Formed 600 million years ago, the Mogollon Rim is the stupendous center of Arizona’s geography. Almost incongruously to the rest of Arizona, the Rim is blanketed in forests and grass. Such lush, fertile land has led to an amazing diversity of fauna: birds (including eagles), Rocky Mountain elk, mule, and whitetail deer, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, javelina, and coyotes all make the Mogollon Rim their home. So drive, hike, or bike to the top of the Rim and experience Arizona at its finest.
Without the novels of Zane Grey, it is quite possible that Hollywood greats like John Wayne, Shirley Temple, and Randolph Scott would have been lost on the world. Grey’s outstanding Westerns became movies that launched the careers of cinema mainstays, and his novels have been published in over 20 languages, with estimated annual sales between 500,000 and one million copies worldwide. Now his cabin stands as a historical site for visitors. While not everything in the cabin is an original, certain pieces allow visitors to visualize Grey’s life in the early 20th century. Find cowboy boots, Grey’s original saddle, a writer’s chair, a cot, and a bear rug.
Appearing like a scene from an “Indiana Jones” film, the Tonto Natural Bridge is within a small valley of forest and pine trees. Estimated to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, the bridge is 183 feet high and covers 400 feet (150 feet at its widest point). Visitors and adventurers may choose to stand at its top or hike down to the valley.
Whether enjoying the winter snow or the summer sunshine, the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery is bursting at the seams for opportunities to hike, picnic, and observe wildlife. This is a great educational experience for the whole family, as guides at the Hatchery teach about fish production and facts about the wetlands. There are rainbow, brook, cutthroat, and Apache trout produced each year, some catchable. The streams and wetlands on Tonto Creek are vital to the survival of Arizona’s wildlife, so come and see why.
Visitors and locals can feel like Paleontologists at the Naco Paleo Site. Invertebrate fossils remain from the days in which Arizona lay beneath shallow seas some 40-50 feet deep—300 million years ago. Find fossils of the ancestors of modern-day fish, reptiles, and insects.
Take a self-guided tour into Arizona’s rich Native past. As the epicenter of Southwestern prehistoric cultures, the overall Rim Country served as home to probably 1,000 different sites. The Shoofly ruins themselves were occupied between 1000 and 1250 A.D. There were once 79 structures with a large building at its center that housed 26 rooms averaging 37.4 sq. meters each. Visiting the Ruins brings with it a newfound appreciation for Arizona’s telling history.
The Mazatzal Casino has over 400 slots, video poker, a bingo hall, and live black jack. Located on the Tonto Apache Reservation, Mazatzal also has the award-winning Cedar Ridge Restaurant. The Apache Spirits Lounge also features weekly specials on cocktails, beer, and wine.
See Rim Country from the skies with Sky King Soaring. Take to the air with scenic tours of the Mogollon Rim and pine country. Flights are given for laypeople, as well as airline pilots who wish to obtain a glider add-on rating. Arizona from above gives a whole new perspective.
Fargo's Steakhouse has been a go-to for fine dining in Payson for over a decade. Along with lunch and dinner menus, the bar serves martinis and wines. Enjoy sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads. The happy hour menu, served from 3pm to 6pm, features sliders, wings, draught beer, quesadillas, and pizzas.
With buffet specials seemingly every day, the Cedar Ridge Restaurant at the Mazatzal Casino is an easy “yes” for vacationers. The restaurant is open 7 days a week all year round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The ample seating makes it perfect for big groups, whether there for a business meeting or for a break from the tables.
Located in the picturesque Kohl’s Ranch Lodge, Zane Grey Steakhouse and Saloon channels the region’s Old Western spirit. They serve certified Angus Beef, and the Prime Rib is their biggest hit. Aside from dining, there is also a bar and cocktail lounge. Guests may come for breakfast and lunch.
Terraced along the banks of the Christopher Creek below the Mogollon Rim is the Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern. For breakfast, try the mouthwatering steak and eggs. Lighten things up with some homemade soup for lunch. Finish with dinner and your choice of Prime Rib, Ribs, Seafood, Fish, Chips, Chicken, Chops, Burgers, Salads, and Desserts. If this wasn’t enough, Creekside serves fine wines and spirits to complement every plate.
For three generations El Rancho has been serving Payson authentic, Native Mexican cuisine. Traditional favorites are served, along with tasty American-Mexican fusion. The Philly Cheese Steak Burrito is a yummy example of this, along with the Chicken Mushroom Jack Fajitas. The margaritas are award-winning, and El Rancho even features children’s and seniors’ menus.
Stop by the Randall House Restaurant for breakfast or lunch—or both. Fresh fruits are used for the breakfast plates, with fresh produce, vegetables, meats, and cheeses going into the lunch dishes. Quality burgers and salads are ever the popular selections, especially with their housemade dressings and mixes. The soups and quiche are homemade as well.
With the Single Burger and Fireside Burger headlining the menu, Macky's has no shortage of great food in Payson. Yummy appetizers like mushrooms and Texas Toothpicks (onion and jalapeno coated in zesty batter) start off the meal, followed by salads, chili, soup, hot dogs, wraps, burgers, and more.
Whether flying into Payson, seeing someone off or just craving a bite to eat, the Crosswinds Grille is sure to whet your appetite! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at this family-friendly cafe. The staff are always friendly and the view of the runway is spectacular.
Scoops Ice Cream & Espresso serves hand-dipped ice cream, scrumptious fudge sundaes, shakes, and marble slab creations from their cold stone. The coffee is locally roasted, fresh brewed organic coffee from Cortez Coffee Company. They also serve specialty espresso drinks.
While not a typical cafe, Creekside serves Christopher Creek breakfast, lunch, and dinner from its position in the historic hamlet. For a morning meal, look to the Steak & Eggs, Mouth Watering Omelets, or Biscuits & Gravy. Daily lunch specials include homemade soups and hand-cut fries. For dinner, try the shrimp.
Sportsman Chalet is located in the nearby town of Strawberry. Two stories of nighttime fun can be found, with eating and drinking taking place on the first floor and billiards more so on the second floor. There is a full bar and a menu of pub fare. The burgers are always freshly grilled and cooked to order.
Double D's is a local staple of good ole Payson charm. The ambiance is warm with rustic decor and a friendly staff. There's a full bar and a menu with delicious food. Try the special Double D burger (complete with green chilies, Swiss cheese, and two meaty patties).
Down the Street Art Gallery is a unique opportunity to browse through locally made art while stepping through history. The shop is located in one of Main Street's oldest houses. Find paintings, wood, ceramics, gourds, jewelry, bronze, metal, copper, textiles, and even basket weaving.
Access to Payson happen by way of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The airport is a hub for US Airways. All major U.S. airlines, plus Air Canada, British Airways, WestJet, and Aeromexico also operate out of PSHIA. Nonstop service is available to roughly 80 domestic and 20 international destinations. The airport is 3 miles (4.8 km) from the central business district with the Valley Metro bus route 13 serving all terminals. Taxi access is through terminals 2, 3 and 4. SuperShuttle provides collective transportation. The Rental Car Center is located in its own building at 1805 East Sky Harbor Circle South.
In Payson, it is necessary to rent a vehicle, because public transportation is not common. It is recommended to either rent a bike or a car. Hertz Rent a Car 1506 W Bravo Taxiway, Payson +1 928-474-2351 Rim Country Recreation Kayak, Stand Up Paddleboard and Mountain Bike Rentals +1 928-474-4570 Open daily 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM