Airplane Flat Campground is set among a thick stand of ponderosa pines, white and douglas firs, and is a very short walk to Canyon Creek (fly and lure fishing only), a trout creek that is stocked from the Canyon Creek Hatchery just a couple hundred yards up the road. The hatchery has self guided tours running throughout the week until 4 p.m. If you have kids, this is something that you take them to see, the fish at the hatchery range from fry to 24″ plus.
Airplane Flat is a first come first served campground. Reservations are not accepted. My suggestion is to get there as early as possible on the day you are arriving to get a campsite.
Airplane Flat Campground is considered a dispersed campground. You will need to be self contained including bringing your own water when you come back to this out of the way campground. Also, there is no trash service here so you will need to practice PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT! There are trash bins at Colcord Ridge Campground which you will pass on your way out to the main road. Bear proof your camp here as the local wildlife includes black bear, elk, javelina, mountain lion, turkey and deer. Be bear aware in this part of the Tonto National Forest.
The road in is a dirt road that can be a little washboardy in places. Take extra care when heavy rain is expected. The road in is narrow and can get a bit slippery during the monsoon season.
There are vault style restrooms on site.
Airplane Flat Campground is one of my favorite campgrounds simply because there are only a dozen campsites and the traffic is much lower than those campgrounds up on the Mogollon Rim. There is a nice rope swing behind campsite 10 that the kids will love (see photos)
Canyon Creek runs between Airplane Flat and Upper Canyon Creek Campgrounds and is the perfect cool off spot during the hot summer months. During the summer months, you will find kids frolicking around the shallow creek near the bridge that spans the creek near the trout hatchery. The creek is just under a half mile from the entrance to the campground. Fishing can bring some small trout, but you will need to walk upriver or downriver from the bridge between the campgrounds to have a chance at some of these elusive fish.
From Payson travel 33 miles east on S.R. 260 to F.R. 512 (Young Road) turn south (right) onto Young Road. Drive south 3.1 miles to F.R. 33 (Colcord Ridge Campground) and turn east (left) onto F.R. 33. Continue another 5 miles on a down F.R.33 to the campground on your right. SIDE NOTE: about 3 miles down F.R.33 you will see a fork in the road. Continue straight here, don’t turn right. Turning right will take you to Valentine Ridge Campground and Lower Canyon Creek, a great spot to fly fish in the area.
FIshing for small trout can be found on either side of the bridge near the Canyon Creek Hatchery. Walk upcreek or downcreek to get away from the kids splashing around in the water near the bridge. Head south down to the Canyon Creek Fishing area near Valentine Ridge Campground for some decent fly fishing opportunities.