Rock Creek

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4.3/5 (3 reviews)
Payson, Arizona (Gila County)
Last Updated: 01/07/2023

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A hit television show decades ago had a character that would often scream, "serenity now." Obviously, he didn't know about Rock Creek. Located in the Tonto National Forest, at 2,873,200 acres, the largest of Arizona's National Forests and seventh largest in the nation, Rock Creek, FR 442, ends at the base of the jagged Mazatzal Mountains. The name Mazatzal is difficult to pronounce. Locals often just refer to the Mazatzal Mountains as the Mazzies. The name is attributed to an obscure native language now only spoken in central Mexico. It means "place of the deer." As difficult as the name may be, traversing the Mazzies is infinitely harder. The rugged and nearly impenetrable mountains, encased in the Mazatzal Wilderness Area, form a north/south spine in central Arizona crossed by no roads and very few foot trails. Rock Creek, which parallels and twice crosses its namesake water feature, is the essence of serenity now. It is peaceful, scenic, seldom traveled, and has three babbling brooks along the way. The end of the road is a trailhead that serves the famed Arizona Trail, a National Scenic Trail that traverses the entirety of Arizona from Mexico to Utah. The trailhead, nestled in a grove of ancient oak trees, sees little use, however, and makes an excellent well-sheltered campsite beside Center Creek, one of those aforementioned babbling brooks. Frankly, if you can't find serenity on Rock Creek, just stay home and watch old sitcoms.

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