Houston Mesa

Payson, Arizona

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Overview

Houston Mesa Campground is located in the forested northern section of Tonto National Forest, just one mile north of Payson, Arizona and less than two hours from Phoenix.

With family, equestrian and tent-only campsites, this campground can accommodate a range of visitors and offers plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors, including several miles of hiking and horseback riding trails nearby.

As the fifth largest forest in the United States, the Tonto National Forest is one of the most-visited "urban" forests in the United States (approximately 5.8 million visitors annually). Its boundaries are Phoenix to the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east.

Recreation

Many visitors come to Houston Mesa to horseback ride, hike, camp and picnic. Houston Mesa Loop Trail is a 9-mile round trip through a pinyon and juniper woodland and can be accessed from the horse camping area. The Houston Mesa Interpretive Trail is a 0.5-mile self-guided trail.

Facilities

Houston Mesa has 74 campsites, including 29 equestrian sites for campers with horses or mules, and 17 tent-only sites for those who want a quieter experience. There are several amenities to make campers feel at home, including showers (coin-operated) and flush toilets. All of the sites are accessible.

The horse camping section (Mule Deer Loop) is across the street from the main campground and features 29 individual sites with tables and grills. Corrals are also available. Campers who reserve these sites must have horses or mules. 

Natural Features

The campground is located at an elevation of 5,200 ft. in a mixed forest and shrub area, with spacious campsites offering both sun and shade. Winters are pleasant and cool with cold nighttime temperatures, while summers are warm and sunny, providing a nice getaway from the hotter deserts around Phoenix. Hawks, eagles, javelina, deer, fox, skunk and coyote live in the area.

Nearby Attractions

Campers who make the quick trip to the town of Payson, one mile south, will find restaurants, shopping and other conveniences.

Scenic driving and outdoor recreation abound in the surrounding Tonto National Forest, which embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim.

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Adventures Nearby

  • Hike to Water Wheel & Ellison Creek Cascades

    A short and easy out and back hike for adventurers of all ages with scenic waterfalls along the entire trip!Starting at the Water Wheel day use area you will simply follow the well traveled path that meanders alongside the creek. You will reach th...

    1.8 miles 105 ft gain

  • Hike the Pine Creek Loop in Tonto Natural Bridge SP

    There is a fee to enter this area. It was $7 when we went. There are 4 trails with many viewpoints from the parking lot, all of which are out and back. We followed the recommendation of the ranger working at the visitor's center and took the Gowan...

    1.8 miles 300 ft gain

  • Hike the Colonel Devin Trail

    The hike will begin at Washington Park in Payson, Arizona. To reach Washington Park, take AZ87 to Forest Road 199 (Houston Mesa Road) and turn east. Continue for 10 miles until you reach Forest Road 64 and turn west. Traveling less than a mile you...

    4 miles 1116 ft gain