Horton Creek Trail, Highline Trail, and Derrick Trail Loop

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Tonto National Forest

Horton Creek Trail, Highline Trail, and Derrick Trail Loop is a 9.5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Payson, Arizona that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, camping, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length9.5 miElevation gain1,814 ftRoute typeLoop
Dogs on leashCampingHikingBird watchingRunningForestViewsWaterfallwild-flowersWildlife
Waypoints (0)
Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (91)
Photos (935)
Recordings (82)
Completed (257)
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Warren Sarvis III
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Hiking
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Shelby Moran
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Road biking

It was a really nice trail. I went clockwise and felt that I was always able to have a good view once going down Derrick. Got here at 730am and was the second one in the parking lot and it was 18°. Only saw one person the whole time. Was really nice!

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Ben Anderson
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HikingGreat!

Fun hike along the creek, then turned up highline, elevated & came back down. It's definitely a moderate hike, Beautiful scenery and multiple environments. More like 11 miles from car back to car.

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Scott Pela
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Hiking
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Chris Covey
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Hiking
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ANTHONY KING
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Hiking

First time backpacking. It was rigorous, but doable. Make sure you bring good boots!

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Trevor Tyrrell
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Hiking

great

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Gabrielle Paduano
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Backpacking

This was the first trail we backpacked! Beautiful trail with a lot of different sights - cliffs, forest, streams, meadows, and terrain similar to Sedona! We did it backwards starting at Derrick trail and ending at Horton creek. By going backwards we only ran into a handful of people the entire time until we got to Horton! Parking was very full but luckily got a spot. Did about 6.5 miles the first day and the rest the second day. Hike was challenging without being hard ! Would love to do this one again

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Jonathan Schmidt
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Hiking

Beautiful hike with lots of diverse terrains. Some parts of trail not very clearly marked, so use the map. Lots of wildlife, including a black rattlesnake so keep a look out while hiking at higher elevations.

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Alex Ortiz
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BackpackingGreat!

Beautiful trail. Done with our kids

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T Bushnell
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Hiking
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Lauren Twigg
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Hiking

Pretty challenging considering the first 4 miles is all uphill and hardly any shade but it’s a good workout if that’s what you are seeking. The latter half when you get the to creek is absolutely gorgeous. We were able to camp right along the creek and listen to the water at night. Beware of the sometimes predictable weather and have your rain jacket at the ready- especially in the summer. Overall wonderful experience.

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John Duren
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Hiking
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Lata Assudani
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Hiking

Loved this loop. Recommend doing it counter clockwise so you get the creek at the end. Not a hard hike at all.

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Katey T
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Hiking

This was a lovely trail going along the creek. I went clockwise and think I may have liked it better counterclockwise. I was initially just going to do the out and back Horton Creek Trail map. I started with that path. When I came to the really steep part of the trail where you can go up and look out, I realized I would also have to come back down and didn’t feel I’d be all that safe since I was alone. I decided to turn around. When I got to where the trail splits and you could do the loop, I took it. And ended up on this path. The loop part of the trail was less shaded and not quite as pretty as walking along the creek. I’m glad I did it but I think keeping it to out and back would have been more enjoyable overall. My Garmin clocked the mileage right at 10 miles even though this says 10.4.

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Chris Gallagher
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Running

Did this loop clockwise starting at 8:00am in late May. Was fairly crowded but still plenty of space. Such a beautiful clump to the spring just past the confluence with the Highline trail. I then took the left side trail up past the waterfall as this trail the connects way up with the rim road. I only hiked up 15 minutes and then back down. Very steep but some great views. Then once back at the creek I ran east on the Highline trail and down the Derrick trail. The confluence is well marked but the sign only faces towards the Derrick trail, as if you were coming up that. The only bummer is the Derrick trail itself, at least for running on tired legs. Most of the trail is rocky and hard to get good stable purchases. Perhaps next time I run this counter clockwise so that my legs are fresh when tackling these rocks.

