8 Water Spots in Payson, AZ

Payson, Arizona is the perfect spot for a day trip from Phoenix. Payson offers cooler temps, pine trees, and lots of water play spots to explore. While there are many great hiking, camping, and offroading places to head out to, these 8 water spots in Payson, AZ offer quick, easy parking AND easy water access.

8 Water Spots in Payson, AZ

  • Water Wheel Falls – To get to the actual falls is a bit of a hike over some big boulders (it is a fun hike if you like that sort of thing!) but if you’re just looking for a great spot for water play you can find several along this trail. Make sure to bring $10 cash or check for parking.
  • First, Second, and Third Crossing – These day use areas are right along the the East Verde River. They are generally less busy than Water Wheel and you have great river access. If you want to get away from the parking lot just walk along the river until you find a great spot. $10 for parking here as well. 
  • East Verde Picnic Area – Try this spot for a no fee parking area. As a bonus you get a gorgeous view of the canyon walls.
  • Flowing Springs Day Use Area – This spot has easy (free) parking right near the river with plenty of water access for a day of relaxing or exploring.
  • Horton Springs Parking Lot – Horton Creek is an absolutely gorgeous hike if you love hiking, but it’s also a great spot to relax by the water. I recommend at least walking a bit up the creek to find a spot away from other people or fishermen so that everyone can enjoy the creek! This lot does not require a fee.
  • Derrick Trailhead – Just down the road from the Horton Springs lot is this trailhead parking. It is also fee-free and gets you right on the water. If you had your heart set on Horton you can walk over, or you can enjoy the water from Tonto Creek here!

Tips for Exploring Water Spots in Payson, AZ

If you’re heading to Payson, Arizona to enjoy some outdoor water spots there are a few things I try to keep in mind.

  • Arrive early if you’re wanting to stay for a while. Especially during the summer and on the weekends.
  • Visit during the week if possible.
  • Expect storms to come through later in the day and don’t underestimate them. Flash floods can happen quickly and are extremely dangerous. There doesn’t need to be a storm right above you to cause one either. There was a flash flood in 2017 that sadly killed 10 family members at Water Wheel, the water is incredible but can be dangerous, just don’t ignore the weather!
  • The parking spots that require a fee don’t have an attendant so they won’t have change or take cards so make sure to have cash or a check on hand.
  • Bring lots of drinking water, sunscreen, etc.
  • Pack out what you pack in. While these spots may have trashcans, they can get full quickly on a busy weekend. Bring your own trash bags and plan to pack out ALL of your trash. If a chair or toy breaks, please pack it out with you as well.
  • All of these spots are on rivers which means you can walk back past the first spot you come to from the parking lot. If you can, walk and find a great spot for your group instead of just setting up the first place you see.
  • There are plenty of shops in Payson to stop for food if you want to bring a lunch.
  • Cell service will likely be sketchy at most of these spots so make sure to always tell someone where you’ll be.
8 water spots in Payson, AZ with photo of woman walking over small creek waterfall


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