Houston Mesa Campground is located in the forested northern section of Tonto National Forest, just one mile north of Payson, Arizona and less than two hours from Phoenix.
With family, equestrian and tent-only campsites, this campground can accommodate a range of visitors and offers plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors, including several miles of hiking and horseback riding trails nearby.
As the fifth largest forest in the United States, the Tonto National Forest is one of the most-visited "urban" forests in the United States (approximately 5.8 million visitors annually). Its boundaries are Phoenix to the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east.
Many visitors come to Houston Mesa to horseback ride, hike, camp and picnic. Houston Mesa Loop Trail is a 9-mile round trip through a pinyon and juniper woodland and can be accessed from the horse camping area. The Houston Mesa Interpretive Trail is a 0.5-mile self-guided trail.
Houston Mesa has 74 campsites, including 29 equestrian sites for campers with horses or mules, and 17 tent-only sites for those who want a quieter experience. There are several amenities to make campers feel at home, including showers (coin-operated) and flush toilets. All of the sites are accessible.
The horse camping section (Mule Deer Loop) is across the street from the main campground and features 29 individual sites with tables and grills. Corrals are also available. Campers who reserve these sites must have horses or mules.
The campground is located at an elevation of 5,200 ft. in a mixed forest and shrub area, with spacious campsites offering both sun and shade. Winters are pleasant and cool with cold nighttime temperatures, while summers are warm and sunny, providing a nice getaway from the hotter deserts around Phoenix. Hawks, eagles, javelina, deer, fox, skunk and coyote live in the area.
Campers who make the quick trip to the town of Payson, one mile south, will find restaurants, shopping and other conveniences.
Scenic driving and outdoor recreation abound in the surrounding Tonto National Forest, which embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim.
ADA Access: N
Nice little campground. Spots are close together but a decent amount of nature separates you and gives you some privacy. Bathrooms were clean.
Close drive to home and nice setup that makes you feel like you are in the woods. No hookups here at all but nice clean bathrooms to use. Dump station was closed while we were here and it looks like they charge to use is when open. Overall we like it here and will come back again.
These spots are fairly large and allow for some large rigs and is located right on the edge of town. No hook ups though but you can fill your tanks on site.
Nice campground with lots of space and trees between sites. Pull throughs and pull-in sites. Hosts are helpful. Recreation.gov app said there were no sites available on a recent Sunday, but a drive through found 3 of every 4 sites open. The web site was more accurate. The dump station costs $10, regardless of camping here or not. There IS a lot of traffic noise - and there's a Home Depot across the road from the entrance. Less than 10 minutes from Payson.
Overall the campground was fine. Spaces were large enough and the site I was in was pretty secluded. I had problems with people getting loud and staying loud until 3 am. Obviously whoever is supposed to be taking care of that was not aware or just didn’t care. I literally screamed 3 times “Please be quite” to be avail. Also you could totally hear the traffic from the nearby road for the entire night. It’s was a minor annoyance but still an annoyance. It was a trip for me and my sister and the first one we had ever been on together. It would have been much nicer had the camp host done their job and the road noise was more quite.
Great spot for tent camping. Awesome for beginners and young families. Bathrooms were clean. Fellow campers were respectable. Site overall very clean. Would go again.
Very clean and quiet lots of hiking areas. Short drive to water
Beautiful country with a lot of campgrounds down the road. Close to creeks and water wheel and some hidden hiking gems.
We were able to escape the valley and up to beautiful Payson for an extended weekend. This campground was very well maintained. There are bathrooms and showers, drinking water available and many hiking trails throughout. Most spots had a good amount of space between the other. Most are pretty level. There are a handful of pull thru spots but most all are back in. Each spot as a fire ring, paved driveway and picnic table.
We really liked this camp ground, we just didn't like the experience. The spaces are spread apart and there is plenty of room. But you can have up to 10 people, 2 car and ONLY 2 tents. So be prepared to sleep in groups I guess, we weren't. Also the camp host was nice but seemed to cater to the people she knew, she drives by A LOT and checked up on us almost every hour, we go to camp to get away, not be bothered. She really did not make us feel welcomed but we really did like where the camp site was so we're just hoping a new host is there if we ever go back.