“The Heart of Arizona”, Payson is a town where nature wonder and family adventure go hand in hand. Surrounded by the breathtaking Tonto National Forest, this charming town has tons of things to do with kids.
Explore the fascinating History Museums, showing off your bowling skills at Rim Country Lanes and an authentic ranch experience at Farms & Ranches in the area.
You can also enjoy kids activities like hunting, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, camping in Payson area. As Traveling with kids needs an exciting travel itinerary, read on to experience the best Things To Do In Payson With Kids!
15 Best Things To Do In Payson With Kids 2024
1. Visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge is located near Payson, Arizona. It is the biggest natural bridge in the world that you must show your kids! You can either hike to it or just drive through the bridge.
It took thousands of years for to built this bridge. Its about 150 feet wide. If you go upstream, you’ll see springs and fern-draped grottoes line the narrow canyon.
There are four different points where you can stand on top of the bridge and see everything around you. You can also go through the tunnel that runs right through the middle of the bridge!
You can explore all those travertine rocks inside. And if your kids are into hiking, there are four trails that take you down into Pine creek.
2. Spend a Day at the Green Valley Park
If you’re traveling with kids Green Valley Park in Payson is the spot to let loose and have fun. It’s also a great pit stop during road trips to burn off some energy. They’ve got a playground for toddlers and a lake.
Green Valley Park is actually a project between the Northern Gila County Sanitary District and the Town of Payson, aimed at recycling water.
This award-winning park helps replenish the town’s water supply by letting treated water seep into the ground through the lake bottoms.
3. Fun Day Trip at the Payson Pioneer Village
Tours & Things to do hand-picked by our insiders
I don’t know why I didn’t show up on a horse, but I definitely should have. This place screams cowboys, authenticity, and western movies in every aspect and atmosphere.
The place is huge and packed with antiques, western jewelry, furniture, and pretty much every weapon I ever wanted as a kid. Every time I am in Payson, this spot is a definite must-visit. Just remember to bring cash along with you and maybe even ride in on a horse if possible.
But let me warn you: once you step foot inside, there’s no way you’re leaving without buying multiple things- I guarantee it!
4. Horseback Riding at the Ranches in the Az
Horse back riding is one of the best things to do in Payson with kids. We had an absolute blast exploring the forest on horseback. The trail rides were so much fun!
You can have some adventurous rides if you are a thrill seeker. And if you’re looking to learn how to ride, they have daily horse riding lessons available on-site too.
I personally recommend Kolh’s Ranch. It is such a beautiful and secluded place. The little brooks are so peaceful, and the grounds are just stunning. The horse riding experience was absolutely fantastic. The horses here are quiet and well-behaved.
The rides usually last about an hour and twenty minutes, which is just perfect. We were taken up the mountain through this amazing trail that winds through lush woods.
Once we reached the top, we were awe-struck by the majestic ancient trees that looked like they’ve been there since forever!
It’s seriously a paradise for photo enthusiasts because from up there, you can see the rim and all the magnificent mountaintops.
Trust me you’ll capture some breathtaking shots! You might also spot deer, elk, squirrels, and birds along the way.
5. Head to Payson’s Rim Country Museum
Heading to Payson Rim Country museum in Payson is like the most fun thing around here. It arranges exhibits that show you what life was like for the native folks, pioneers, and how they used all the resources from this area.
The best parts are a fake blacksmith shop and you can even go inside Zane Grey’s cabin that got burned down in a fire back in 1990, but they rebuilt it just perfect! Take a guided tour to the museum and cabin.
6. Take a Scenic Drive Along the Mogollon Rim Road
Arizona has a ton of beautiful sights to see, but it doesn’t have a coastline unless you count the lakes, streams, and Colorado River on its western border.
My advice is to get out of your car during this 38-mile scenic drive on the Mogollon Rim and close your eyes, you’ll feel like being at a tropical beach with the wind rushing through the trees sounding just like waves crashing.
But of course, it’s not an actual beach it’s just a rocky back road and some of those rocks are pretty sharp. That’s why it’s recommended to bring along a four-wheel-drive vehicle and take things slow and steady.
The breathtaking views from the top of the Mogollon Rim definitely make up for any extra time it may take to get there.
7. Go Kayaking on the Willow Springs
Willow Springs Lake was made in 1966 by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as a lake for catching trout. The lake is located in the tall pine trees at an elevation of 7,600 feet.
Willow Springs Lake covers an area of 150 acres and regularly gets stocked with trout from Spring to Fall. You’re allowed to bring boats with motors up to 10 horsepower to this lake.
