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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.