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Payson, Arizona


Payson is a picturesque town located in Gila County, Arizona, approximately 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. Known as the “Heart of Arizona,” Payson is nestled among the majestic Mogollon Rim, a 2,000-foot-high escarpment that stretches across the state. With a population of around 15,000, the town is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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Official town website:

Things to Do

Payson offers a wide array of outdoor recreational opportunities, thanks to its proximity to the Tonto National Forest and the Mogollon Rim. Popular activities include hiking, fishing, camping, and hunting. The town also hosts several annual events, such as the Payson Rodeo, the oldest continuous rodeo in the United States, and the Beeline Cruise-In Car Show.

Attractions and Points of Interest

Some popular attractions and points of interest in and around Payson include:

– The Mogollon Rim, offering breathtaking views and numerous hiking trails
– Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, featuring the world’s largest travertine bridge
– The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin, showcasing the area’s history and the life of famed Western author Zane Grey
– The Payson Event Center, hosting a variety of events throughout the year, including the Payson Rodeo.

Places to Stay

Visitors to Payson can choose from a variety of accommodations, ranging from hotels and motels to bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Some popular options include the Majestic Mountain Inn, the Quality Inn, and the Best Western Inn of Payson.

Payson, Arizona, offers a unique blend of small-town charm, beautiful natural surroundings, and a variety of recreational opportunities. With its rich history, thriving economy, and strong sense of community, Payson is an attractive destination for both visitors and residents alike.

Government Structure

The town of Payson operates under a council-manager form of government. The Town Council consists of a mayor and six council members who are elected at large for staggered four-year terms. The council is responsible for setting policy, enacting ordinances, and adopting the annual budget. The town manager is appointed by the council and oversees the daily operations of the town, including the implementation of council policies and the management of municipal departments.

Town Council and Government website

Clubs and Organizations

Payson is home to a variety of clubs and organizations that cater to diverse interests and provide opportunities for residents to connect and engage with their community. Some examples include:

– The Payson Art League: Promoting the arts and supporting local artists through exhibitions, workshops, and community events.
– The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce: Supporting local businesses and promoting economic development in the Payson area.
– The Payson Lions Club: A service organization dedicated to improving the community and supporting local charitable causes.
– The Payson Area Trails System (PATS): A group dedicated to the development, maintenance, and promotion of a network of non-motorized trails in and around Payson.

Golf Courses

Golf enthusiasts can enjoy the scenic beauty of Payson while playing at the town’s two golf courses:

1. The Payson Golf Course: An 18-hole public course offering beautiful views of the Mogollon Rim and the surrounding forests. The course features a challenging layout and well-maintained greens, making it a popular destination for both local and visiting golfers.

Payson Golf Course website: [](

2. The Rim Golf Club: A private, 18-hole championship course designed by renowned golf architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. The course offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests and features a challenging layout that appeals to golfers of all skill levels.

The Rim Golf Club website:


Payson and its surrounding areas boast numerous hiking trails suitable for all skill levels. Some popular trails in the area include:

– The Horton Creek Trail: A moderately challenging 7-mile round trip hike that follows Horton Creek and offers beautiful views of waterfalls and lush forests.
– The Highline Trail: A 51-mile long trail that traverses the Mogollon Rim, offering stunning views and access to several shorter, interconnected trails.
– The Tonto Natural Bridge Trail: A short but steep hike in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, leading to the base of the world’s largest travertine bridge.

Quality of Life

Payson’s residents enjoy a high quality of life, thanks to its small-town atmosphere, stunning natural surroundings, and abundant recreational opportunities. The town offers a variety of amenities, including quality healthcare, educational institutions, and a range of housing options. The strong sense of community and numerous clubs and organizations provide residents with ample opportunities for socializing and civic engagement.


Although Payson is primarily a car-dependent community, the town does offer some public transportation options. The Payson Senior Center operates the Beeline Bus, a dial-a-ride service available to seniors and individuals with disabilities. The bus provides transportation within the town limits and can be used for medical appointments, shopping, and other essential trips.

