About 5 miles north of town, off Ariz. 87 on Houston Mesa Road, you can visit the ruins of Shoofly Village, in the Tonto National Forest. This village was first occupied nearly 1,000 years ago by peoples related to the Hohokam and Salado. It once contained 79 rooms, though today only rock foundations remain. An interpretive trail helps bring the site to life.
To learn more about the history of the area, stop by the Rim Country Museum, 700 Green Valley Pkwy. (tel. 928/474-3483; www.rimcountrymuseums.com), which has displays on the region as well as a special Zane Grey exhibit and a reconstruction of the cabin Grey lived in during his time in the Payson area. The museum, located in Green Valley Park, is housed in the oldest forest ranger station and residence still standing in the Southwest. The museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children 12 to 18.
If you're feeling lucky, spend some time and money at the Mazatzal Casino (tel. 800/777-7529 or 928/474-6044; www.777play.com), half a mile south on Ariz. 87. The casino is run by the Tonto Apaches.
Tonto National Bridge State Park.
The area's most popular attraction is Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, 10 miles northwest of Payson on Ariz. 87 (tel. 928/476-4202; www.azstateparks.com), which preserves the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. In 1877, gold prospector David Gowan, while being chased by Apaches, became the first white man to see this natural bridge, which stands 183 feet high and 150 feet across at its widest point. Although it sounds very impressive, this natural bridge is more of a tunnel and looks nothing like the picturesque sandstone arches in southern Utah. Admission to the park is $5 for adults and $2 for children 7 to 13. The park is open Thursday through Monday from 9am to 5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.