Finding a new favorite place to cool off from the desert heat is like finding a hidden treasure in Arizona. Water Wheel Falls and Ellison Creek is a hidden oasis near Payson.
How to Get to Water Wheel Falls Trail
Water Wheel Falls Trail is in Payson, Arizona. The drive from Phoenix is just under two hours. Take Interstate 10 East from Phoenix towards Tucson for a couple miles. Take AZ 202 Loop East for 12 miles and then take AZ 87 North to Payson.
You will stay on this road for about 75 miles. It will take you through the town of Payson. Take a right on Houston Mesa Trail. It will be soon after the round about.
Drive 7.5 miles from the campground down until you see the parking lot for Water Wheel trail to your right.
Parking for Water Wheel Trail
Please note you must pay for parking April through October. You’ll need $10 cash to self-pay.
Water Wheel Falls Trail
The Water Wheel hike begins to the left of the parking lot. Water Wheel is a very scenic 2-mile round-trip hike along the Verde River in Payson. Since you are hiking over rocks and water I find it very helpful to wear water shoes meant also for hiking.
Hikers can follow the river upstream. There is no defined path. Follow the water. The dirt path will become rocky.
After following the water you will cross the water and walk up the rocks. Keep following the water.
At the end of the hike there is a swimming hole and Ellison Creek waterfall . Last time we visited was on a Friday and there were only a few people at the swimming hole, so it was really peaceful.
At the top of the waterfall there is a fence marked private property. The view from up here is gorgeous. Payson is very scenic and this hike has some fantastic views.