is a scenic 8.8-mile round-trip hike known for its beautiful landscapes and the charming Horton Creek, ending at Horton Spring. The trail offers a peaceful journey through lush forests and along the creek, ideal for nature lovers seeking relaxation. Located in the Mogollon Rim region of Tonto National Forest, the trail follows Horton Creek, fed by the spring from the Mogollon Rim, leading to the East Verde River. The area is rich in pine, fir, and juniper trees and wildlife, with an undergrowth of shrubs and wildflowers. The Mogollon Rim itself is a striking geological feature offering stunning views. The best time to hike is from April to June, with mild weather and the creek flowing from spring runoff, presenting a lush environment. Winter hikes can be beautiful but require extra preparation, while late summer can be hotter and drier. The trail, moderately challenging with a 2450-foot elevation gain, offers natural beauty and some terrain challenges. Smaller offshoots provide access to various creek parts, revealing cascading waterfalls. The trail ends at Horton Spring, where water emerges from the ground, creating a green waterfall. This spot is reached by following the Horton Spring Trail, merging with the Highline Trail.

Although some mapping programs will show you the trailhead is on the west side of the entry road, the best place to start the trail is from the east side the Upper Tonto Creek Campground. The trail is well-defined but can be busy. Parking might be challenging, and cell reception is limited. A map and GPS are advisable. The trail suits hikers with moderate experience but is great for older children with proper precautions.

You don’t need to hike the entire trail to enjoy its beauty. Along the way, there are several side paths to the right that lead down to the creek. These detours offer stunning views and reveal different rock formations, each creating its own unique small waterfalls, either cascading or plunging.

For those who continue to the trail’s end, a special feature awaits. The trail leads to a spring emerging straight from the ground, creating a verdant green waterfall. This spot is reached by following the Horton Spring Trail, which connects with the Highline Trail. Look for a sign near the junction that will guide you to the spring, just a short 0.4-mile walk away.


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