Surrounded by natural beauty, the rugged ranching and cowboy spirit that founded Payson is still alive in this community’s commitment to adventure. The town has even christened May “Adventure Payson Month” to show how seriously they take exploring life to the fullest. Recreational activities abound, from hiking right out of town or on the nearby Arizona Trail to mountain biking, fishing, and camping.
Rich in history and tradition, Payson prides itself on being home to the world's oldest continuous rodeo, where Western heritage is lived and earned. Visitors can experience the area’s historic roots at cultural attractions like the Zane Grey Museum and the Shoofly Village Ruin, a Native American archaeological site that dates back a thousand years. And look no further for local parks you won’t soon forget, like Green Valley Park, where arts and culture, history, events, and outdoor recreation intersect in one beautiful setting.
With so many options for adventure, Payson is the place to rest and rejuvenate, too. You’ll experience a peaceful sense of tranquility in the cool breezes that you can hear rustling through the world’s tallest stand of ponderosa pines. Local residents welcome you to come as you are, stay awhile, and leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
How To Use
Use this interactive itinerary to build your trip! Each category recommends a number of stops to help you get the fullest experience during your visit. Simply hover over any photo for a brief description then click the circle to add a listing to your itinerary (click again to remove it). Once you've completed your itinerary, enter your email address and click submit to have it delivered straight to your inbox. Happy traveling!
Arts & Culture (Recommended up to 2)
The climate and natural beauty of Payson, along with its small town feel and western heritage, make it a haven for events of all kinds. During most weekends, you can find a concert or farmers market to explore. Year-round you can find an event tailored to your interests. Whether you like getting rowdy at a rodeo, bike racing through pine trees, or meeting your favorite authors, you’ll find your people in Payson.
Bring your family, friends, and lawn chairs down to Green Valley Park to enjoy this fun summer tradition of music on the grass. Join locals and visitors alike for this free concert series Saturdays in June and July from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m..
First celebrated in 2005, this event has grown significantly and become a favorite of Southwestern and Canadian quilters. Enter your own work, or come to browse what others have created and check out a demo of this traditional, but still contemporary, craft. Keep an eye out for quilters’ retreats and other celebrations of this time-honored craft that happen throughout the year.
Browse a rotating selection of food, art, and other locally made goods on November 1st and December 6th, 2022 at this event styled after a European Christmas market. Take home handmade holiday gifts for friends and family and locally made food for dinner.
Spend your summer time Saturday mornings at this farmers and artisan market with 50 vendors. Find fresh, local, organic produce, and enjoy live entertainment and activities for kids.
Take a walk around town to find several colorful murals painted by local artists and students. Take Instagram-worthy photos and share with the hashtag #adventurepayson.
This annual car show features a variety of activities for car enthusiasts, including a cruise around town, food, and entertainment. Register your car, or just come to browse, eat, and dance!
This family owned and operated floral shop offers stunning arrangements. Their store also features various candles, gifts, and home decor pieces as well.
Stopping by the Candle Factory in the Swiss Village is a must! You'll find unique, handcrafted candles that have been making Payson bright since 1979!
Visit Christian Gifts and Home Decor to find faith filled books, gifts, and more! Browse meaningful souvenirs that you'll keep in your home for years.
Be sure to check out Westwood in the Swiss Village. Grab a picture frame to commemorate your trip or shop unique and handcrafted woodworking pieces. Either way, you'll be able to see why they describe this store as "where art meets wood"!
Serendipity is defined as the phenomenon of finding happiness not sought for. That's exactly what you'll feel as you walk through this unique boutique! From handcrafted items, art, home decor, and more, you'll find plenty of items you didn't know you needed!
Those looking to add unique pieces to their closet and jewelry collection should stop by Consign Your Design. With a rows and rows of clothes and accessories, designer items, and even some lotions and potions, you're sure to find some quality pieces at great prices!
History, Heritage, & Tradition (Recommended up to 4)
The town we now call Payson has a long history dating back all the way to 300 B.C. with the original inhabitants of Arizona's Rim Country, the Mogollons. Today, you can still see the remnants of the tribe's dwellings at the Shoofly Village Ruin. Whether you're hoping to hear the best stories in the west or enjoy the world's oldest continuous rodeo, you'll be able to experience the rich history and traditions that make Payson what it is today.
