Al is out of town this weekend, so I've taken up the gauntlet to find a hike. With a little help from my friends, I've chosen the Gordon Creek / Hunter Creek Trails just east of Payson.
This looks to be an easy hike that ends at a 25-foot waterfall and swimming hole. According to most sites, it is also pretty secluded. Although it may be a bit chilly for a jump in the water, feel free to bring a suit or water shoes, both for the end and for creek jumping along the way.
There are two options here: five miles for Hunter Creek or three miles for Gordon Creek. I'm guessing most of us will choose the first, but if you'd rather be more leisurely, the second will be for you.
Hunter Creek begins in a sun-dappled meadow with fruit trees abandoned by early settlers. The main attractions of this quiet destination include a terraced waterfall, several easy creek crossings, a spring that spills silky sheets of cool water down a 30-foot-tall cliff, and a shallow cave at trail’s end. Gordon Creek, a more rugged route, starts on old dirt roads leading to the creek.
Once at the water, the trail uses the creek bed and informal footpaths on the banks to bring hikers to a rocky flume, where the going gets more difficult. Walls of jumbled stone converge on the waterway, creating a half-mile scramble among boulders and debris to reach a pine-ringed chasm, where a 25-foot-tall waterfall puts on its best show after monsoon rains.
Length: 5 miles round trip (Hunter Creek) or 3 miles round trip (Gordon Creek)
Elevation: 6,100-6,160 feet (Hunter Creek) or 6,020-6,260 feet (Gordon Creek)
Dogs: Yes, on leash
Kids: Yes, maybe on leash
Distance from Phoenix: 125 miles one way (2 hours)
Directions: Hunter Creek: Take the Beeline Hwy (SR 87) to Payson. From the SR 87/260 intersection in Payson, go 25 miles east (right) on Highway 260 to Colcord Road (Forest Road 291) near milepost 277. Turn right on Colcord, continue 0.3 miles and park on an unmarked, primitive dirt road on the right where there’s a barbed-wire gate visible roughly 40 yards farther up the road.
Gordon Creek: From the Hunter Creek parking area, drive 1 mile farther down Colcord Road and park in a turnout near a green gate on the right just south of some power lines. To get to the falls, hike down the road a few yards to a road that’s (sometimes) blocked with a “road closed” sign. Shimmy under the fence (it’s legal) and hike down the dirt road. Pass through a gate and go left at the crossroads. At the second fork, go right. Turn left at the third junction and continue to the creek. From here, go right and follow the creek to the falls.
Following the hike, we will reconvene at Macky's Grill for post-hike refreshments. It is located at 201 W Main St, Payson, in the Sawmill Theatre Shopping Center. It is dog friendly and has a large menu.