The Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It is a geological marvel at 183 feet high and over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. You can stand on top of it, view it from above or hike to the bottom and explore under the bridge. The Tonto Natural Bridge State park is 10 miles north of Payson. After paying the fee to get in the park we looked for a spot to picnic, there are plenty of shaded picnic tables to choose from in the meadows. The first thing I noticed about the park is the Quiet! It was peaceful. While eating lunch we were able to watch the Javelina's eat as well. There are 4 viewpoints to see at the park as well as 4 trails to hike. We hiked 3 of the trails: Waterfall Trail, Anna Mae Trail and the Gowan Trail. The park is surround by national forest and all hikes lead to water, which is a treat in itself when living in the desert. Each trail has it's own beauty.
Please visit my travelogues for details on the trails Under the Bridge Travelogue
Waterfall Trail Travelogue
Gowan Trail Travelogue
Viewpoint 1 Travelogue
Viewpoint 3 & 4 Travelogue
The Tonto Apache Gym is a great place to work out or relieve stress in the pool, sauna, or jacuzzi.
The Gym offers verrrrrrrrrry reasonable rates, 40 dollars for two people, 50 for 3, etc. They also have day passes for 5 dollars, if your just checking it out or passing through. Prices are per month and dig it, there are no contracts to sign.
The pool is heated to about 83 degrees .. or so they say, i think that water is dadgum cold when you first get in... it is indoors so not really any sunbathing opportunities.
It is a small gym with a great weight room and a smaller cardio room with treadmills, bikes, stairmaster like things and two tv's to keep your mind off the fact that your actually working out....kewl!!!
The road is mostly graded gravel, 4WD not necessary. However it is closed in winter due to snow. From vantage points, youcan take in the huge expanse of mountain and forest of the Tonto National Forest from Payson to Kohl's Ranch.
The western end of the road is fairly remote and you may not see many people. Watch out for elk and deer crossing the road.
Rim Lakes Recreation area has two hikes which are fully paved so is suitable for a stroller/pram. Trail 622 along the Mogollon rim (park near the campground) and the meadow trail to woods canyon lake. The rim trial had fantastic views, but beware it can be quite cold up there
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
This is a huge natural bridge, it looks more like a tunnel because it bridges a canyon of 180 feet wide. It is 400 feet long and 120 feet thick. It is formed by the accumulated deposits of travertine (in Belgium we know a softer type of marble as travertine, it is mainly used for windowsills and such, it may be the same?) by the Pine Creek which still runs through the canyon and under the bridge.
it is 400 feet long and bridges a canyon 150 feet wide.
It makes a beautiful spot for hikes and picnics.
The Mogollon Rim is difficult to describe. When approaching the rim from the south, it is as if you have been in a canyon and are preparing an ascent up a sheer tower. When approaching from the north, you do not sense that you are at a high altitude, then suddenly the earth gives way before you.
It is a beautiful spot to visit. This is ranching country and lumbering country and kick-back take it easy country.
This photo shows a typical view from the rim toward the south.
Pine and Strawberry are located northwest of Payson on State Route 87 as it tracks down and up the canyon of the East Fork of the Verde River. It is a great place to enjoy cool air and forests of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen trees which turn a brilliant yellow in the autumn.
Many people from Arizona's desert communities have set up weekend and/or retirement homes in these hamlets.
Traveling northwest from Payson on State Highway 87 toward Pine and Strawberry, you will see signs pointing you to one of Arizona's scenic wonders - the Tonto Natural Bridge. Take an hour so to visit the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.
Be prepared to hike down a steep series of steps, but it is really the only way to really see and appreciate the arch, as well as a hidden valley, spring, waterfall, and an orchard planted nearly a hundred years ago.
The bridge height is 183 feet, tunnel width 150 feet, tunnel length 400 feet. During the early days of settlement of Arizona, a 5 acre dairy existed on its top.
From the observation deck towards the back of the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center you will discover some fantastic views. There is a plaque with the names of each the mountain range.
Built by the Gowan family as a home/lodge they had lived here up to 1948, it now serves as the visitor and gift shop.
View the magnificent beauty of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park with historic structures, trails, viewpoints, and with picnic tables, grills, giftshop, and even portable restrooms.
One of my favorite things to do whenever I travel is to meet some of the locals. This is Bing Brown the very knowledgeable docent at Zane Gray's Cabin in Payson.
In 1907 the first Ranger Station in this area was built on this site. The Ranger Station and the home that was added in 1933 have been painstakingly rebuilt on the museum grounds.
Another building moved to this site and restored was the famous Herron Hotel, one of the earlier fancy hotels in town. Now it houses many of the displays for the museum.
This oasis in the city attracts lots of birds for you to watch. These ducks and geese seemed pretty domesticated.