East Verde River Trail

Just a few miles west of downtown Payson, this moderate trail winds through the Tonto National Forest and along the scenic East Verde River. Not long and not overly difficult, this is a great trail to hit to quickly get out of town.

Last Known Status: Open Trail type: Point-to-point Length: 16 miles one-way Approx. time: 1-3 hours Traffic: Moderate
Permit Needed: No Current Info: Tonto NF/Payson District (928-474-7900) Nearest City: Payson Elevation: 3382'-4850' Best Time: Spring-Fall

Where to go:

From Payson, head west on Main Street. Main Street becomes Country Club Dr. and turns to turn as it becomes Doll Baby Ranch Road. The road becomes pavement again and continues west for an additional 6 miles. The road becomes dirt again past Doll Baby Ranch at: 34.213496° -111.458092°.


Trail Description:

Continue southwest on the dirt road after Doll Baby Ranch Road ends. The trail continues west across a cattle guard and down a small hill. Stay left at 0.9 miles as the trail continues south past a private ranch. Make an important right turn at 1.7 miles to pick up East Verde River Trail. Straight ahead there is camping and staging.

Continue north from Doll Baby Ranch Road across the East Verde River. Under normal conditions, the river crossing is only a few inches deep but that can change quickly when it is raining. At 2.2 miles, the trail continues to the left uphill where the trail gets rougher and looser. The trail levels off and passes through a narrow gate at 2.7 miles.

The trail continues a steady climb northwards. Stay right at 5.0 miles where F.R. 406 goes left. You will now be heading in a northeasterly direction. Stay right onto F.R. 209 where the trail forks again at 8.0 miles. Pass by the ruins of the Cracker Jack Mine off to the right at 8.8. Quick but intense downhill section comes right after the mine. Pass through interesting large granite boulders on either side of the trail at 10.6 miles.

For the next couple of miles, the trail follows the scenic valley of the East Verde River before dropping to cross it at 12.7 miles. Here, there is a concrete ford, although it should not be attempted when there has been a lot of rain. Past the river crossing, the road becomes wider and more traveled. It splits from the East Verde River and follows Ash Creek all the way back to Highway 87. There are several shallow water crossings in Ash Creek as well as great campsites. The trail ends at Highway 87 at 15.7 miles. To the right is Payson, to the left, Pine, Strawberry and other trails.

Notes & Trail Ratings:

This trail is relatively short at under 16 miles. Allow for 1-3 hours to complete it depending on how often you stop. In terms of difficulty, this trail is moderate. Stock SUV’s with high clearance and 4WD should have no problems in dry weather. There are two sections of steep and loose hills which are the most challenging spots. We’ve rated this trail a ‘5’ out of ‘10’. If you’re looking for a nice drive close to Payson, this one is nice. Numerous dispersed camping sites and hiking in the Mazatzal Wilderness near the beginning of the trail can easily extend your trip. Consider exploring the numerous other trails along the Mogollon Rim while you are in the area.


Page last updated: 1/1/2019