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Horton Creek Trail Professional Review and Guide
"This is a pleasant day hike along a trout stream. The trail follows an old logging road that parallels Horton Creek. The trail is within sight of the creek for the first 1.2 miles and no more than 300 yards away the rest of the way. After 3 miles, this trail joins the Highline Trail. Turn left onto the Highline and go another 0.5 mile to the large, beautiful Horton Spring, which gushes out the side of the mountain."
--Stewart Aitchison & Bruce Grubbs, Hiking Arizona (Falcon Guides).
This is a beautiful hike through a quiet forest to a gushing spring. The hike is better if you take the Derrick Trail out of the campground. It's a little past the Horton Creek Trail, which will be your return route. The Derrick and Highline trails trend up and are steep in some places, but the hills aren't really that strenuous. Spend some time resting by the spring before starting back, and explore the creek on the way down.
The Horton Creek Trail is around 17 miles east of Payson. Forest road(289) was well marked and easy to find from the 260 freeway. There is a place for parking located near the trailhead. I brought along my son's 6 and 3 on their first outdoor adventure. We did not hike the entire trail but only a couple miles. They had a great time. The trail was generally pretty flat and easy to follow. The creek runs near trail. You need to walk off the trail to actually see the creek for the first couple miles as far as I know. There are several small camsites near the creek and we made one of them ours. The creek is clear, beautiful and freezing. The whole area is surrouned with tall trees, mountains, wildlife, and fun. Attention though if you are camping becareful there are alot of dying and fallign trees. I saw hundreds of dead and fallen trees attributed to the bark beeatels. In my camp area there was a 600-700 lb tree near my tent. I moved the tent. then the next day I gave the giant a good shove and one good shove is all it took to bring it down so caution. Goes to show no matter how much you enjoy the outdoors it can be dangerous. This hike is highly recomended as an over nighter and just as much as a day hike. Bring plenty of water.
My wife & I hiked this trail on 11-04-2006. The trail marker sign said this trail was 4.0 miles one way and the head waters at Highland Ridge trail is only 400 yds from the intersection of these 2 trails. The trail is not marked very well, but it is easy to follow. There were arrows and cairns that someone had made on the trail to help at points that you were not sure which way to go. The trail follows the old fire road about 90% of the way. The further you get to the end, the rockier the trail becomes. You must make your way through several areas that are full of rocks about 6" to 24" in size.
Don't be discouraged by the lack of water at the trail head. You must follow the dry creek bed for about 1/2 mile before you find the Horton Creek. The creek is very pretty with clear water & several small water falls. There are several excellent camping sites along the entire stretch of this trail. With a camp ground at the beginning of the trail that is open seasonally.
One of the most popular trails in Arizona starts in heavily forested terrain. From the trail you can see small animals, the stream (which is underground for the first mile or so), the walls of the mountains around you and the breathtaking flora of the Mogollon Rim area. The trail itself splits into two sections: one is a historic wagon trail, wide and flat, that was used to bring supplies to the settlers who lived along the Highline Trail which intersects futher along; the other is the scenic trail along the creek that meanders along the flowing brook that Zane Grey used for inspiration. Rising only slightly during it's somtimes rocky progress the trail leads to a large open area at the mouth of Horton Spring, a continuously flowing water source. The open area is perfect for backpacking and is used often by boyscouts and other outdoor groups. There is plenty of open, flat camping areas along the trail also and you don't have to travel all the way in to enjoy the natural beauty of this trail.
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