Welcome to Payson!
It’s no surprise more than 7 million people live in Arizona, and several thousand more visit the Copper State each year. Not only do we have the marvelous Grand Canyon capping off our northwestern corner, but our unique geography also grants us access to some of the most beautiful natural areas of the region. Mountains, deserts, forests and rivers — if you love the outdoors, you’ll love Arizona. Every city and town from Coronado National Forest to the Navajo Nation Reservation offers a slice of Southwest paradise.
And the quaint town of Payson happens to be one of the best!
We’re glad you’ve decided to make your new home in Payson, and we know you’ll fall in love with our historical sites, gorgeous landscape and friendly residents. As your new neighbors, we’re here to provide you with a few helpful suggestions that will get you quickly acquainted with Arizona’s Cool Mountain Town.
5 Fun Facts About Payson
- Payson residents claim our town rests in one of the world’s three pure air ozone belts. Even though it may be a tall tale, the surrounding area’s breathtaking views have plenty of fresh, clean air.
- Our neighbors include three national forests — Tonto, Coconino and Sitegreaves. Differences in elevation make hiking through each of these forests a wonderfully unique experience. Tonto National Forest is the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world.
- Famed author Zane Grey brought national exposure to the town by writing about the Rim Country area in his novels.
- Once called Green Valley, the town was renamed Payson in honor of Illinois House of Representatives member Lewis Edwin Payson, who assisted the townspeople in acquiring a federal post office.
- Payson is also home to the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, an event that dates all the way back to 1884!
A Short History of Payson, AZ
The first step to becoming a local is to learn a little about the history of this Southwestern town. Payson is on the Mogollon Rim, a feature of our landscape that cuts its way across the state. Nestled between the Mazatzal and Sierra Ancha mountain ranges, Payson’s beautiful backdrop experiences all four seasons. Years before the town’s settlement, the Tonto Apache tribe called the area home. Today, more than 100 Tonto Apache members still live on the reservation.
James Callaghan and John Hise established Payson as a townsite called Green Valley in the 1880s. Later renamed Payson, this town became a hotspot for cowboys and ranchers, giving way to the popularity and longevity of our annual rodeos. Still, this small town was one of the most remote settlements in the West until the Beeline Highway was paved in the late 1950s. Over time, the town has grown into the home we love today that celebrates its roots at every opportunity.
Payson, AZ Restaurants
In this small town with a big appetite, Payson’s residents have a great selection of local eateries to choose from. Western fare, homestyle favorites and even diet-specific dishes are all on the menu at many of Payson’s fine restaurants. Here are a few local favorites.
- Macky’s Grill — Without question, this mouthwatering casual Western dining restaurant will soon become one of your favorite places in Payson. For years, Macky’s has been a staple of Payson. They consistently take home Best of Payson awards for their delicious grub and fantastic service. Rustle up an appetite and try their famous Cowboy Melt or Duke Burger with a side of Awesome Onion Straws. Be sure to save room for dessert — homemade milkshakes and pies are a must after every meal!
- Mogollon Moose Bakery — This bakery blends Arizona culture with a little Alaskan flair to create a cafe unlike any other in town. Everything on their menu is made from scratch daily. Mogollon Moose specializes in honest, healthy food, which includes plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Stop by for a panini with a side of soup for lunch, or drive by and grab a bowl of morning porridge, a crustless quiche muffin or a smoothie for a fast, fresh and fit breakfast.
- Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe — Back in 2000, Gerardo Moceri opened this family restaurant with one goal — to turn his Italian heritage into culinary feasts for the people of Payson. Nearly two decades later, Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe continues to serve unbelievable Italian cuisine. Will you order one of his hand-tossed brick oven pizzas, the Italian mac and cheese or the homemade beef lasagna? It’s a tough decision. Whether you’re looking for a crisp salad, zesty slice or just a sip of their wide selection of wines, Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe will leave you satisfied.
Museums in Payson, AZ
You’ll quickly notice the rich culture of our region and town is apparent anywhere you go. If you’d like to learn a little more about the history and happenings of Payson, we suggest you check out these three museums.
- Zane Grey Cabin & Museum — Shortly after falling in love with the area, Zane Grey built a cabin for hunting and writing. He sadly abandoned it eight years later, but his 28 works featuring Arizona themes have preserved his passion for the region. This museum is a crafted replica of the original structure, and contains artifacts from Grey’s cabin that had been rescued before the flames of the Dude Fire consumed it.
- Strawberry Schoolhouse — As the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona, this museum was once the site of a mystery. Back in the 1880s, the teacher’s supplies began to disappear. When no one confessed to stealing the items, the teacher left and the school closed down. Nearly a century later, as restoration of the building began, workers discovered these lost items in a pack rat’s nest. The Strawberry Schoolhouse is now open throughout the summer for visitors to tour. Thankfully, the clever rodents are no longer enrolled.
- Rim Country Museum — Conveniently located right next to the Zane Grey Museum is the Rim Country Museum. This historical landmark features displays that capture the culture and heritage of Payson throughout the years. Learn about the Tonto Apache, who were the first settlers in this area. Listen to the stories celebrating the many champions of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Other displays pay tribute to the old Payson way of life, which included mining, blacksmithing and sawmilling.
Of course, Payson has its share of indoor activities, but one of the top reasons our residents and visitors love this town is the miles of amazing scenery that surround it. Instead of spending an evening at the movies or an afternoon at the mall, we encourage you to get out and get moving! The Payson Area Trails System connects trails throughout the town. Lace up your boots and explore these hiking trails ranging from less than a mile to nearly four and a half miles long.