Beeline Bus website


Payson offers a variety of shopping options, including locally owned boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries, as well as larger retail stores and supermarkets. The town’s historic Main Street is home to many local businesses, providing a charming and walkable shopping experience.

Art and Culture

Payson has a thriving arts and cultural scene, with several galleries, studios, and performance spaces showcasing the work of local artists and performers. The Payson Art League hosts regular exhibitions, workshops, and events, while the Payson Community Theater produces several plays and musicals throughout the year. The town also hosts a variety of cultural events and festivals, such as the annual Payson Scottish Festival.


Payson enjoys a mild four-season climate, with warm summers and cool, snowy winters. The town’s elevation of approximately 5,000 feet provides relief from the extreme heat experienced in lower-lying areas of Arizona. The area receives an average of 22 inches of precipitation per year, with much of it falling in the form of snow during the winter months.

Community Involvement

The town of Payson is dedicated to fostering a strongsense of community and encourages residents to get involved in local initiatives and organizations. Volunteer opportunities abound, with options to serve on town boards and commissions, participate in community clean-up events, or support local non-profits such as the Payson Area Food Drive and the Humane Society of Central Arizona.

Sports and Recreation

In addition to its many outdoor recreational opportunities, Payson offers a range of sports and recreational facilities, including parks, sports fields, and a community pool. The town also hosts various sports leagues and events throughout the year, such as youth soccer, adult softball leagues, and the annual Turkey Trot race.

Dining and Nightlife

Payson’s dining scene offers a diverse array of options, ranging from casual cafes and fast-food establishments to fine dining restaurants and steakhouses. The town also features several bars and pubs, providing residents and visitors with nightlife entertainment options.

Local Festivals and Events

Payson hosts several annual festivals and events that celebrate the town’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Some popular events include:

– Payson Rodeo: The oldest continuous rodeo in the United States, held annually in August since 1884.
– Beeline Cruise-In Car Show: A classic car show featuring vintage vehicles, live music, and family-friendly activities.
– Payson Scottish Festival: A celebration of Scottish heritage, featuring traditional music, dancing, and athletic competitions.

Notable Residents

Payson has been home to several notable residents throughout its history, including:

– Zane Grey: A prolific author of Western novels, Grey made Payson his home for many years and drew inspiration from the area’s rugged beauty.
– G. Gordon Liddy: A former FBI agent and key figure in the Watergate scandal, Liddy retired to Payson after serving time in prison.

Government Structure and Services

In addition to the town council and manager, Payson’s government structure includes several departments responsible for providing essential services to residents, such as public safety, planning and zoning, public works, and parks and recreation.

Town Departments and Services website

Public Art and Cultural Attractions

Payson is home to several public art installations, reflecting the town’s commitment to promoting and celebrating the arts. The town also features cultural attractions such as the Rim Country Museum, which showcases the area’s history and natural beauty, and the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, a unique geological formation and popular tourist destination.

Transportation and Accessibility

For those traveling to or from Payson, the town is easily accessible via State Route 87, also known as the Beeline Highway. The nearest major airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, located approximately 90 miles south of Payson.

Sustainability and Environmental Initiatives

Payson is committed to preserving its natural resources and promoting sustainable practices. The town engages in various environmental initiatives, such as water conservation, recycling programs, and community clean-up events. The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) also plays a role in promoting sustainable outdoor recreation and preserving natural habitats.

Horseback Riding

Several local outfitters and stables offer horseback riding opportunities in and around Payson, allowing visitors to explore the area’s scenic trails and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings on horseback.

Off-road Trips

Payson’s location near the Tonto National Forest and the Mogollon Rim provides numerous opportunities for off-road enthusiasts to explore the area’s diverse terrain. Visitors can embark on off-road adventures in their own vehicles or join guided tours with local outfitters.