Planning your trip around 4th of July? This hometown celebration offers traditional games and activities all day, blending nostalgic Americana fun with the spirit of a ‘Wild West’ Arizona community. At night, fireworks light up the sky over the expansive Green Valley Park.
Dating back to 1882, this cemetery is a special piece of history where many pioneering families were laid to rest. If you’ve been tracking your own family’s genealogy and want to see if an ancestor could have been buried here, you can explore findagrave.com online. If you do visit, please be respectful and treat it like the resting place it is for loved ones and friends.
Those who love history and literature will want to stop by Rim Country Museum for “The Best Stories in the West.” Explore the area’s rich heritage at this charming museum and gift shop, which celebrates the life and writing of legendary author Zane Grey. Tours of his cabin are guided and scheduled, while you can explore the museum on your own.
Get a taste of Western heritage by visiting Payson’s famous rodeos! If you’re visiting in May you can plan your trip to make the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo. In August, you can plan to visit the Payson Pro Rodeo, the world’s oldest continuous rodeo!
Catch a movie and experience history! You can actually hear this history, with sawmill whistles going off at eight, noon, and five o’clock. These sounds used to signal breaks to the sawmill workers that were the backbone of the town of Payson.
Step into the ancient past and discover the wonder and innovation of the indigenous peoples of the region. This site, believed to have been occupied A.D. 1000-1250, was a village that had a massive stone wall and dozens of rooms.
A trip to Payson wouldn't be complete without stopping by Pioneer Park! This park on Main Street offers and amphitheater, historic displays, and covered walkways.
Hashknife is the longest continuous pony express in the country, running for over 64 years! Plan your Payson trip accordingly to make this event typically happening in February.
Have any questions or can't decide what to do first? Stop by Payson's Visitor Center to meet friendly faces that will help you make the most of your Payson trip!
Wine & Dine (Recommended up to 4)
Exploring all Payson has to offer is sure to make you hungry. This town offers a bite to eat for any craving you can name. Whether you're in the mood for delicious sushi, wood fired pizza, or a home cooked breakfast, these local restaurants have you covered for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything in between!
This lively country-themed bar and grill serves a huge selection of pub favorites. Choose from their extensive burger list, or opt for a steak dinner with a baked potato, cowboy beans, and Texas toast.
Enjoy exceptional coffee, tea, and freshly baked pastries at this warm, friendly spot with indoor and outdoor seating. Get something to go from their walk-up window, or hang out and enjoy the sense of community.
Stay at this all-suite hotel with mountain views and the friendliest staff, and try your luck with slot machines or table games. With three restaurants on site, find anything from fine dining to fast casual.
Indulge in the freshest shakes possible, made with milk from the Danzeisen family farm in Laveen, Ariz. Try other tasty treats, including soft-serve ice cream and waffles, and take home fresh milk stored in signature glass bottles.
The name doesn’t lie at this daytime cafe serving unique, fresh, and healthy sandwiches and salads. Build your own omelet for brunch or come for lunch and enjoy the favorite chicken panini or cran-apple salad.
Visit Duza’s kitchen for a modern breakfast or lunch with American and European influences. Go for traditional eggs and bacon or enjoy something more unique, like the steak chorizo and avocado sandwich or vegetarian breakfast bowl.
Indulge in fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine, including freshly made guacamole, carne asada, and street tacos. Save room for their delicious dessert menu, featuring churros, fried ice cream, and sopapillas.
Fargo’s serves classic and elevated dishes for lunch and dinner, with a focus on good friends and good times. Lunch includes refined sandwiches and wraps, while the dinner menu focuses on quality seafood and steaks.
K Sushi and Grill stocks the freshest ingredients to craft a variety of noodle bowls, sashimi, and rolls, including signature rolls for all 50 states. With a huge selection, including vegetarian options, there’s something for everyone.
Enjoy authentic Mexican food in an upbeat atmosphere with friendly service. Come for happy hour and try the margarita flight, featuring 5 mini margaritas. Food offerings include a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetarian options.
