Outdoor and Active

Day Trip From Tempe: Payson

My husband and I recently took a day trip to Payson with our two toddlers for a day of outdoor fun. And what fun we had! Pine trees, open spaces, funky restaurants and majestic mountains – just an hour and a half drive from Tempe. Being a small town, the Payson area is really easy to navigate, and everyone you meet is so nice. Not far from town are lots and lots of hiking trails. Casual relaxing trails to strenuous hiking adventures await visitors to this area. View our road trip on Google map to get a glimpse of the route we took, and how long our drive was from destination to destination.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so we started our day out Great Harvest Bread Co. with some morning treats. All of their bread and baked good are scratch made, with no chemicals, artificial preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. My daughter and I shared a cinnamon roll that was fresh from the oven, and my husband ordered one all for himself (smart man). It was Heaven for my taste buds. My son opted for the Morning Glory muffin – a bran muffin and carrot cake all in one. He ate the whole thing, and he’s only one year old, so that’s saying something.

Once our tummies were full, we hopped in the car to begin our drive. Our first destination was to the Tonto Natural Bridge, about twenty minutes beyond Payson. The road into the valley is beautiful and lush, surrounded by pine trees. Tonto Natural Bridge is a natural arch that is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the beauty of this geologic wonder. Since we had two small kiddos with us, we explored the top of the bridge and the four views points offering scenic views from every angle. With lots of room to run around and several picnic tables nearby, it’s a great spot for families to spend the day. The park is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, with the last entry at 4 p.m.

All that exploring made us realize how hungry we were, so lunch was next on the itinerary. We stopped into Pinon Cafe, a charming little spot near downtown Payson, for some delicious diner food. The service was great and the waitress brought over paper and crayons for the kiddos to keep busy. The menu offered comfort food dishes and a robust kids menu (always a bonus). Even though it was lunch time, I ordered a breakfast sandwich that was served on a homemade biscuit. Mouthwatering good is an understatement. My husband ordered a burger and finished every last bite. And the kids gobbled up their chicken strips. This is a great spot for casual and affordable breakfast or lunch with the family.

Our day continued with a visit to the Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin, located just steps from downtown Payson. We learned about the natural and cultural history of the greater Payson area, frequently referred to as the “Rim Country,” at the Rim Country Museum. Located next door is a historic replica of Zane Grey’s cabin (lost in 1990 during the Dude Fire). It was built in Green Valley Park in 2005 through the efforts of the non-profit Zane Grey Cabin Foundation. Admission prices are as follows: seniors (55+) are $4.00, adults are $5.00, students (12-18) are $3.00 and children under 12 are free. Museum hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday: 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

It was nearing late afternoon after our visits to the museums, so we decided to head back to Tempe (while the kids took a much needed nap). The hour and a half scenic drive back to town flew by and gave my husband and I a chance to relax and chat while the kids slept. Dinner was calling our names as we entered Tempe. RigaTony’s Authentic Italian Restaurant is located in south Tempe, and is perfect for families and hungry travelers. Offering delicious homemade Italian food, it fit the bill. The service was excellent and our kids had a great time while enjoying one of their favorites – spaghetti and meatballs. I ordered the lasagna, which was the best I’ve ever tasted (truly), and my husband ordered the house specialty, the RigaTony itself. Baked rigatoni with sausage, spices and oh so much cheese, you can’t go wrong with this dish.

We had a wonderful and relaxing day trip from Tempe in Payson. The kids had so much fun and have requested to do the day trip again soon. So, it looks like more hiking and eating are in my future. If you’re looking for a quick and and easy getaway to the mountains, consider Payson for your destination!

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