Attraction of the Week: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home to the world’s largest travertine bridge, is one of the most unusual and mesmerizing parks I’ve encountered out West. Located in between the tiny central Arizona towns of Pine and Payson, this breathtaking natural wonder is an easy day trip from Phoenix, Tucson, and the Flagstaff/Sedona area.
The park gets its’ unique name from the natural travertine bridge, which towers 183 feet tall over a 400 foot long tunnel, which is 150 foot wide at its’ widest point. A natural spring waterfall falls down into the creek below, creating a one-of-a-kind rare setting that you really will not find elsewhere in this desert state. Beautiful forests of pines create a gorgeous backdrop. Visiting Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is one of the best nature experiences you will find in the state of Arizona.
Accessing the waterfall via hike or scenic viewpoint
Both the bridge and waterfall can be viewed via a hiking trail, or by way of 4 viewpoints. I highly recommend going the natural route and hiking along one of the picturesque trails. By choosing to hike, you get to enjoy all the sights and sounds of nature, while also getting in a nice refreshing workout. As an added bonus, you get to enjoy a gorgeous front row view of the waterfall and creek which you can not see from the viewpoints. Or, if you have enough time, you can hike the trails and take in the scenery from the viewpoints – and you might as well since you paid to get in!
Check out the magnificent scenery from the viewpoints
Below is an overview of the hiking trails at Tonto. Fortunately, there is one for just about every fitness level.
Pine Creek Trail
The Pine Creek trail is an incredibly picturesque hike that takes you on a wonderful trek through nature, before finally reaching the natural bridge & waterfall. The developed portion of this trail is 1/2 mile to the creek bottom. From here, you will need to use some rock climbing skills to make it over the huge boulders surrounding the creek. There is lots of maneuvering required. And thus, it helps to have 2 people so you can help each other get on top and around some of the larger/more slippery rocks.
Be prepared to get dirty – you will be sliding down many rocks. If you are at all squeamish about heights/rock climbing, you can simply return for an out-and-back hike before reaching the creek (the views are still outstanding!) or alternatively consider the Gowan trail which involves no climbing, however this trail is a lot steeper and more of a cardio workout.