Free things to do with kids is always something to look for. One of our families favorite free thing to do in Northern Arizona is the Tonto Fish Hatchery. Not only is it free but there are plenty of learning opportunities, places to hike, places to picnic, and you get to see the fish in all different growth stages. It is a great place to learn about fish production and to view wildlife. Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery produces and stocks over 165,000 rainbow trout and 400,000 brook and cutthroat trout each year, plus 150,000 of Arizona’s State Fish.
The Hatchery is closed to fishing. There is no camping at the hatchery itself but there are camping opportunities along the road leading to the hatchery.
Address: 3898 North Tonto Street # Bldng 1, Payson, AZ 85541
Hours:8 am – 4pm except holidays. There is a gate closing off the hatchery during closed times.
Cost: Free entry. There are vending machines with fish food for a minimal cost.
Tonto Fish Hatchery
Tonto Fish Hatchery is located about 21 miles east of Payson. You Head east out of Payson on Route 260 towards Kohl’s Ranch. Then turn north onto Tonto Creek Road and follow signs to the Hatchery. The road to the Hatchery is gorgeous but in some spots a little bit iffy. The road is narrow in spots so be aware of oncoming traffic. Along the road are many spots to hike, camp, and picnic.
Once you reach the Hatchery you can park. The parking lot is surrounded hiking opportunities, wetlands, and picnic spots.
The hatchery showcases the growth stages of the fish with different tanks. Be prepared to walk uphill as each tank is on a different level. The first area is a small pond area with different fish. Further up the hill is the tank where they are the smallest and the tanks at the top of the hill are the fish that are larger. At the very top of the hill is a nature center where you can learn about the wildlife, fish, and the wetlands. As homeschoolers this is one of our favorite spots to visit and learn about habitat and also about how they breed and release the fish to keep the Tonto area lakes and rivers stocked.
Heading up to Payson there is always so much to do. The Tonto Fish Hatchery provides ample entertainment for nature lovers, and plenty of learning opportunities.