If your family is serious about hiking, or if you’re newbies just looking for a cost-effective summer fun idea, we’ve got you covered with different hiking trails all within Payson, but the rest of the day trip itinerary stays the same.
I grew up going to Payson every summer with my family (more about repeat vacations here), and I’ve taken my son there at least quarterly since he was itty bitty, giving us plenty of inspiration to put together this day trip itinerary great for littles to tweens.
If you’re looking to stay in Payson longer than a day trip, be sure to read our guide for best places to stay in Payson, from hotels to campsites.
Payson is a quick 60-90 minute drive, depending on where in the East Valley you’re coming from, but it goes fast and is a relatively easy drive, too. (Here’s our best road trip hacks, even for short drives).
Since it’s so short, you can absolutely have a leisurely drive up after breakfast and still have a full day of adventure before arriving home before bedtime.
Green Valley Lake is in the heart of town so you don’t have to waste time going out of your way to find a park to get initial car wiggles out.
Green Valley Park is a 43-acre park, coined as the “Jewel of Payson”. Located at the end of Historic Main Street, this park consists of 3 lakes, a playground, picnic ramadas, amphitheater, vast open space, and serves as the location of the Rim Country Historical Museum and Zane Grey Cabin.
(This is where the town hosts their annual July 4th festivals and other major holiday parties, so it does get busy on big weekends.)
Stop: 2: Payson Farmer’s Market
If you go on a Saturday, be sure to stop by the Payson Farmer’s Market for vendors that you won’t find at Valley markets. Last time we were there we picked up enough gems to skip our grocery order for the week. (Maverick also lost one of his cowboy boots for the better part of an hour while we shopped and couldn’t find it until the very end…)
Stop 3: lunch at Macky’s Grill
In the same parking lot as the farmer’s market is one of our favorite Payson local restaurants: Macky’s Grill!
Great kids menu, dog-friendly patio, from scratch kitchen and beers on tap for parents makes it a spot we usually stop by when we’re in Payson.
Stop 4: Hike
If you haven’t been to the Tonto Natural Bridge, that’s your first trail to tackle! Perfect for families of every ability because they have paved walking paths with overlooks to full hiking trails, it meets your family where you need it to.
Other favorite trails in in the area:
- See Canyon Trail is rated as difficult. However, if you are only going a couple miles (like us, with toddlers who can’t go very far) the first couple miles are pretty easy. It is absolutely beautiful hiking along a river. Almost the whole trail is completely shaded making it an even greater escape from the heat.
- Round Valley Trail or Monument Peak are both easy, flat trails. Both are part of the new Payson Area Trail System, which is building a network of trails throughout the town. Here’s the full map.
This Arizona-based dairy store is a CAN’T MISS. (So don’t do this trip on a Sunday when they’re closed.)
Known for their Insta-worthy stack milkshakes that taste as good as they look, this will wow your kids and be the cherry on top to a fun day. (they offer them to-go, too)
Shakes are huge, so a few kids can absolutely share them. And, they are served old school with the extra in a metal mixing container that’s perfect for moms to finish off if you don’t want your own.
If your kids aren’t fans of milkshakes, they do have ice cream scoops and fresh waffles with all the toppings, too.