Best Kept Secret: Creekside offers majestic views, rustic coziness

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Nestled below the majestic Mogollon Rim and just a short walk from the banks of the spring-fed Christopher Creek, Creekside Cabins, Tavern and Tours offers a rustic coziness set amid the beauty of the Ponderosa pines.

“We like to think of ourselves as the best-kept secret in Payson because there’s really nothing like Creekside anywhere else in the area,” Creekside co-owner Jeremy Stensland says. “Our majestic property combined with temperatures that are 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix during peak summer months make us a must-see destination.”
There are several themed Creekside log cabins that include the Bird’s Nest, Bear’s Den, Hunter’s Blind and Enchanted Forest, just to name a few.
“They have beautiful views,” Jeremy says.

“We have internet service. It’s a great area to work remotely in the pines, if you want to.”

Each one is spacious enough to sleep six people comfortably, includes a full bathroom and comes equipped with a flat-screen, DirectTV, Keurig coffee maker, microwave, small refrigerator and a kitchen table. For those looking for a large family getaway under one roof, Creekside also offers larger units with full kitchens.

“Our pet-friendly cabins provide all the comfort of home while feeling a world away from the desert,” Creekside co-owner James Haviland says. “When guests aren’t spending time in their log cabins or venturing out on one of the many hiking trails, they’re at our on-site tavern eating, drinking and relaxing.”

The Creekside Tavern has a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a full bar and live entertainment for guests every weekend.

Popular dishes include slow-cooked baby back ribs, craft burgers, bacon-wrapped filet mignon and seasoned grilled salmon. Signature craft cocktails include Duck & Cover, Mogollon Margarita, Creekside Bee’s Knees and the Knockout.

“We have a full restaurant and bar with a beautiful 2,500-square-foot patio for enjoying the outside, especially in the summer season,” Jeremy says.

New to the property are Jeep tours where guests can explore the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and Arizona rim country — forest lakes, the views, meandering creeks and local wildlife. The tours start around 5,800 feet elevation in Christopher Creek and can go as high as 7,500 feet on the Mogollon Rim tour.

“This area was made famous by author Zane Grey, who wrote about the mystical wild Tonto Country,” Creekside co-owner Tami Stensland says.

“Christopher Creek is brimming with natural beauty and is truly a destination for people who want to hear the wind in the forest, the rushing water of the pristine creek tumbling over small falls or the bugle of a Rocky Mountain elk.”

With scenery out of a movie and a demand for outdoor weddings, Creekside is offering wedding packages for couples and parties up to 150 people. Creekside’s newly built wedding venue boasts views of the Mogollon Rim and Tonto National Forest with summer being the best time to book.

“It’s easy to entertain wedding parties at Creekside because we’re just minutes from stream fishing, Rim and White Mountain area lakes, hiking trails, horseback riding and mountain biking,” Creekside co-owner Jena Haviland says. “We’ve had incredible feedback from our recent weddings and are excited to see what the future holds.”

They purchased it at the end of 2019 after visiting on the recommendation of friends.

“We’re both from South Dakota,” says James, who, like Jeremy, is in IT. “We grew up in a farming community and there was a lot of outdoor living. When we moved down here, we were directed by friends in the Valley to visit Rim Country.

“We happened by Creekside on the way back. We had eaten there and walked the property. This was 25 years ago. I was looking for an opportunity to diversify, and this came up as an opportunity. It seemed like a good fit for all of us. Jeremy and I are just starting families, and we thought what a great long-term, fun side project to do.”

Creekside Cabins, Tavern and Tours
1520 E. Christopher Creek Loop, Payson

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