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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Payson fall color update: October 27, 2012


HORTON CREEK TRAIL # 285
Payson
Maple color below Horton Spring: Oct. 27, 2012

Fall color along the Horton Creek: Oct 27, 2012
I know, I know, we've all hiked this trail a million times, and yet, (unbelievably) I have never visited it during fall foliage season.  This gaping hole in my hiking repertoire was rectified today.  Issuing from a spring that gushes from a jumble of moss-embellished stone at the base of the Mogollon Rim, Horton Creek spills downhill through a mix of scrublands and deep coniferous-deciduous woodlands.  Fall color flaunts its best where trail #285 parallels the waterway.  Typically, in October, the creek is dry for the first mile or so, but then runs in cool, shallow cascades for the remainder of the hike.  Today, we were delighted by a rich display of mustard-colored boxelders, blaze-red maples and tawny orange sycamores.  Although peak color is days away for the lower trail, the high portion of the route is near prime right now.
Arizona sycamores along trail #285
The foliage is especially vivid near a series of tiny cataracts along the second and third mile  which are accessible via numerous spur paths leading to the stream where color bearing trees and shrubs dangle over liquid riffles mirroring  the warm palette in churning watercolor whorls. Don't skimp---explore along creek because in another week or so, the color show will be done for another year.
LENGTH: 8 miles roundtrip (to Horton Spring and back)
RATING: moderate---rocky grade, loose footing
ELEVATION:  5,360' - 6,420'
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 105 miles
TRAILHEAD FACILITIES: restroom
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, travel north on AZ87 (Beeline Hwy) to the intersection with AZ 260 in Payson.   Head east (go right) on AZ260 and continue 17 miles to Tonto Creek Road (a.k.a. Fish Hatchery Road and FR 289) on the left near milepost 268.  Follow FR 289 1 mile, cross the creek bridge and park in the Horton Picnic Site lot to the left.  Roads are paved all the way.  To find the trailhead, hike back down the road, cross the bridge and turn left onto a dirt road, hike the road a few yards to the sign for trail #285.
Cataracts on Horton Creek

FEES:  none for day hiking.
INFO:  Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 928-474-7900

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