Tonto National Forest, Payson
By Kelly Vaughn Kramer
You’ll pass Camp Tontozona on your way to Christopher Creek. That’s where the Sun Devils of Arizona State University held their summer football camp from 1960 to 2007, then restarted the tradition in 2012. Back in the days of Coach Frank Kush, well, they might have been up in the ponderosa pines, but you can bet they were working their tushes off. At Christopher Creek, just the opposite is true. This is a place to kick back, breathe in crisp, fresh air and enjoy where you are, when you are.
Christopher Creek runs right through this campground, and you can fish for trout. But obey all warning signs. The creek is prone to flash flooding during storms. While anglers visit this campground because of its trout, so do bears, and you’ll see warning signs to that effect.
Bears aside, Christopher Creek is one very green, very charming campground. Some sites are perched atop mini-stairs made of logs, and it’s possible to camp right along the edge of the creek. Imagine falling asleep to the sound of the water and the whisper of wind through the pines. It’s possible — as long as you don’t invite Coach Kush.
Campfire Tale: The hamlet of Christopher Creek lies 22 miles east of Payson, below the Mogollon Rim. And, according to the town’s website, things are laid-back there: “Christopher Creek is for people who want to hear the wind in the high mountain forest, the rushing water of our pristine mountain streams or the bugle of a Rocky Mountain elk.”
PHOTO: Christopher Creek runs through its namesake campground and below the Mogollon Rim. | Nick Berezenko
Elevation: 5,600 feet
Directions: From Payson, travel east on State Route 260 for about 19 miles to the turnoff for Christopher Creek (Forest Road 159), which will be on your right. Follow the paved road past Christopher Creek Picnic Area to the campground.
Information: Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, 928-474-7900 or www.fs.usda.gov/tonto
Season: April through October
Fee: $16 per night
Amenities: Toilets, Pets, Water