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.
Chaparral Ranch Trailhead
The Chaparral Ranch Trailhead is located at the end of Chaparral Pines Drive north 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 Trail. For large groups or those towing trailers it is recommended to use the Mayfield Canyon access point or to park at the Houston Mesa Trailhead and follow the Houston Mesa Trail the 3 miles or so to connect to the Houston Mesa Loop.
Mayfield Canyon Trailhead
Mayfield Canyon Road is off of Highway 260 on the east side of Star Valley across the street from the Ford dealership. If you turn north on Mayfield Canyon and follow it left it will lead you into a wilderness are that will display trail signs. The Mayfield Canyon Trailhead is located to the west. There is sometimes a sign (if it has not been ran over) or ribbons in the trees. Follow that trail west for 1/4 mile to connect to the Houston Loop Trail. This trailhead area has plenty of room to park vehicles and trailers, but can be a bit confusing with all of the OHV trails.
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.