You can choose from motels in town or secluded cabins in the surrounding forests. Make reservations for the weekend rush in summer, when you'll have to pay the highest prices. The summer rates listed here will come down in winter.
$50-100: Options south of the highway junction include the Holiday Inn Express (206 S. Beeline Hwy., 928/472-7484 or 800/465-4329, $70 d weekdays, $90 d Fri.-Sat. and up) with a pool and hot tub, Budget Inn & Suites (302 S. Beeline Hwy., 928/474-2201 or 800/474-2201, $44-189 d) with fireplaces and hot tubs in some rooms, Best Value Inn (811 S. Beeline Hwy., 928/474-2283 or 888/315-2378, $50 d weekdays, $80 d Fri.-Sat.), Motel 6 (101 W. Phoenix St. and S. Beeline Hwy., 928/474-4526 or 800/466-8356, $46 s, $52 d weekdays, $60 s, $66 d Fri.-Sat.), and Paysonglo Lodge (1005 S. Beeline Hwy., 928/474-2382 or 800/772-9766, $65-75 d ($80-92 Fri.-Sat.) including some fireplaces, a pool, and hot tub.
North of downtown, you can stay at the Best Western Payson Inn (801 N. Beeline Hwy., 866/334-7560, www.bestwesternpaysoninn.com/, $59-89 d weekdays, $79-149 d Fri.-Sat.), which offers fireplaces, pool, hot tub, and a two-bedroom apartment. The Majestic Mountain Inn (602 E. Hwy. 260, 928/474-0185 or 800/408-2442, www.majesticmountaininn.com, $65-99 d weekdays, $99-150 d Fri.-Sat.) has a pool and a choice of standard, deluxe (with a fireplace), and luxury rooms (fireplace and 2-person spa). The pueblo-styled Comfort Inn (809 E. Hwy. 260, 928/474-5241 or 800/888-9828, $49-89 d weekdays, $69-149 d Fri.-Sat. rooms, $89-149 d weekdays, $89-189 d suites) offers a pool and hot tub; suites include fireplaces and private hot tubs.
Kohl's Ranch Lodge (17 miles east of Payson, 928/478-4211 or 800/331-5645, $120-135 d studios, $140-150 d studio w/fireplace, $230-1,200 cabins w/fireplace) features an impressive A-frame lobby, restaurant, pool, exercise room, and riding stables beside Tonto Creek; most units include a kitchenette or kitchen and all of the cabins have a fireplace. Christopher Creek Lodge (23 miles east of Payson, 928/478-4300, www.christophercreeklodge.com) offers motel rooms at $43 d weekdays, $53 d Thurs.-Sat. and cabins with fireplaces for $90-106 d in the resort village of Christopher Creek. Nearby you'll find cabins with fireplaces at Creekside Cabins (928/478-4557, $60 d weekdays, $80 d Fri.-Sat.), a steakhouse, and Grey Hackle Lodge (928/478-4392, www.greyhacklelodge.com, $60-110 d). Mountain Meadows Cabins (928/478-4415, www.mountainmeadowscabins.com, $90-130 d) all have fireplaces and kitchens; some include a hot tub; head east from Christopher Creek on AZ 260, then turn two miles east down Colcord Road.
Forest Service Campgrounds
The Payson Ranger District office (928/474-7900) of the Tonto National Forest provides recreation information. Reservations for individual sites at Houston Mesa and the horse camp and for all of the district's group areas can be made with National Recreation Reservation Service (877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov).
Houston Mesa Campground, only 1.5 miles north of town, has water, coin showers, a half-mile interpretive trail, and a dump station for $15; take AZ 87 north, then turn right 0.2 mile on Houston Mesa Road; the main campground is on the left. Houston Mesa Horse Camp ($12) across the road is just for people with horses. Both campgrounds may close in winter. There are also two group reservation areas and a trailhead for Houston Mesa Trail nearby.
Ponderosa Campground, 12 miles east of Payson on the south side of AZ 260, is open year-round with water and a dump station for $12; there's a group campground across the highway. Upper Tonto Creek Campground, 15 miles east of Payson, then one mile north up Forest Road 289, is open with water and a $10 fee from mid-April to October. People also camp in undeveloped sites along Forest Road 289 between AZ 87 and the turnoff for Upper Tonto Creek Campground; all of these will be on your left; no water or fee, but there's a toilet; Horton Picnic Area has free day-use across the bridge just beyond the turnoff. Christopher Creek Campground, 19 miles east of Payson on the south side of AZ 260, provides water with a $12 fee from mid-April to October. Christopher Creek Picnic Area ($5) and a group reservation area are nearby. Sharp Creek Campground, 26 miles east of Payson on the south side of AZ 260, has water and a $15 fee from mid-April to October; tenters have a loop just for them; short trails lead to Sharp and Hunter Creeks, which attract wildlife but don't have enough water for fishing.
East Verde River Complex offers primitive camping in a series of recreation areas that begins about five miles in on Houston Mesa Road/Forest Road 199; none have water or fee. Flowing Springs Recreation Site, also part of the East Verde River Complex, is the only one with a toilet; head about five miles north of Payson on AZ 87, then turn right 0.8 mile on Forest Road 272. Many areas of the Tonto National Forest can be used for dispersed camping (no facilities or fee); for example, you can look for a spot off Control and Houston Mesa Roads below the Rim and off Forest Road 300 atop the Rim.
Commercial RV Parks
Payson Campground and RV Resort (808 E. Hwy. 260, 928/472-2267, $15 tent or RV no hookups, $25 RV w/hookups) has a hilltop setting one mile east from the highway junction; guests have a pool, recreation room, Internet access, showers, laundry, and a dump station. Oxbow Estates RV Park (3 miles south on the Beeline Highway, 928/474-2042, $19 tent, $23 RV w/hookups) offers Internet access, showers, laundry, and a dump station. Lamplighter RV Resort (3.5 miles east on AZ 260, 928/474-5048, $25 RV w/hookups) caters to seniors and has a rec. room, showers, and laundry.
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