3H has had good luck with the Fall colors about this time in years past, and the weather is supposed to be just right. So, let's give it a go, and enjoy the colors of nature!
Trailhead: Upper Tonto Creek Campground
Length: Approximately 7 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate depending on ability (Elevation Gain: approx. 750 feet)
Trailhead facilities: Bathroom available
What to Bring: Hiking shoes, sunscreen, water, snacks/lunch, camera, maybe a jacket or other appropriate clothing for the elements (seasonally in the 60's to 70's at this time of year).
PLEASE NOTE: This will be a simple out and back hike to the Spring itself, and not the longer, more difficult loop hike. The idea here is to simply enjoy the colors as we traipse along the creek on the way down to our lunch spot near the Spring.
Trail Description: From the trailhead parking area, cross the road and walk up the road to the Campground. At the top of the hill, you will find the signed start of the Horton Creek Trail. From here, the trail drops quickly down to Horton Creek. Cross the creek and follow the very wide path along the creek. A short ways into the hike, take the left fork as it climbs up a rocky path and then through a gate. The trail pulls away from the creek, but the scenery is still very nice. The right fork takes you along the creek and several small campsites there. Both arms of the fork rejoin about 1.0 mile from the trailhead. The trail follows along the creek for the next two miles. Although rocky in some parts, the going is easy and the grade gentle. For the last half mile, the trail climbs steeply away from the creek. This part of the trail is very rocky. The trail ends at the Highline Trail #31. To reach the Spring, walk to your right on the Highline Trail about 300 feet. The spring runs year around.
This is a beautiful hike along the creek, with plenty of opportunities to check out the creek itself, down the many side trails along the way. As this is an out and back trail, we invite everyone to bring these notes, their cameras, their sense of adventure, and enjoy the route at your leisure. Although the ultimate goal is to reach the Spring itself, there are so many spots along the way to relax and soak in the vistas. Be assured, we will pick you up along the return trip if you don't make it to the turn around point!
Carpooling Location: Please meet up at 8:00 AM in the parking lot of the Target Center on the south side of Shea Blvd. in Fountain Hills, about a mile west of Highway 87 (Beeline). For those leaving their vehicles behind, please park up against the north curb away from Target. You should leave this area by 8:10 AM in order to make it to the trailhead on time. Please indicate your intentions of meeting at the carpool location or trailhead.
Directions to Trailhead: From Payson, drive East on SR 260 for about 16 miles. Between mile markers 268 and 269 (directly across from Kohl's Ranch), turn left onto Tonto Creek Rd. towards the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery. Approximately 1 mile up this road, look for the trailhead sign pictured above, and turn left there, and left, again, into the parking area. The trail begins across the road in the campground. Parking is limited, and this is a popular Fall colors destination. If the lot is full, please backtrack down the road, and park along Tonto Creek Rd.
As with all Saturday hikes, there will be a voluntary $1 donation to the club collected at the start of the hike.