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Southwestern USA Hiking Trails including Scottsdale, Phoenix, Northern Arizona


Horton Creek Trail Payson, AZ

Updated: Oct 31, 2018


Horton Creek Trail is located approximately 84 miles east of Fountain Hills, AZ. It is a 6.8 mile in and out trail. The elevation gain is 1115 feet. You can reach Horton Creed Trail by heading east on highway 89 (Beeline HWY). In Payson turn right onto highway 260 until you reach forest road 289 on your left. Follow FR 289 for approximately half a mile. You'll see a parking lot for the trail clearly marked to your left. You'll be parked across from the Upper Tonto Creek campground were the trail head starts. You'll just cross the road and head up the hill and see the trailhead off to your left.

About the Hike

I find the most enjoyable times for hiking are right after sunrise when the world is waking up. You can capture beautiful photographs during these 'magic hours'. Magical and Mystical things are happening around us even when we aren't looking. My favorite is starting with Mother Nature awakening from a full night of slumber with a magnificent explosion of color at sunrise.

Horton Creek trail starts out in a canopy of shade trees leading down to the creek bed. When hiking the trail the last week of August the creek was dried up at the start of the trail . As I ventured further up the trail you could hear water beginning to trickle across the rocks.

The forest was coming alive with birds and squirrel's playing among the ponderosa pines. Both the blue jays and the squirrels were busy collecting their breakfast from the abundance of pine cones.

The canopy of trees grew thicker as we ventured up the trail. The sound of water running over the rocks played a melody so delightful one couldn't help but smile at the simplicity of the perfectly orchestrated music rising from the forest floor. Listening closely and following the music I arrived at the Orchestrator pit where the music originated.

Spending time here was calming, a perfect place to sit and quiet your mind. Soon the forest beckoned me to continue exploring more of this wondrous place. The trail continued to meander along the creek opening up additional areas to explore with places for a day camp to picnic or splash in the creek.

I continued hiking 2.5 miles where the trail switchbacks lead upward from the forest floor into an open area. The sunlight played upon the wild flowers being visited by beautiful butterflies.

The time I spent watching the butterflies play gave them confidence, as well as, raised their curiosity to get a bit closer to see what I was up too.

After satisfying their curiosity they were off again collecting pollen.

As suddenly as I ascended out of the forest floor I quickly started my descent back down into a thick canopy of shade. I enjoyed walking among the trees in the cool morning breeze to a cairn directing me to the end of the Horton Creek trail or a sharp left or right to begin a new adventure. From this trail you can continue on the Christopher Creek trail for 7 miles or the Tonto Creek trail for 3.5 miles .

On this beautiful Friday morning I opted to turn around and head to the town of Christopher Creek for a wonderful lunch at one of several restaurants.

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