Houston Mesa Campground and Equestrian Sites

Area Status: Open

Hoston Mesa Campground

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. 

Houston Mesa offers shade, privacy and corrals for horses and mules. This recreation area is a favorite among equestrian campers who want to experience the great outdoors with their gentle companions. There are several hiking and horseback riding trails to enjoy nearby the campsite. Families may enjoy time together at designated campsites with picnic tables, fire rings and grills. Review At-A-Glance for more details about this sight.

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.

Natural Features: 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.

Recreation: Many visitors come to Houston Mesa to horseback ride, hike, camp and picnic. 

Facilities: Houston Mesa has 102 campsites, including 28 equestrian sites for campers with horses or mules, and 29 tent-only sites for those who want a quieter experience. The horse camping section (Mule Deer Loop) is across the street from the main campground and features 28 individual sites with tables & grills, and most having corrals available. Campers who reserve Mule Deer Loop Sites 7 - 18 MUST have horses or mules. 

There are two group sites that can host up to 75 people and can be reserved through Recreation.gov.

Nearby Attractions: 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.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: No firewood sales, no dump station and no shower building. On-site automatic fee machine (no cash or checks accepted).
Operational Hours: Equestrian sites are closed for the season. 
Reservations: Reservations can be made by visiting Recreation.gov. Reservations must be made 3 days ahead of arrival and can be made up to 6 months in advance.
Area Amenities: Toilets
  • $29 per night for standard sites
  • $22 per night for equestrian sites (Closed for the season)
  • $130 per night for Group Site 1 (No Electricity)
  • $170 per night for Group Site 2 (With Electricity)
  • *America the Beautiful Interagency Senior or Access Pass holders receive 50% discount (persons over 62 or have a permanent disability) for single camp units only.
Open Season: April - December
  • 14-day stay limit.
  • No OHV recreational riding within the campground.
  • No firewood sales, no dump station and no shower building.
  • Dogs are allowed and must be kept on a leash.
  • Please use trash receptacles or pack it in, pack it out.
  • All campgrounds have posted Rules & Regulations at entrance kiosks. Please read and observe all rules.
  • Quiet hours 10:00 pm to 6:00 am (running generators are not permitted during quiet hours).
Closest Towns: Payson
Water: Drinking Water
Restroom: The showers and the dump station are closed.
  • The links below provide additional information on purchasing information.
  • Tonto Fee Machine Pass for Camping passes. Fee Machine located in each Campground area. Debit or Credit only.
  • America the Beautiful Pass.  Available at Tonto National Forest Offices and online at USGS.gov.
Information Center: Payson Ranger District (928) 474-7900

General Information


GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
34.27, -111.31417
34°16'12"N, 111°18'51"W

From Payson, Arizona, go north for 1 mile to the junction of Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) and Forest Road 199 (Houston Mesa Road). Turn right (east) onto Forest Road 199 for .10 miles. The campground is on the north side of Houston Mesa Road.

View and download a map.


3 campsites available with accessible features such as a hardened surface & clear, open ground. 


Second vehicle charge of $8 per night is required if applicable. Fee can be bundled with online reservation or purchased on-site at fee machine.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

There is a 2 tent maximum for this campground. No hookups.

No. of Sites 75
Reservation Info RESERVABLE UNITS IN EACH LOOP Elk Loop: 2,3,5,6,7,9,13,14,18,20,21,22,23,24 Bear Loop: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26 Mountain Lion Loop: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,20,21 Mule Deer Loop – 18 sites
Fire Information Campfire rings available. Firewood can be purchases on-site for $7.
No. of Accessible sites 75

RV Camping

No hookups.

No. of Sites 75
Reservation Info 25 sites first come, first serve, 50 sites are reservable

Group Camping

Horse Camping

Open Season: February-November
Reservation info: For further information and seasonal reservation information, contact Recreation.gov OR (877) 444-6777.
Usage: Horses are only allowed on campground roads, no forest access. 


Toilets: Flush toilets. The showers and dump station are closed.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
5,200 feet