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mark dix
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Wonderful diverse loop trail. We had cool wet weather, hiked at a strong pace with short breaks, took 5 hours, 9.4 miles, an easy hike with some moderate sections. Hiked clockwise on the loop. Horton Creek was beautiful, nice flow of water with many small falls and mature ponderosa and fir trees. At the trail confluence of Horton spring and Highline, cross the river and then turn hard right over the large downed tree to catch highline (to left is the spring trail). Highline is a darker and denser forest, fog and mossy trees, steep for 30 minutes or so, nice views up high. Derrick looks like Sedona, red dirt and pinon juniper with plentiful red trunk manzanita trees, some are the biggest and oldest I have ever seen. This is a gradual 4 mile descent, pretty exposed to sun, so i advise taking this loop trail clockwise in warm weather to avoid climbing up Derrick. March hiking on a weekday is fabulous. Cool weather and we saw not a single person!

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Ashish Ranjan
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HikingSnow

11-Feb-2020 (Thursday) Hiked early in the morning right after it had snowed a lot overnight. Horton and Highline trails were covered in snow but still easy enough to navigate. Derrick trail was more rocky and muddy. I did see many fresh animal tracks in the snow, some of which I believe were bear tracks (Especially in the Highline trail). Normally I hike alone but I hiked this trail with a buddy and we kept talking throughout the hike so as to not sneak up of them. Carrying bear spray would be smart, though I didn't carry it. Didn't see anyone else the entire time and there was only one other parked car at the trailhead.

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Mike McGrath
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Hiking

Fourth time on the Horton creek trail, second time completing this loop, first time in 4-6 inches of snow. Was beautiful and serene. Cascades and waterfall were perfect. Highline trail was slippery in some areas with the snow. Encountered a black bear on the Derrick Trail, about 40 yards away. It looked at us for over a minute, while we loudly told it to go away and kept the bear spray ready. It finally sauntered away. Bring bear spray if you do this one.

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Jillian @sweetsassyjilly
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Hiking

Started at Horton, then ended up going the wrong way on highline (so basically when you see a sign for highline, do not follow it... go the opposite way - which was to the right). However, I could not figure out where the trail continued to make it the loop with Derrick. I had started too late, so ended up needing to turn back. If I went again, I’d start at Derrick & end at Horton. Always very pretty there!

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Heidi Faller
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HikingRocky
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Duke Silver
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HikingRocky
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Rob Scoresby
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Backpacking

Due to arriving later in the afternoon I hiked this clockwise. I wanted to camp near the creek and needed the water to filter. I set up camp about 3 miles in near the creek. Fall colors and the leaves falling in the late afternoon sun were picturesque. It was a chilly night and very windy but had a nice secluded and protected spot. Packed up and started out by 7:30 and didn't see another soul until 10 AM near the Derrick trail head. This loop offers a lot of Arizona high country variety of foliage and terrain. Great hike.

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Brandon Lee
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Hiking

Beutiful greenery throughout and crystal clear water running alongside the trail (looks good enough to drink — DON’T do it tho)

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Thaddeus McGuire
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Hiking

Rugged trail. Plenty of ups and downs. Excellent views and rewarded w the Horton Springs at the end point.

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Brad Tucci
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HikingBlowdownRocky

My recording didn't kick in right away. It was a great hike. Cows and Horton Creek on the first part, Highline is the difficult part when climbing at elevation and Derrick reminds me of a rocky Sedona terrain. If I had to redo it, I would start on the Derrick trail so I can have the shade and cold water from Horton Creek on the latter part of the hike. If you hike Horton Creek first, make sure to turn right at the end. Highline goes both ways and sign points to the left.

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Randi Strauss
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RunningRocky

Did this loop clockwise. Horton Creek Trail was beautiful terrain for running. The second half of the loop enters a more Sedona-esque terrain, with little shade and the trail is more rocky and loose making it difficult to run on. A nice varied-terrain hiking loop but if I were to run it again I would stick to Horton Creek out and back.

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Jesse Fabish
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HikingBugs

Beautiful trail, easy to follow and the creek was flowing and icy cold! Bugs, butterflies and dragonflies all over. Watch out for poison ivy and oat right along the trail on the Horton Creek stretch.

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LeiLani Beeston
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HikingRocky

It was nice to have a little change in scenery from the Horton Creek Trail. We started out early enough on Horton (6 am) that we only saw one other hiker on the trail, and then once we got on the Highline Trail we didn't see anyone. The Highline Trail coming back from Horton Creek starts out absolutely gorgeous. It becomes rocky and there are less maple trees and pine trees. But the varied terrain is nice, and certainly interesting. The decline is a pretty nice steady decline, so no knee killer there. I personally preferred adding in Highline and Derrick over taking Horton back. Would definitely recommend.

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