Horton Creek Loop Trail

Payson, Arizona 85547

Horton Creek Loop Trail

Horton Creek Loop Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Lying under the steep ramparts of the Mogollon Rim, this loop ascends the Derrick Trail to reach the Highline National Recreation Trail, which it follows to Horton Creek, using the excellent Horton Creek Trail to return to the trailhead. Highlights include views of the Mogollon Rim and the beautiful walk down Horton Creek through fine ponderosa pine glades.

Walk into the campground and look for an unsigned trail heading uphill to the east. Follow this trail, which is an old road, 0.7 mile up the ridge to the junction with the Derrick Trail. Turn left on the Derrick Trail and continue the gentle climb east through mixed ponderosa pine and juniper forest. Another 1.4 miles brings you to the junction with the Highline Trail, on the steep slopes below the Mogollon Rim."

Horton Creek Loop Trail Reviews

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Nice, but made the mistake of doing this on Labor Day weekend...big mistake!
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Absolutely beautiful hike. Drive time, starting at 4 am (Country Club & Southern, Mesa), was approx 1 hr 35 min. Hike was completed in about 5 hrs 50 min. Probably would have made it in 5 but kept stopping for side trips, pictures, and of course, lots of resting. Temp at 6 am was predicted to be 57, hitting 83 by noon. Did learn the hard way that a clockwise direction is NOT the way to go. Go counter and get the more difficult Highline Tr over with - while you’re fresh, awake and ready to go. As a reward, heading back on the Horton Cr Tr you’ll have the sound of the creek accompanying you all the way. Heading out on Horton Cr Tr, it took us 2 hrs 5 min to reach the Highline junction. After hanging around here for a bit, we crossed the creek and continued on. The Highline got a bit murky and uncertain at times, so keep an eye out for metal diamond trail markers nailed to the trees. They were few & far between, however, so be careful and watchful. And beware the footing! 2 hrs 5 min after beginning the Highline portion, we came across a real marker. A wooden sign pointing uphill, marking a ¾ mi jaunt to Promontory Butte. We had enough climbing for the day and said “no thanks”, continuing southward, looking forward to a good hearty meal. 30 min later another wooden sign appeared noting Derrick Tr, Kohl’s Ranch & Highline. 45 min past that we reached yet another wooden sign, this one noting Derrick, Highline, and the Upper Tonto campground. Keep walking and 15 min later you’ll reach the junction for Derrick Tr. Turn right (west) and you’re minutes away from your car and a well-deserved breakfast or lunch – or both! The parking lot was full by the time we got back. Cars were lined up along the rd and one was parked cattywompous, preventing two other vehicles from being able to leave. I can’t wait to do this hike again, next time counterclockwise and maybe in the fall, to see the colors changing. Definitely a do-over.
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This trail is fun and relativly easy to hike. I brought my 3 year old son along and carried all his gear for him. We also had my 5 year old son that was carrying a small backpack. Their little legs could only take them about 3 miles back but they had the times of their lives. The scenery is gorgeous surround by nature and a decent sized creek running along the trail. We ended up taking many detours to the creek and into the nerby woods just for fun. When we choose a site that had been used before we were close to the creek and surrounded by the woods. The only bad thing is I noticed alot of dead trees that have fallen and many trees dying from bark beetles so I was aware of where my kids were at all times to not play around dying trees they can tip or 100lb limbs can fall off and kill someone.

Horton Creek Loop Trail Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
1,600 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
5 hours
April through November
5,460 feet
Trailhead Elevation
6,850 feet
Top Elevation
Tonto National Forest, Payson Ranger District
Local Contacts
USGS Promontory Butte
Local Maps