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Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Thousands of years in the making, Tonto Natural Bridge is known to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. Located between Payson, Arizona, and Pine, Arizona, the 150-foot-wide limestone bridge arches 183 feet above sparkling Pine Creek. The bridge is surrounded by pine trees, while flowing springs and fern-draped grottos line the narrow canyon upstream.
History & Nature
Thousands of years ago, volcanic lava, seawater and precipitation combined to form a travertine dam here. Then, around 5,000 years ago, water began seeping through the travertine from fractures below. As the water slowly eroded the travertine, Tonto Natural Bridge was formed.
In 1877, a Scottish prospector named David Gowan was running from local Apache Indians when he stumbled upon the bridge. After spending several days exploring the area, he staked a claim to the land. In 1898, the Gowan family made their way from Scotland to Arizona, becoming the first settlers in the area.
What to Do
On your visit to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, you can stand on top of the bridge at any of the four observation points and explore the slippery rocks in the 400-foot tunnel running through the bridge’s center. The park also offers a quintessentially “Arizona” hiking experience, so follow any of the four hiking trails descending into Pine Canyon to capture the magnificence of the geologic wonder.
If your Arizona road trip calls for just a short stop at this wonder, be sure to snap some photos from any of the parking lot viewpoints, or visit the Gowan family’s restored lodge on the large grassy meadow above the bridge. Providing a peek at an earlier time, the lodge contains Gowan family heirlooms, furnishings and a gift shop. With plenty of tables and grills, the park is also the perfect spot to stop for a picnic during your trip.
Where to Stay
Located in North-Central Arizona, there are plenty of places to stay near Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. For hotels, Payson – around 13 miles away – offers plenty of options. You can also find lodges and cabin rentals nearby, as well as plenty of campsites at state parks and other campground. And at just two hours from Phoenix and Scottsdale, the park is also perfect for a day trip.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is only open on select weekends, so check the official website or call before you go.
Phone: (928) 476-4202
Visit the Official Website
For More Information
Payson, AZ 85547