Located right on the ridge of the Mogollon Rim, the Mogollon Visitor Center looks like a old miners cabin. You must visit the back patio to take in the spectacular views of the mountain ranges and from here you can see barely the Mogollon Rim through the thick pine trees. Inside the visitor center is loads of educational information of the local area that covers the history and geology of the rim. Also, there is a really nice gifts shop.
Originally called by locals, Muggy-own. Yet, they name comes from Spanish governor of New Mexico Ignacia Flores Mogollan. Its 200 miles long wall of ridged rocks that were formed from flooding and erosion during the Mesozoic age and It extends through Coconino, Tonto, Sitegreves National Forest and White Mountain Apache Reservation. It's a area that is popular for hiking trails, camping, and sheer its beauty of lush pine trees. The rim was a favorite spot of western writer Zane Grey who wrote several books who had a cabin not far from the rim.
If you do not want to take on the trail, there are some fantastic view points and are accessible for those with disabilities. It has a very nice guard rail too. Here you can get some nice photographs and see the natural bridge. You can even see to the bottom of creek that flows under the bridge.
When we were visiting, we decided to take on the Gowan Trail, but it was during a time this area was being hit with thunderstorms. We made an attempt, but by the time we were half way down, we were sliding around dangerously because of the wet slippery soil and just about everyone else who was trying to make it back up were struggling too. So we decided it was not worth an injury and we turned around. I am glad we did, because the skies opened up and experienced a heavy down pour. Since our sister lives nearby, we will visit here again when it is dry:)
There are four separate hiking trails with three that lead underneath the bridge:
The Pine Creek Trail begins at Parking Lot #1 and travels through the Pine Canyon underneath the bridge and up the Gowan Trail.
The Ana Mae Trail begins at View Point #2 and leads down to 100 yards north of the bridge from which you can hike to the bridge and underneath.
The Gowan Trail starts at the south end of the bridge and leads below the bridge to a viewing platform. From there you can go under the bridge, out the north end or back up the Gowan Trail.
The Water Fall Trail leads 300 feet to beautiful falls that look like something from out of the tropics. ALL trails are steep with steps and rocky areas. It is strongly recommended that you wear sturdy shoes if you plan to hike to the bottom of the bridge.
A map for all trails and the park is given to visitors.
It is also highly recommended that each person carry water if they are going to hike any of the trails.
The elevation at the top of the bridge is 4533 ft. If you are coming from a much lower altitude you may encounter altitude sickness if you over exert yourself.
Geology is estimated, that the formation of the bridge took at least 5,000 years and is probably 5,000 years old. The base of the Pine Creek is made of Ryolite lava rock and the top and walls are Travertine which is dissolved limestone. The springs coming out of the aquifers on the east side of the park are heavy with calcium carbonate and form the Travertine as it flows into and over the bridge. It has been a favorit site of Hohokam and ApacheTribes.
David Douglas Gowan, a Scottish gold prospector and mountain man, came up Pine Creek looking for gold in 1877. While looking for gold, he came upon it, but it almost cost him his life since this is favorite Apache hunting area. So while trying to escape, he hid in the shadows of the natural arch till it was safe to leave. He returned in 1882 to stake a claim and built a cabin and lived there until 1890. Gowan eventually convinced his nephew another David Gowan to move his family here, so he could explore more for gold.
So in 1898, David and Lillias Goodfellow and their three children; David Jr. age 9; Henry, 7; and Lillias, 5 packed up, boarded a ship that arrived in NY, took a train to Flagstaff, then bought a frieght wagon for the last leg of their journey. When they finally arrived, they had no idea how to safely traverse to the bottom of canyon. So they built a trail so they and others could hike to and from the canyon. Eventually they built the lodge and other cabins to rent out to make some income from travelers who wanted to see the natural bridge. Eventually the property was sold in 1948 and after many other families tried to maintain the property. It was sold in1990 to the Arizona State and it became a state park. They are still trying to make a National Park.
Yes, the world's largest travertine bridge can be found just 12 miles north of Payson off Hwy 87. It's an amazing place for hiking trails which are known to be steep and strenuous. There is the hour-long 0.5 mile Pine Trail, the 300 feet Waterfall Trail, the 220 feet Gowan Trail and the 500 ft Anne Mae Trail which leads to the Natural Bridge.
