City Creek blossoms just west of town

Payson Roundup (April 27, 2020) by Alexis Bechman

Searching for a new spot to hike recently led to a wonderful discovery west of Payson.

With many developed trailheads closed and looking for something outside the popular Payson Area Trail System (PATS), we set off down Main Street to the City Creek trailhead, near the Doll Baby Ranch.

While I have lived in Payson for 11 years, and driven by the City Creek trailhead a handful of times, I have never ventured out on the trail, which I assumed was too rugged and difficult.

After parking at the well marked City Creek trailhead, we crossed the road and headed south a short distance to an opening in the fence line, which marks the entrance. There is a large, yellow sign at the entrance warning that the area was damaged by a wildfire and to be aware of loose rocks, falling trees and flash floods (If you look on the back of this sign, there is an Arizona Trail sticker).

We continued to City Creek, which this time of year is flowing. After bolder hopping across the creek, we followed a narrow trail up along the side of the ridge. The trail gradually climbs. And climbs. Flowers quickly distracted me from the elevation change. There were clusters of yellow ragwort, pale purple thistles, white flowers that looked like daises, paper-thin white buds on mariposa lilies and grape colored wild hyacinths. I stopped every dozen feet or so to capture a new flower on my camera.

When I wasn’t looking down at flowers, the stupendous views slowed my progress.

Luckily, I wasn’t tripping over rocks as the narrow trail is well maintained.

The Mazatzal Divide Trail continues about 5.75 miles where it intersects with the Arizona Trail. We knew we didn’t have the daylight or the stamina to reach the Arizona Trail, so we settled on hiking two miles and turning around.

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