Payson Special

(Cox7 advertiser) JR Cardenas takes viewers 90 miles northeast of Phoenix to Payson, Arizona. Highlights of a trip to Payson include; Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson Rodeo, Payson Golf Course, Zane Grey Cabin and Mazatzal Hotel and Casino. 

Payson is a short two hour drive from Phoenix but when visitors arrive they feel like they are in a new world. The ponderosa pines, Rim Country lakes, outdoor recreation and rodeos are big in Payson. 

Mayor Kenny Evans describes Payson as Arizona’s mile high cool mountain town. In the heart of the southern Rockies the area offers miles and miles of forest trails and many parks and recreation facilities. He also notes it is 20° cooler than Phoenix. 

Located 5000 feet above sea level, Payson is known as the heart of Arizona. It is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, providing a setting for year-round activities. Nestled among the mountains of the Mogollon Rim, it provides visitors a place to relax and play, leaving their everyday stresses behind. 

Payson is a modern city with first class accommodations, dining and shopping opportunities. However, it also boasts a downtown rich in Western heritage. Antique stores, art galleries and restaurants are part of Payson’s downtown. 

Cameron Davis, director of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism, explains some of the outdoor activities Payson has to offer; hiking, biking, camping and fishing. The top of the Mogollon Rim offers great camping experiences, scenery and beautiful vistas. He says Woods Canyon Lake is a great place to put a boat on the lake, drop a bobber and spend the day fishing. For the fly fisher, there are a number of streams to be enjoyed. For those who love to fish, Rim Country is the place to be. 

In 1990 the Dude Fire destroyed the treasured historic Zane Grey Cabin. However, a replica has been built in Green Valley Park for visitors to see and learn about the history of Zane Grey. Sandy Carson, Northern Gila County Historical Society, explains the purpose of the organization is to preserve history in and around Payson. To keep the past alive, they show times gone by in exhibits, allowing visitors from all over the world to experience the past. 

Zane Grey first came to the Payson area in 1918 for hunting. He purchased land from his hunting guide and his original cabin was built in 1921. Grey returned most years in the fall for hunting. He loved what he saw in the area and liked the people he met. Many of those people ended up in his books. He wrote 23 books set in Arizona and 13 of those were set in Rim Country. 

The Zane Grey Cabin was rebuilt in 2005, primarily by the efforts of the Zane Grey Foundation. The foundation raised the money and built the replica on historical society land. They furnished the cabin with furnishings and artifacts from the era that would have been in Grey’s cabin when he occupied it. The foundation turned the cabin over to the Northern Gila County Historical Society in 2011. Carson says, if Zane Grey walked through the door of the cabin today, he would recognize it as his. 

The Zane Grey Cabin brings over 6,000 visitors yearly to the area and many of those visitors go on to visit the Rim Country Museum. The museum presents the 11,000 year history of the people in the area from prehistoric culture to early pioneers. 

For information visit or call 1-928-474-3483 

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located 15 miles north of Payson. It is the largest travertine bridge in the world. For Cameron Davis it is a magical place to visit and see how millions of years have transformed the landscape into what it is today. 

Assistant Park Manager, Brandon Baeuerlen, explains the uniqueness of the natural bridge. There are 200 million cubic feet of travertine forming the natural bridge. He says people come to visit and enjoy the bridge; hiking through it and playing in the water outside the bridge during the summer weather. 

The bridge was discovered by a prospector in 1877 while prospecting in Pine Creek. According to the story, he was being chased by Indians and hid in one of the many caves under the bridge. After a 2 day, 3 night stay, he emerged and saw what visitors know today as Tonto Natural Bridge. 

Baeuerlen says the main draw to the area is hiking. He notes the trails are steep and strenuous and he recommends good shoes and water. The roundtrip on the trail takes about an hour, but it is demanding and varies depending on the individual. For those not hiking, there are viewpoints presenting spectacular views of the bridge and the beauty surrounding it. The park also offers ramadas and areas to sit and relax, take in the scenery and view wildlife. 

Visit or call 1-928-476-4202

There is always something to do in Payson. The course for the annual Mogollon Monster Mudda at the Payson Multi-Event Center on June 4,2016 is being prepared. The course will feature over 40 natural and man-made obstacles and asks the question; “Are you tough enough to conquer the monster mudda?” 

For information visit and click on Activities/Payson Event Center 

Payson’s Green Valley Park is home to the 4th of July Hometown Celebration. Thousands of visitors attend each year for the food vendors, games for kids and the fireworks after dark. 

For information go to and click on Activities/Event Calendar 

Known as the “World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo” the Payson Rodeo will celebrate 132 years of rodeo August 18-20, at the Payson Event Center. John Landino, Payson Rodeo Committee, says the rodeo started in 1884 down on Main Street across from the old Oxbow Saloon. The start was cowboys getting together to show off their skills and blow off some steam after the roundup. 

Today the rodeo has over 200 cowboys and cowgirls competing. Visitors from Arizona and around the world come to Payson for the Rodeo. While the rodeo tourism gives a boost to the Payson economy, the main goal is to raise funds for local charities. A big emphasis is on scholarships for local high school students. They also support breast cancer support groups and veterans groups.   

Landino says a major purpose of the rodeo is to keep the Western heritage and lifestyle alive in Payson. 

For more visit or call 1-928-474-9440 

Whether visitors are looking for a quick day trip, a weekend getaway or an extended stay, Payson has something for everyone. 

Mazatzal Hotel and Casino is an all-suite hotel overlooking the Mazatzal Mountains. It features a conference room, an indoor pool, spa, and fitness center. The staff is committed to making visitors feel welcomed and cared for. 

The dining experience offers guests a variety of choices. At Cedar Ridge or The Grille, diners can make a selection from the menu items or the chef’s daily special. 

Bingo is available as matinee sessions and evening sessions. A variety of bingo games are offered, from handheld devices to traditional paper bingo. 

The gaming tables at Mazatzal offer a great time for guests to double down at the blackjack tables or buy in at a poker table. 

The casino has a variety of slot machines to choose from. They offer traditional slots, videos, progressives, and the best video poker games available. With over 400 games on hand, visitors are sure to find what they like to play. 

Call 1-800-777-PLAY or visit 

Payson Golf Course is another experience Payson visitors can enjoy. Jim Dalgleish explains the ins and outs of the course. He describes it as a wide open course that is fun to play. The back nine is more challenging and restricted because there was less land to build on. While the course is long enough to be challenging, it is not overly difficult to reach the greens. There is only one water hole on the course.   

Dalgleish says every hole is different with some being easy and others very difficult. All in all, he says it is a wonderful course to play. The back nine has great scenery, the course is well maintained and come summer it will be an even better place to play. 

The Payson Golf Course is enjoyed by men and women who like to play the game of golf.

The weather is great, the course is friendly and it is not an expensive course to play. 

Go to or call 1-928-474-2273 

It seems like Arizona Weekend Explorer and JR made their point – Payson does have something for everyone. 

Watch more Arizona Weekend Explorer original video content.

City of Payson:

- Zane Grey Cabin & Rim Country Museum 

- Payson Golf Course

- World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo

- Mazatzal Hotel and Casino

- Tonto Natural Bridge and State Park