Hang out at this hot spot for amazing burgers, wings, sandwiches, and cold beer. Have dinner outside on their covered patio, and try a steak with their signature cornbread and honey butter. Finish with a piece of homemade carrot cake or pie.
This family-owned restaurant serves freshly cut Alaskan cod that’s hand-battered to order. Get both fish and shrimp with the signature combo, or try their other seafood options, including crab cakes, clam strips, and breaded oysters.
Visit this welcoming cafe for a classic American meal. For breakfast, try the popular pumpkin pecan pancakes or lobster omelet. For lunch, enjoy the fan favorite reuben or grilled cheese, and don’t forget to save room for a slice of pie!
Check out this unique Main Street spot where both the setting and the menu are steeped in Payson’s heritage. Come in for a burger or barbecue and enjoy a Saturday Rodeo Dance or Sunday Jam Session for live music, dancing, and drinks.
Find something for everyone to eat and drink at this creative concept combining house-smoked meats, delicious sides, and wood-fired pizzas. Check out their saloon menu for an extensive variety of alcoholic beverages.
The first and oldest restaurant in Payson, The Pinon Cafe is a local icon serving classic American favorites and Southern staples, including homemade biscuits and gravy, homemade meatloaf, and chicken and waffles.
Unique Shopping (Recommended up to 4)
With Payson's many options for shopping, make sure to leave room for all the souvenirs you'll want to bring home! Stop by Swiss Village for unique candles and homemade fudge, or ride around town and shop at the many antique shops for one-of-a-kind treasures.
Sometimes the basics are better! Back to Basics prides itself on providing healthy products for your body, mind, and soul. This family-owned store sells locally grown fruits and veggies, snacks, supplements, and even made-to-order smoothies!
Don’t let the name scare you away! Go big when you go antiquing and continue your hunt for the best of olden days with a stop at Big Bear Antiques. You’ll find home decor, dishware, jewelry, gems, and more that not even the owners can predict!
Arizona is known for its wild west charm. Stop by Bob’s Western Wear for hats, boots, and high-quality apparel. Your purchases here will not only help you blend into the local scene, especially around rodeo time, but let you leave town with wearable memories of your Payson adventure.
Formerly named “Old Granny’s Attic,” this shop restocks antique items daily. Explore the various home decor, glassware, vintage records, and more! Too excited to wait for your Payson trip? Shop online for locally made soaps and other special treasures.
Looking to commemorate your trip to Payson? Main Street Mercantile is a popular antique store located on historic main street. Stop here for vintage treasures, automobilia, and collectibles you won’t find anywhere else.
Pistol Annie’s is your go-to for unique purses, statement hats, and antique collectibles. The owner, Sherry, has been in the business for 20 years. Stop in to explore the shop’s wide selection of eclectic fashion essentials.
Pistol Annie's Boutique
If you’re exploring the outdoors in Payson, you’re going to need some gear! Stop by Rim Runners for apparel, shoes, and other hiking products to prepare for your Payson adventure. Going local vs. big retail for these items means your gear comes with insider tips and info to help you get the most out of your outdoor experience and that you’ll be supporting Payson’s community economy – making it a win-win!
Everyone needs a comfy quilt in their life. Whether you’re a novice looking for lessons or an expert seeking inspiration and supplies for your next project, the Copper Needle has you covered! (And if you’re new to this craft, just know you are likely in the presence of a quilting legend when you visit.)
From U Turn for Christ Thrift to Trinkets & Treasures, New Beginnings Nook and the Humane Society Resale Store and Vintage Boutique, a walk along Main Street will bring you to a variety of thrift and vintage stores to scratch your itch for “American picking” and browsing.
Thrift Stores on Main Street
Among the many local shops along the Beeline Highway, you’ll also find a southwestern gem called the Western Village. This antique store is packed full of yard art, stunning jewelry, collectibles, rocks, gems, and home decor.
All this souvenir shopping is sure to make you hungry! Ye Old Sweets & Uniques has the best of both worlds with sweet treats and one-of-a kind gifts. Shop homemade jams, decorated pies, vintage home decor, and plush animals.
There's a reason this spot is rated 5 stars! During your stroll through Swiss Village, be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with their wide variety of fresh, gourmet chocolates at Sweet Country Charm fudge.