- American Gulch Trail
- Boulders Loop Trail
- Cypress Trail
- Event Center Trail
- Goat Camp Trail
- Houston Trail and Houston Loop
- Monument Peak Loop Trail
- Round Valley Trail
Once you’ve taken a stroll through these trails, it’s time to venture farther into the wild. There are more than 50 hiking and mountain biking trails in the Rim Country area. Some are relatively easy, while others are difficult for even experienced hikers. Find a friend, pack your necessary safety supplies and set a course for adventure! Be sure to add these natural landmarks to your excursion list as well:
- Mogollon Rim or “The Rim”
- Tonto Natural Bridge
- Hellsgate Wilderness
- Mazatzal Wilderness
- Granite Dells
Downtown Payson, AZ, is always bustling with shoppers. Between the merchants on Main Street and the vendors at Swiss Village Shops, Payson’s shopping scene has something for every style and taste. Art galleries like Artists of the Rim and Down the Street Art Gallery offer gorgeous handmade creations you can take home. For those who enjoy treasure hunting, we suggest seeking out Pine Country Antiques, The Carpenter’s Wife or any of the other antique stores in town.
- Payson Candle Factory — One of the best places to find a unique gift, the Payson Candle Factory has been drawing visitors from around the world for years. Open seven days a wick, the Payson Candle Factory has a vast selection of handcrafted candles and other items. You can even visit their production room, learn about the candle-making process and watch their next batch come to life.
- Payson Farmers’ Market — Start your Saturday morning off the right way with a trip to the Payson Farmers’ Market. Here, you’ll find a fantastic selection of fresh local organic produce, meats, baked goods and other delicious treats. All the food available here comes from within 100 miles of Payson, which means every purchase is guaranteed to give you a true taste of authentic Arizona food. The market also features live entertainment, contests, activities for children and other fun events.
- Payson Art League’s Fine Art and Craft Show — This yearly festival will give you an up-close-and-personal look at some of the most inspiring art pieces made by local creators. The Payson Art League’s annual event features raffle prizes, live music, food and the opportunity to observe artists create their work right before your eyes. Most importantly, this is an excellent chance to get a one-of-a-kind piece of Payson art to display in your new home.
Reliable Payson, AZ Medical Services
After you settle into your new home in Payson, the next item to check off of your to-do list is to find reliable health care providers. We suggest visiting these trusted physicians who have been caring for the citizens of Payson for decades.
- Anderson Dental Group — This full-service dental office is prepared to provide you and your family with exceptional oral health care. From routine cleanings and checkups to cosmetic, surgical and emergency procedures, these Payson dentists can care for mouths of all ages. Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Justin Church have decades of experience treating the families of Payson and are ready to send you home with a smile you can be proud of. The friendly staff at Anderson Dental will help you maintain proper oral hygiene for life.
- Banner Payson Medical Center — When it comes to high-quality health care, you can trust the dedicated physicians and staff at Banner Payson Medical Center. Using a patient-centered approach, they go to great lengths to cater to your unique needs. They offer an array of services, including family medicine, intensive care and home care, rehabilitation, emergency and women’s health services. Their facility uses the latest in medical technology for treatment, and features hotel-style amenities to keep you and your family as comfortable as possible.
- Gaia’s Hands Therapeutic Massage in Payson — Whether you’re on your feet working all night long or seated in front of an office computer all day, nearly anyone can benefit from a medical massage. Not only are they beneficial for the muscles, but massages can also be quite relaxing. The masseuse at Gaia’s Hands is a former medical massage practitioner who uses expert massage techniques to soothe your body and promote blood flow through your muscles. Choose one of their five massage services available — your body will thank you!
Things to Do With Kids in Payson
Kids will love living in Payson! Our safe town is essentially a giant backyard where they can play and explore everything nature has to offer. Grab the kids and head out into town for tons of family fun!
- Green Valley Park — The perfect spot for a family picnic, Green Valley Park is an award-winning park that has enjoyable activities for kids and adults. Three lakes and plenty of lush green space host many activities and events throughout the year. There are nearly four miles of walking paths and facilities for fishing and boating, as well as picnic and outdoor cooking facilities. Your children can run freely over 17 acres of grass while you enjoy peaceful relaxation in the warm Arizona sun.
- Payson Food Truck Festival — If our food suggestions above made your mouth water, get your bib ready for the Payson Food Truck Festival. This new annual fest — or should we say feast — invites residents and visitors alike to Green Valley Park. Along with more than 20 food trucks, the event features live music, a beer garden and a fun zone for kids. Admission is free, so bring the family, grab some lunch and enjoy an afternoon of food and fun!
- Payson Rodeos — If there’s one can’t-miss activity in Payson, it’s one of our many exciting rodeo shows! We’ve already mentioned the famed World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, but that isn’t the only show in town! Payson is pleased to host enough rodeo events each year to keep your kids entertained and immersed in this famed Payson tradition. Rodeos are a significant part of Payson history and culture — you can’t call yourself a resident of Payson without experiencing one first!
Get to Know Payson Today
Though this list features many of the highlights of our town, there are many other great things to do in Payson. Adults can enjoy playtime of their own at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino. Auto lovers will like the Beeline Cruise-In Car Show, sports fans will get pumped up during the ASU Sun Devil Football Pep Rally and everyone will love an evening spent at the Northern Gila County Fair. Don’t just take our word for it — go out and explore all the wonderful Payson activities our town has to offer!
Payson Dental office for more helpful suggestions on what to do in Payson, or to schedule an oral hygiene appointment.