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.
L W. on Gowan Trail
Nice day walk.
L W. on Barnhardt Trail
Beautiful! Love the waterfalls. Went all the way to the divide and back. Will do again!
The trailhead is a short walk from the parking area, towards the cattle guard.
I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. The landscape is so beautiful; I went in early March so there was many water features as well as snow on the distant peaks despite being about 75 degrees-- amazing! I was only able to complete the first ~3.5 miles of this out and back due to water runoff blocking the trail. I'm looking forward to giving it another go later in the year when the water level is lower. The views are spectacular. The trail is well maintained. Didn't see a single soul while I was out there over a span of 3 hours. I would say the hard rating is not quite right, I'd rate it on the harder side of Moderate.
Great hike, unexpectedly great. Trail is really pretty good maybe a little overrated as to difficulty. Spectacular views and geology. Lots of water. I would image this is best during the spring with runoff filling the creeks and waterfalls. The last fall is well worth the hike if that was the only reason for your hike. Make sure you hike up to the"Grotto " above the trail.
This is a Wilderness Area no mountain bikes!
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.