We went to several viewpoints (4 total) which gave us a good view of the natural travertine bridge, and you can see some people who have gone all the way down to the little creek under the bridge. It looked too steep so we didn't go down with our 5 year old twins. Pets are not allowed in the trails.
It's a wonderful place for a weekend picnic and grilling (with portable restrooms).
Summer open from 8 AM to 7 PM (Memorial thru Labor Day); Apr May Sept 8 AM- 6PM, Winter 9AM to 5 PM. Closed Christmas.
We were in Payson and nearby is the oldest standing schoolhouse which I found using my GPS - it is located on Fossil Creek Road in Strawberry, Arizona and is open to the public from May through September on weekends and holidays.
We were greeted by a very nice lady whose husband's mom actually studies in the school and had a picture of her inside. It is really a small school which reminded me of Little House on the Prairie (that famous TV series), and it was built sometime during the 1880's.
We had fun taking pictures both outside and inside the school. And there are nice school chairs/desks which the twins enjoyed and also a corner where you can put on a Dunce cap, lol.
Very nice to see things the past and I think the flooring of the school is the original (?). It looks really old.
A wonderful sidetrip when you are in Payson. We just offered a donation for our entrance (jar donation).
Group tours can be arranged at other times by writing to the Pine-Strawberry Archeological and Historical Society, Inc., at P. O. Box 564, Pine, AZ 85544.
After you stop at the Chamber of Commerce for help with your trip (it's at one end of main street) take the time to drive down Historic Main Street. If the Ox Bow Inn is open, stop there. Historic Main Street ends at Green Valley Park.
For many years, Zane Grey called Payson home. He built a cabin in the shadows of the Mogollon Rim, which burned down in the infamous Rodeo-Chedeski Fire. Through the efforts of the town of Payson, William Goettl and Grey's legions of fans, the cabin has been rebuilt here on the grounds of the Rim Country Museum. The $5 entrance fee for the museum covers the tour of the cabin too. When I visited the docent was a guy named Bing Brown. Bing was very knowledgeable and we had a nice conversation after the tour. Zane Grey's best known book is probably "Riders of the Purple Sage".
Another display belonging to the Rim Country Museum is The Haught Cabin which was moved here from Mount Ord. The cabin was built there in 1904 by the Haught Family. The Haughts figure very prominently in the founding and history of Payson.
There were two memorials or monuments on the property of the Rim Country Museum. One was to firefighters who died in the line of duty including the six who died fighting the Rodeo-Chideski Fire. There was also a tombstone for William H. Goettl who was instrumental in getting materials and funding for the rebuilding of the Zane Grey Cabin.
Another reason to go to the Green Valley Park is the Rim Country Museum. This museum has a very impressive collection of displays about the history of the area in generl and Payson in particular. There are also a number of buildings that have either been taken apart and reassembled on the grounds or recreated. Amongst the things I learned was the fact that Payson is home to "The Oldest Continuous Rodeo" in the world. I also learned about some of the characters that built the Payson area like Arizona Charlie. Hours are 10AM to 4 PM Wednesday through Monday. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors; $3 for students 12 to 18; and free for kids under 12.
This is Lake 3 the largest (at 9 surface acres) of the man-made lakes in the park. It is regularly srocked with trout. There is a pathed path around the lake and you will see people walking or running along the path all times of the day. The lake also has a fountain and various spots for fishing. This oasis in the city also attracts lots of wildlife.
Payson designed and built an award-winning city park called Green Valley Park. It deserved the awards, as it is very nice. Green Valley Park, amongst othet things has three man-made lakes. Lake 1 is 2 Surface Acres in size; Lake 2 is 1 surface acre and Lake 3 is 9 surface acres. All three lakes have nice landscaping around them and are regularly stocked with Trout for fishing.
On the west side of Payson there is a beautiful park surrounded by 3 lake called Green Valley Lakes Park. The main lake has fountains in it and beautiful willow trees. There is no swimming in the lakes but you can boat and it is part of the Urban fishing parks and is stocked with rainbow trout (in season), largemouth bass, channel catfish among others. Or a perfect spot for a picnic.