The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) is the beginnings of a world-class trail system established by the Town of Payson to offer enhanced recreational opportunities for Rim Country residents and visitors. It utilizes detached pathways, existing sidewalks, and bike lanes in Payson to form an interior trail network. This trail network mostly follows the perimeter of the town and connects to Forest Service roads and trails in the Tonto National Forest area on Payson’s periphery. The trails are open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Some trails are open to off-road vehicles. The completion of the entire trail system is still in process.
Monument Peak Loop Trail
Monument Peak Loop Trail is a multi-use 3.4 mile loop that is part of the larger Payson Area Trails System. The trail is located on the outskirts of Payson, Arizona and Star Valley, Arizona in the Tonto National Forest. The trail is well established and marked without much elevation gain making it a relatively easy stroll through the forest near the base of the Granite Dells. The trail has some sandy sections that can slow you up when mountain biking. If you are lucky you might see some local wildlife along the trail.
The Cypress Trail
The Cypress Trail is a 4 mile out and back trail from the Granite Dells (FR 435), and 2.2 miles out and back trail from East Phoenix Street. There are trailheads at both places. The trail meets up with the Boulders Loop Trailhead so the 3 miles Boulders Loop Trail can be incorporated into the hike.
The Cypress trail is well marked multi-use trail and features tall ponderosa pines which provide plenty of shade. There are many granite boulders as well as creek crossings of Stewart Creek along the trail. The Cypress Trail has both shade trees and tremendous views, the views are particularly good if you follow the Boulders loop. The trail is well established but does get sandy in places.
The Boudlers Loop Trail
The Boulders Loop Trail is a scenic hike on the outskirts of Payson that is part of the larger Payson Area Trails System. The loop is made up of Boulder Loop Trail North and Boulder Loop Trail south which intersect on both ends to form a loop. The Boulders Loop Trail is a multi-use trail open to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and atvs. Both trails also connects with the Cypress Trail at the west intersection of the north and south trails.
The trail features seasonal Stewart Creek and the Granite Dells. Large granite boulders that give the trail its name adorn the trail along with a mixture of ponderosa pines, juniper, cypress, and occasional willows near the creek. You will need to cross the creek several times to complete the hike. The hike is rated as moderate, but it a relatively easy stroll through forest just below the Granite Dells. The trail is marked by PATS symbols, but it does get ambiguous at times due to side trails, and it does require some accent/decent in places.
Round Valley Trail
The Round Valley Trail begins in a residential neighborhood of Southeast Payson, Arizona. The trail can also be accessed at the south end near the Mazatzal Casino on the Tonto Apache Reservation. Motor Vehicles are prohibited from using this particular Payson Area Trail beginning at Gibson Court. However, hiking, mountain biking and horse back riding are allowed. The trail is 4.5 miles one way.
This trail winds through a juniper pine forest and is a combination of foot paths and wider 4 wheel drive roads. The Round Valley Trail delivers tremendous views of the Mogollon Rim and the Mazatzal mountain along the path. The trail is uphill from the trailhead at Gibson Court and tops out at 5200 feet before beginning its descent into the Round Valley area. The trail terrain varies and sections are covered in rock making it not ideal for trail running. Other sections are soft dirt.
Houston Mesa Trail
The Houston Mesa Trail or Houston Trail is a 4.2 mile one way hike from the Houston Mesa Trailhead to the Chaparral Ranch Trailhead. The trail follows the northern edge of the Town of Payson and is part of the Payson Areas Trail System. The trail also intersects with the Houston Loop Trail which is a 5.1 mile loop that begins near the Chaparral Ranch Trailhead. The trail is not open to motorized vehicles from the Houston Mesa Trailhead, but motorized vehicles do access the east end of the trail via the Houston Loop Trail.
The trail itself weaves through a juniper pine forest providing occasional views. The forest floor is covered by manzanita. You will encounter a couple of wildlife gates near the Houston Mesa Trailhead erected to benefit animal grazing habitat. The trail is open to hiking, mountain biking, and horse back riding. The Houston Mesa Trail is primarily soft dirt making it a good option for trailrunners.
Houston Loop Trail
The Houston Loop Trail is a 5.1 mile loop on the outskirts of the east end of Payson. The trail is open to hiking, mountain biking, horses, and motorized vehicles. The trail can be accessed from three different points including the Chaparral Ranch Trailhead, the Mayfield Canyon Trailhead, or by hiking in from the Houston Mesa Trail. The trail is rated as moderately difficult because of it contains some hills.
The Houston Loop Trail loops through hills immediately surrounding Payson, Arizona below the Mogollon Rim and provides views of Payson's surrounding mountains. The trail is primarily soft dirt making it a good choice for trail running. The surrounding forest is mostly juniper pine and manzanita, with some ponderosa pines. There are occasional creeks to cross depending on the season. The trail features an old seismic bunker installed by the United States government that is left over from the cold war era.