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 Mesa Trailhead
The Houston Mesa Trailhead is .8 miles east of Highway 87 on Houston Mesa Road. This trailhead has a large parking area making it a good choice for groups or those with horse trailers. Motorized vehicle access to the Houston Mesa Trail is prohibited from this trailhead.
Chaparral Ranch Trailhead
The Chaparral Ranch Trailhead is located at the end of Chaparral Pines Drive off of Highway 260. This trailhead is in a residential cul-de-sac giving it limited parking. The Chaparral Ranch Trailhead is also a main trailhead for the Houston Loop Trail.
The Payson Area Trails System (PATS)
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.