Water Wheel Falls (Payson)
From the Phoenix area, take HWY 87 North towards Payson. Once in Payson, continue on HWY 87 towards the towns of Pine and Strawberry. Just as you're headed out of town, turn right onto the signed road for the Houston Mesa road. Take this paved road 7.5 miles to the signed parking area for the Water Wheel Falls trail on your right. Parking here is $10 per vehicle (as of June 2022). The trailhead has a restroom, but no water.
Hiking to the Water Wheel Falls in Payson, Arizona
The hike to the Water Wheel Falls near Payson Arizona is a lovely boulder hop to a scenic water fall. Although the effort to get to the waterfall is easy, the skills needed (boulder hopping, route finding) require some prior Arizona hiking experience.
From the parking area, find the well worn trail on the North side of the parking lot. Although well worn here, parts of this trail require boulder hopping and a few creek crossings. There are a number of social trails to the falls. If you stay with the creek you'll be OK.
This area is quite picturesque, with many of the water loving Arizona trees surrounding the East Verde river and Ellison creek. The creek is your constant companion on this hike and there are several swimming holes and smaller waterfalls on the way to enjoy. The Water Wheel falls is unmistakable and if you try to hike further up the creek, you'll be turned around by barbed wire and 'No Trespassing' signs.
It is worthwhile to spend some time enjoying this area and don't be afraid to take a swim!