Water Wheel Trail - a hidden oasis

<i>Photo by Stan Bindell</i><br>
One of the waterfalls has an over-looker at Water Wheel Trail.

<i>Photo by Stan Bindell</i><br> One of the waterfalls has an over-looker at Water Wheel Trail.

Exercise and a healthy diet can help ward off diabetes and some other ills. The 100-mile club began on Hopi awhile back to promote healthy lifestyles. As a hiker, I do more than 200 miles per year. This year I hope to hit the 365-mile mark in order to average one mile per day. I know some hikers who average more than 100 miles per week. We each have to decide what is the right amount of exercise for us. To promote exercise, hiking, a love of nature and cool points of Arizona this weekly column will appear throughout the summer.

WATER WHEEL TRAIL, PAYSON, Ariz. - The Water Wheel Trail is a somewhat hidden oasis for naturalists and hikers, but more importantly a mainstay for divers and swimmers.

This is a trail that was not in any of the six hiking books that I depend upon, but a July 11 Arizona Republic article listed it as one of five cool swimming holes.

The waterfalls and cool water along Water Wheel Trail match this billing to a tee for teenagers of all ages. Until the Arizona Republic article, most people in the state were probably unaware of this diving spot, but the Payson area locals use it as a hangout. Many teenagers or early 20s were here, but there were also adults of all ages.

Some were taking short dives, but many of the brave younger folk were diving from much higher up. There were no lifeguards so those diving were doing so at their own risk.

From the parking lot, the swimming hole is about a half mile to the east (or left). Visitors also pass the huge old water wheel off to the left once they are on the trail and a large berry tree sits just below it. The short hike involves some minor rock climbing.

The pools of water can be seen almost as soon as the hikers leave the parking lot. The further the hikers walk the deeper it gets. A large waterfall appears with water gushing off two sides of a rock. One visitor can be seen hanging out on the rock watching the water fall below her.

Grandson Scott Johnson was along on this hike and after spending some time at this waterfall we were headed upstream to see another larger, clearer waterfall that the mainstays told us about. Unfortunately, thunder, rain and hail came down on us as hatless Scott said "ouch, ouch, ouch" with the beat of each hailstone.

Earlier, we had gone west downstream finding large pools of water, occasional flowers and beautiful stream scenery that matched Sedona and Oak Creek. The further hikers get from the main pools of water and waterfalls the less people they will run into.

The elevation is about 4,700 feet here so it can be warm during the summer, but the water is cool. We'll have to return to the trail to see the waterfall upstream.

The Water Wheel Campground is nearby for those who want to camp out.

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