Ranching has long been an important part of Payson’s history and economy, with several working ranches still in operation today. These ranches not only contribute to the local economy but also help preserve the area’s heritage and rural character.


Although the town of Payson itself is not a significant agricultural center, the surrounding region supports various forms of agriculture, including livestock, fruit orchards, and small-scale vegetable farming. Local farmers contribute to the community by providing fresh, locally sourced products, and many participate in the Payson Farmers Market, held seasonally on Saturdays.

In conclusion, Payson, Arizona, offers a unique blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and small-town charm that attracts both residents and visitors. With its rich history, vibrant arts and culture scene, and commitment to sustainability and community involvement, Payson is a truly special place to live, work, and play.

Mountain Biking

Payson and the surrounding Rim Country offer numerous mountain biking trails for riders of all skill levels. The area’s diverse terrain, ranging from forested singletrack to rocky technical descents, provides a wide variety of riding experiences. Popular trails in the area include the Highline Trail, the Pine-Strawberry Trail, and the Payson Area Trails System (PATS) network.

Fishing and Boating

With several lakes and reservoirs nearby, Payson provides ample opportunities for fishing and boating enthusiasts. Roosevelt Lake, located approximately 50 miles south of Payson, is one of the largest lakes in Arizona and offers excellent fishing for bass, crappie, and catfish. Smaller lakes such as Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs Lake, both located on the Mogollon Rim, provide scenic settings for trout fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.

Wildlife Viewing

Payson’s location amidst the Tonto National Forest and the Mogollon Rim provides excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing. The area is home to a diverse array of wildlife species, including elk, deer, javelina, black bears, and numerous bird species. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore the area’s many trails, campgrounds, and scenic overlooks for a chance to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Hot Air Ballooning

For those looking for a unique way to experience the stunning beauty of Payson and the surrounding Rim Country, hot air ballooning offers an unforgettable adventure. Several local companies offer hot air balloon rides, providing passengers with breathtaking aerial views of the area’s forests, mountains, and lakes.


The Payson area is home to several unique geological formations, including numerous caves and caverns. Some of these caves, such as the Tonto Natural Bridge’s small cave system, are accessible to the public and offer a fascinating glimpse into the region’s geology. Other caves in the area may require special permits or guided tours for access.

Rock Climbing

The varied terrain and geology of the Payson area provide numerous opportunities for rock climbing enthusiasts. From the granite cliffs of the Mogollon Rim to the limestone formations of the Tonto National Forest, climbers can find a wide range of routes and challenges. Local climbing guides and outfitters can provide instruction and assistance for those looking to explore the area’s climbing potential.

Yoga and Wellness

Payson offers various opportunities for individuals seeking to focus on their well-being and overall wellness. From yoga studios offering classes for all skill levels to wellness retreats nestled in the surrounding forests, visitors and residents alike can find ways to relax, rejuvenate, and connect with nature in this serene setting.

Local Craft Breweries and Wineries

For those who enjoy sampling local craft beverages, Payson is home to a few craft breweries and wineries. These establishments offer a range of locally produced beers, wines, and ciders, providing a taste of the unique flavors and ingredients of the region. Many of these venues also host events and tastings, offering a fun and engaging way to experience the local craft beverage scene.


With its relatively low levels of light pollution and clear, dark skies, Payson is an excellent destination for stargazing. The area’s high elevation and dry climate provide excellent viewing conditions for observing stars, planets, and other celestial objects. Several nearby campgrounds and scenic overlooks offer prime locations for stargazing, while local astronomy clubs may host public star parties and events throughout the year.

With its diverse range of recreational activities, natural beauty, and cultural attractions, Payson, Arizona, continues to stand out as a unique and inviting destination for residents and visitors alike. The town’s commitment to preserving its natural resources and fostering a strong sense of community ensures that Payson will remain a vibrant and enjoyable place to live, work, and play for years to come.