There’s no charge for using it during the day or launching your boat. Just make sure you have an Arizona State fishing license if you plan on fishing here.
If you have your own kayak, then Willow Springs Lake should definitely be on your list. It’s completely inside the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, so there are lots of beautiful sights and unique experiences all around its perimeter because of its size and hooked shape.
8. Enjoy a Splash at Payson Water Wheel Falls
Water Wheel Falls is a refreshing oasis and a popular attraction for swimming during the summer near Payson, Az.
You’ll see pretty much everyone heads straight to the falls, but if you’re up for some adventurous exploring, you can explore more waterfalls and swimming areas that aren’t so packed with people.
It’s a super fun experience to take a dip into that cold refreshing water. The water will leave you feel amazing in no time.
But you have to be very careful! We’ve been brave enough to jump off the falls before, but it’s definitely not for the faint-heart. You have to be ready for a big jump to reach the deep water below. Keep in mind, there are some hidden rocks under there too. So just be cautious and take it easy.
The hiking trail next to the Verde River and Ellison Creek is short but real scenic and perfect for kiddos too!
9. Explore the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery
Located amidst the Tonto National Forest is Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery. It’s the perfect place to escape from Arizona’s scorching summer heat!
At Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, there are tons of trout just waiting to be caught. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of them!
The area around the hatchery is also a great place for kids to learn and family outings, especially with its amazing wetland area.
You can pack a picnic, grab your camera, and spend a fun-filled day at this awesome getaway.
While there you can take your kids to their museum for some interesting history .
If you’re eager to go trout fishing, head over to Tonto Creek or visit Tonto Fishing web page for all the details.
10. Visit the Peteetneet Museum
The Peteetneet Museum and Cultural Arts Center is run by People Preserving Peteetneet. It’s a non-profit organization. This local museum focuses on history and culture.
Inside, there are twelve different areas to explore, an old schoolroom, a Victorian house display, and even rooms dedicated to fashion throughout the years. They have a Western room and a blacksmith shop.
You can also check the Daniels Historic Photograph Collection or learn about freedom in the Freedom Room. If you’re into writing, they’ve got the Austin Henry Historical Writing Collection too!
The museum has its very own art collection that you can admire anytime you visit. The Art Gallery often has new exhibits come around every couple of months. There is also a large outdoor amphitheater located on the grounds.
11. Take a Family Hike on the Horton Creek
Horton Creek is a 13.8-km trail near Payson, Arizona! It’s known to be quite challenging, and on average. The hike takes about 5 hours and 2 minutes to finish.
Lots of people love backpacking, camping with kids, and hiking in this area. So don’t be surprised if you bump into some fellow adventurers along the way.
The trail follows Horton Creek with its beautiful waterfalls and goes through stunning pine forests. If you’re planning a trip here, I’d suggest April through October. Those are the best times to visit. Also if you’re traveling with dogs, feel free to bring them too, just make sure they’re on a leash!
12. Visit the Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is a natural phenomenon which is now used as a observation point. It’s picturesque place, so make sure you bring your camera!
There are a bunch of easy sandy trails that you can hike with your kids even todlers. Some trails will take you to the mountains close by.
Just be aware that there are some areas with big rocks, so get ready to do some jumping around. The whole area is fenced off with railings to keep everyone safe.
13. Go Bowling at Rim Country Lanes
To spend a fun filled day with kids in Payson, go bowling at Rim Country Lanes. It’s the perfect place to have a blast with friends or family.
I expected a small town bowling alley but this bowling place offers 16 top-notch lanes for all level of bowlers. The staffs are friendly and are ready to help you with your needs.
14. Go Camping at the Houston Mesa Campground
Houston Mesa Campground is in the forested part of Tonto National Forest, not far from Payson, Arizona. It’s a great spot for horse lovers because there are corrals and lots of shade.
Equestrians really enjoy camping here with their gentle horses and mules. You’ll find plenty of hiking and horse riding trails nearby to explore.
If you’re with your family, they have designated campsites and picnic area, fire rings, and grills where you can all hang out together.
15. Attend the Annual Payson Wildlife Fair
The yearly Payson Wildlife Fair is a festival put together by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Mogollon Sporting Association, U.S. Forest Service, and Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
Your kids and you will have a blast joining it. It’s got plenty of activities to do for people of all ages.
You can go fishing, kayaking, try out archery, get a close look at Arizona wildlife, and kids even get their passports stamped as they learn about wildlife throughout the day! It’s a super fun time with loads of educational experiences and activities.