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Feb 15, 2017
THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN THE MAKING, TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE IS KNOWN TO BE THE WORLD’S LARGEST NATURAL TRAVERTINE BRIDGE AT 150 FEET WIDE. LOCATED BETWEEN PAYSON AND PINE, ARIZONA, THE BRIDGE ARCHES 183 FEET ABOVE THE SPARKLING PINE CREEK AND IS SURROUNDED BY PINE TREES. UPSTREAM, FLOWING SPRINGS AND FERN-DRAPED GROTTOS LINE THE NARROW CANYON.
Thousands of years ago, volcanic lava, seawater, and precipitation combined to form a travertine dam. Then, as the dam fractured, water began seeping through. Slowly the water eroded the travertine and Tonto Natural Bridge was formed.
In 1877, a Scottish prospector named David Gowan stumbled upon the bridge while prospecting for gold in the Tonto Rim area. After spending several days exploring the area, he staked a claim to the land. He planted several fruit and nut trees and also maintained tenuous relations with the local American Indian tribe who already called the area home.
Stand on top of the bridge at any of the four observation points and explore the travertine rocks in the 400-foot tunnel running through the bridge’s center. The park also offers four hiking trails, which descend into the Pine Canyon and capture the magnificence of this geologic wonder.
If your Arizona road trip calls for just a short stop, 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 into 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 for a picnic during your trip.
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 Tonto National Park and private campgrounds. And at just two hours from Phoenix and Scottsdale, the park is also perfect for a day trip.
Open daily, year-round
Youth (ages 7 – 13): $2/day
Child (6 and under): Free
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
PO Box 1245
Payson, AZ 85547