Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. The discovery of the small and beautiful valley between Pine and Payson was documented in 1877 by David Gowan, a prospector who stumbled across the bridge as he was chased by Apaches. Gowan hid for two nights and three days in one of several caves that dot the inside of the bridge. On the third day, he left the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley surrounding it. Gowan then claimed squatter's rights. In 1898 he persuaded his nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow, to bring his family over from Scotland and settle the land permanently. After a week of difficult travel from Flagstaff, the Goodfellows arrived at the edge of the mountain and lowered their possessions down the 500 foot slopes into the valley by ropes and burros. Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder.
Beautiful views of the natural bridge and canyon. The hike down is fairly easy, but there are benches for the way up if you aren't in as good of shape as you think you are. The bottom stops at an observation deck. You can scramble and rock hop into the tunnel. The rocks are highly polished and super slippery if wet. Good shoes are a must here. The waterfall is not a steady running stream but more of a dripping one. Worth the time
This is basically rock hopping with a smack amount of conventional trail. You will have the creek basin to yourself. Everyone is here for the natural bridge. There are several birds that will keep you company. The scenery is nice. Several small cascades provide a pleasing sound too.
My 6 year old was a trooper. The hike down is not bad. The rocks can be challenging for young kids. Due to the nature of warlike the full trail, we had to go back up then down on the other end. The view was wonderful and the hike was nice. The view kept changing as we went. If you have kids who like hiking in the rocks, do the hole trail. Me and her will be going back to complete the full trail. Worth every minute of the trip would recommend it to anyone.
I am intoxicated by my time spent in the southwest recently. To discover this trail and run upon its climbing, jagged ridgeline, the experience was mightily refreshing and rewarding (both physically and aesthetically). Running it in the evening with the sun setting, the manzanita wilderness offers purple hues on its angular rocks, and an open sky that beds the juniper/cacti/manzanita/ponderosa covered mountains that endlessly extend into Arizona countryland. Many places to stop and take breathtaking views.