Outdoor Sports & Recreation (Recommended up to 2)
This mountain town has always been laid back and mellow. Life seems to slow down in Payson, Ariz. Escape to an outdoor enthusiast’s dream to explore trails, play some golf, and enjoy the weather. Take heed though, the Town of Payson offers a few do’s and don’ts for tourists: Don't leave your trash; do leave it as you found it ... or better; don't be careless with cigarettes; and don’t have loose chains on trucks/trailers. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the “Three Amigos:” three bull elk who frequently roam the town.
Bring your fishing pole and your mindset to get hands-on with wildlife you may only typically see on the TV screen. Admission to this annual “carnival of wildlife” is free, and you can get up close and personal with wildlife like snakes, birds, and even alligators! No fishing license is required for fair attendees, and a fishing booth at the event lends equipment and bait free of charge.
Located in the same region as the Water Wheel Falls, you can explore the East Verde River area’s red rocks, rugged terrain, and beautiful views you won’t find anywhere else!
East Verde Park located at 610 W Eleanor Dr, Payson, AZ 85541 provides easy river access to a beautiful stretch of boulders, greenery, and the lovely sound of the water’s flow.
You can’t go wrong with golf courses in Payson. Chaparral Pines offers views of Ponderosa Pine trees, a 27,000 square foot clubhouse, and even a dog park! Be sure to check ahead of time to inquire about membership requirements.
Green Valley Park offers stunning views and activities like fishing and kayaking during the summer season. During the winter season, you may even catch a view of the official national bird of the U.S.: bald eagles. Enjoy the great outdoors at this amenity-packed park in Payson!
Just outside of Payson, you’ll find Hellsgate Wilderness. Don’t be fooled by the name, you’ll find peaceful scenery and have access to 13 trails. Be sure to check in advance to plan your trip!
Explore the wonders of the past by visiting Mogollon Rim. This is one of the most scenic views in Arizona. With plenty of activities from hiking to horseback riding, you can spend a whole day here!
Those looking for a peaceful, outdoor stroll or a challenge with rewarding views can find both in Payson! You can see all your options and map your route whether for walking, biking, or off-roading with the Payson Area Trails System map.
With 18 holes, events, and dining at the on-site Fairway’s restaurant, you’ll be fully entertained with this extensive golf course. You’ll also be surrounded by rolling hills and various wildlife like geese and elk. Be sure to check ahead of time to inquire about membership requirements.
The Rim Golf Club is another course with plenty of amenities, spectacular views, and quality golf, a fitness center, and a pool so you can get a full day's worth of activities. Be sure to check ahead of time to inquire about membership requirements.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park located near Payson is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts and people looking for photo opps. Explore hiking trails, feed the fish at the Tonto Fish Hatchery, or take in the historic charm at the Goodfellow Lodge.
Water Wheel Falls is a gem waiting to be explored! This is described as a simple hike with breathtaking views, but be sure to check beforehand for weather conditions and make proper preparations before embarking on your adventure.
Local Lodging (Recommended up to 2)
Payson has so much to offer, you won't be able to experience it all in one day! If you love the great outdoors, sleep under the stars at Payson campground or stay in a cozy cabin. For those who like the convenience and feel of a hotel stay, there are plenty of options for you in Rim Country.
In a mountain town like Payson, cabins are a must-stay to get the full experience. Be a guest at one of three luxury cabins on historic Main Street Payson. While you’re there, you may even catch elk or other wildlife wandering nearby.
Experience true peace while staying at Kohl’s Ranch Lodge, situated conveniently near the Mogollon Rim. The Mountain Lodge style and warm, welcoming atmosphere will make it feel like your home away from home.
Stay at this all-suite hotel with mountain views and the friendliest staff, and try your luck with slot machines or table games. With Cedar Ridge Restaurant and The Grille on site, find anything from fine dining to fast casual.
Spend a night under the stars at Payson campground! Whether you’re in a tent or an RV, you can connect to nature amongst pine trees, clean air and beautiful weather.
Voted “Best in The Rim” for hospitality, book the Majestic Mountain Inn for a cozy stay and access to a variety of amenities from a seasonal heated pool, laundry units, barbeque pits, and patios.